A California Chamber of Commerce-sponsored job creator bill that provides a balanced approach between preserving the civil rights of those who are disabled and limiting the number of frivolous lawsuits threatened or filed against businesses will be heard in the Assembly Appropriations Committee later this month.
SB 251 (Roth; D-Riverside) seeks to incentivize businesses to proactively take steps to become accessible by providing them with 120 days from a Certified Access Specialist (CASp) inspection to resolve any violations identified without being subject to statutory damages or litigation costs. This proposal will assist businesses that are trying to ensure they are compliant with the law from being subject to frivolous claims or litigation.
“There’s a recognition on both sides that a number of attorneys are using construction-related disability standards to leverage small businesses that don’t have the resources to fight them,” explained CalChamber Policy Advocate Jennifer Barrera in a recent interview with the Sacramento Business Journal.
The bill has received unanimous support as it has moved through the legislative process.
SB 251 provides that certain technical violations of construction-related accessibility standards are presumed to have not caused any difficulty, discomfort or embarrassment if such violations are corrected within 15 days of service of a summons/complaint or written notice alleging such violations.
This presumption is intended to deter frivolous lawsuits that seek only to leverage statutory damages for minor violations that have not caused any harm. For individuals who have actually suffered difficulty, embarrassment, discomfort or a personal injury, the presumption in SB 251 can be overcome with the presentation of evidence.
SB 251 also requires the California Commission on Disability Access to post educational materials for business owners regarding how to comply with California’s construction-related accessibility standards, as well as share that information with local agencies and departments. This is an important component to notify business owners of their obligations and responsibilities to also encourage them to become compliant.
Finally, SB 251 creates an additional incentive for businesses to become accessible by providing a tax credit for access expenditures for small businesses.
SB 251 will be considered soon by Assembly Appropriations; no hearing date has been set.
Contact your Assembly representative and members of Assembly Appropriations and urge them to support SB 251.
Staff Contact: Jennifer Barrera