In the aftermath of a rash of lawsuits targeting Central Valley businesses for noncompliance with the American with Disabilities Act, Assembly member Adam Gray (D-Merced) and Assembly Republican Leader Kristin Olsen (R-Modesto) introduced legislation to help businesses become ADA compliant without the fear of a lawsuit.
"These well-intentioned measures are meant to give everyone equal access, but they've been abused by a select group who shakedown our local businesses for a quick buck," said Gray of the recent ADA lawsuits that have targeted the region and state at large. "People have lost their jobs, and businesses have shut down, because the law has a loophole that is being exploited."
In order to take steps towards remedying the problem, Gray introduced Assembly Bill 52 which if passed will significantly reduce or eliminate statutory damages if a small business corrects its violations within 180 days.
"Well-intentioned businesses in California need relief from what can be extortionate lawsuits over technical or minor ADA violations. This bill will reduce lawsuits and will improve access - it's a win-win," said President of Civil Justice Association of California Kim Stone.
Stone spoke at a Stanislaus Business Alliance workshop in Modesto in September aimed at equipping local business owners with details on the Americans with Disabilities Act as well as ways to become compliant.
In tandem with Gray, Olsen introduced Assembly Bill 54 designed to allow businesses across California to keep their doors open as they work towards becoming ADA compliant. With standards pertaining to construction evolving on a regular basis, many small businesses find it difficult to remain compliant. In an effort to solve this problem, AB 54 would allow businesses 60 days to address ADA violations if the violation in question is related to construction standards that have changed in the past three years.
"Get-rich-quick lawsuit schemes that cause businesses to close, reduce hours, or lay off employees violate the spirit of ADA and should not be tolerated," said Olsen. "AB 54 is a commonsense solution that will protect small businesses and their employees, while still requiring businesses to comply with access laws."
Both Gray and Olsen endorsed efforts made by the Stanislaus Business Alliance in recent months to equip local businesses with information on their rights, including issuing a primer on ADA business advice as well as hosting workshops. Legislators of communities across the Central Valley signed onto the bills put forth by Gray and Olsen including Senators Tom Berryhill (R- Twain Harte) and Anthony Cannella (R-Ceres).