SACRAMENTO - A bill that gives small businesses the opportunity to fix Americans with Disability Act (ADA) violations before getting sued has been signed by California Gov. Brown.
Senate Bill 269, sponsored by Sen.
Richard D. Roth (D-Riverside), passed out of the California Senate by a 38-0
vote on April 25, after the Assembly’s 79-0 vote of approval on April 21.
The bill amends the Civil Code, and the Government Code, changing how construction-related
accessibility claims proceed under the ADA and California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act of 1959. It allows businesses with payrolls of 50 workers or less to hire a certified access specialist to conduct an inspection and receive
a full 120 days to fix problems before facing penalty.
SB 269 is a
modified version of last year’s SB 251 which Brown had vetoed
“SB 269 removes the tax credit that was the focus of the
Governor’s veto, reduces the employee ceiling for qualifying businesses from
100 to 50 employees, and makes other clarifying changes,” Roth stated in a press release.
Proponents of SB
269, such as the California Chamber of Commerce and 26 other organizations—including
the American Society of Interior Designers; California Ambulance Association;
California Grocers Association and League of California Cities—supported the
bill in part because it can “assist businesses who are trying to ensure they
are compliant from being subject to frivolous claims or litigation,” according
to an April 15 letter from the bill’s supporters to the California State
NBC Bay Area recently reported that its review of more than 10,000 ADA lawsuits
filed since 2005 in the five states with the highest disabled populations show that more than 70 percent of the cases are filed in California.
lawsuits have been filed in California (7,188) than Florida (3,303),
Pennsylvania (677), Texas (651) and New York (1,322) combined," the report noted.
SB 269 provides
small business 15 days upon getting sued or receiving a written notice to fix three
types of ADA violations without statutory penalties. These violations range
from exterior and interior signage; and parking lot paint stripes to detectable
This 15-day ADA
compliance provision of SB 269 makes good business sense, Kim Stone, president
of the Civil Justice Association of California, told the Northern California Record.
“For at least some minor violations, before
the business gets sued, the plaintiff’s lawyer has to tell them what the
problem is and give them a chance to fix it, commonly called ‘notice and
opportunity to cure,’” she said.
violation can cost a business a $4,000 penalty. That expense does not include lawyer fees that go to plaintiff's counsel.
In addition, SB
269 requires municipal (city and county) building departments to expand their
outreach to businesses regarding ADA compliance, and accelerate the permit
process for all businesses with 100 employees or less. Further, the bill
directs the California Commission on Disability Access to
facilitate the training of
certified access specialists (CASp), and their inspecting of businesses’ ADA
requirements and standards.
small businesses hire CASps for an inspection and make any necessary
improvements,” Stone said.
Under SB 269, businesses must hire a CASp before the filing of a lawsuit or written notice of an ADA violation.
Brian Ferguson, deputy director of the state's Department
of General Services, told the Northern
California Record that in 2015 there were 625
CASps, up from 583 in 2014.
Rights California opposed SB 269.
“Current state access laws define small
business as a business with 25 employees or less,” wrote Evelyn Abouhassan, the
group’s senior legislative advocate in an April 13 letter to Assemblywoman Lorena
Gonzalez, D-San Diego.
“SB 269 goes too far because it extends protections and
limits liability for civil rights damages to any business with up to 50
employees," she wrote.
The law will go into effect Jan. 1, 2017.