Congressman Jeff Denham (R-Turlock) is addressing business owners' concerns with a recent increase in Americans with Disabilities Act compliance lawsuits at the national level.
Last week, Denham and Representative Ken Calvert (R-Corona) cosponsored the ACCESS Act, which stands for ADA Compliance for Customer Entry to Stores and Services. This would require those looking to take legal action because of an ADA violation to provide the business owner with written notification of the infringement. The owner would then have 60 days to respond with how to address the violation and 120 days to remove the infraction.
“In the last year, the Central Valley has seen a sharp rise in the number of predatory, drive-by lawsuits accusing local small businesses of violating portions of the Americans with Disabilities Act,” said. Denham. “Sadly, many of these cases are blatant attempts to extort the owners and operators rather than truly ensure compliance. They often target minority and immigrant owned businesses ill-equipped to fight off lawsuits. The ACCESS Act enables small businesses to receive notification and have an opportunity to become compliant before a costly lawsuit destroys their work and livelihood.”
In the past year the Stanislaus Business Alliance responded to the rash of lawsuits by hosting workshops for business owners to educate them on their rights as the details of the Americans with Disabilities Act as well as publishing an ADA Lawsuit Primer.
State legislators are also tackling the issue. Assembly member Adam Gray (D-Merced) and Assembly Republican Leader Kristin Olsen (R-Modesto) introduced legislation to help businesses dealing with ADA compliance complaints. 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. Olsen introduced AB 54, designed to allow businesses across California to keep their doors open as they work towards becoming ADA compliant.
Denham’s office has partnered with Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse and the Civil Justice Association of California to host a series of education workshops for Valley small businesses. Over the last six months, Rep. Denham has hosted workshops in conjunction with State Sen. Cathleen Galgiani, the San Joaquin County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Ripon Chamber of Commerce, the City of Escalon, the Stanislaus Economic Development and Workforce Alliance and the Manteca Chamber of Commerce.
Last Congress, Denham also supported the ADA Notification Act of 2013, which gives business owners at least 90 days from notification of potential violations to correct infractions prior to litigation commencing.