California ADA compliance bill heads to Gov. Brown’s desk
A bill aimed to protect small business owners in California from people taking advantage of Americans with Disability Laws is headed to Governor Jerry Brown’s desk.
Senate Bill 269 unanimously passed through the State Senate last week. It gives businesses with under 50 employees about four months to make what is considered a “minor” change, including faded signs or paint. Attorneys say a handful of people have continuously targeted businesses for violations such faded paint or signs, claiming they are violations of ADA compliance and prohibit access. The violations can cost businesses up to $4,000 each.
The Outdoorsman in Fresno has provided truck and trailer repair since the 1970s. Previous owner and current landlord Bob Lightfoot says in 2015, he noticed the businesses needed a facelift.
“The building is probably well over 60 years old and it was just time,” Lightfoot said.
Along with maintenance, Lightfoot had an inspection to ensure the property was ADA compliant. He made $30,000 worth of upgrades, including new signs, pavement, parking spots and an access aisle.
While making the changes, Lightfoot said he received a demand letter about ADA violations. Lightfoot explained, “…demanding money or they were going to sue me in federal court.”
Since he was in the process of making changes, Lightfoot managed to stay out of court. His attorney Rachelle Golden says small business owners across the state are getting similar letters and dishing out tens of thousands of dollars on violations that are aesthetic and don’t affect access.
“Language on the signage, handicap versus disabled or paint striping on parking lots or it’s the wrong shade of blue,” Golden explains. “These are all things that were being sued for in California for a minimum of $4,000.” She says the complaints say these violations prohibit disabled access.
Golden says there are currently hundreds of businesses in the Valley facing litigation for similar complaints.
According to the California Commission on Disability Access, in 2015, 40% of ADA complaints were filed by two law firms.
Last week, a bill unanimously passed the State Senate to protect small businesses from people threatening to sue over what are deemed minor violations like faded signs or parking lot striping.
Disability Rights California opposes the bill. “California access laws and policies have been in effect for decades and businesses still fail to evaluate their properties to ensure people with disabilities have full and equal access,” DRC Spokesperson Pat McConahay said. “If they would do this, they could avoid lawsuits.”
Golden is in a wheelchair and says there’s no excuse for businesses to be incompliant, but some are taking gaming the system.
“I understand the vital importance of access,” McConahay said. “But the pendulum has swung so far into plaintiff’s favor it does nothing to provide education on discrimination.”
Governor Brown has 12 days to act on the bill. He vetoed a similar bill last year.
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