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In The Bloom with Maria: Small businesses benefit in latest ADA reform legislation

In The Bloom with MarinaMost of us would allow any customer to use the restroom at our shop, garden center, or studio, right? Well, in some instances in California, customers are looking for something more than just relief.

These customers are looking to see if the business is up to Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards, and they’re taking measurements and photos of bathrooms to gather data to file claims against the business for not meeting those standards. Some of the violations include lack of proper ramps or doorways too narrow for wheelchair access. And these customers have legal teams eager to help them file a lawsuit.

ADA background

Since their enactment in 1991, the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Unruh Civil Rights Act have helped those with disabilities have greater access to public and private buildings. Under these acts, buildings must be built to certain guidelines and have certain amenities to accommodate those with disabilities.

Seeking payouts

According to the California State Floral Association’s Dec. 5, 2016, issue of Floral Flash, these legislative acts have also proven to be litigation lightning rods, attracting a certain breed of lawyers who specialize in filing claims against private businesses and demanding significant fees to settle.

As a result, California legislators are grappling with balancing appropriate access with necessary reforms.

SB 269

On May 11, 2016, California Governor Jerry Brown signed ADA reform legislation—SB 269 (Roth)—which attempts to provide small business owners (25 employees or less) with litigation protection when presented with the fact their businesses don’t meet ADA standards if they have acted proactively to identify issues and resolve them.

While considered a modest attempt, in a nutshell, SB 269 seeks to provide incentives to businesses to proactively take steps to become ADA accessible by providing them with 120 days from receipt of a Certified Access Specialist (CASp) report to resolve any violations identified without being subject to statutory penalties or litigation costs.

SB 269 also provides 15 days from the service of the summons and complaint to resolve any alleged violation regarding signage, parking lot conditions, and detectable warning surfaces. Small businesses receive the opportunity to resolve issues before being subjected to statutory penalties and attorney’s fees.

The reform further requires the California Commission on Disability Access to post educational materials for business owners on how to comply with California’s construction-related accessibility standards, as well as share that information with local agencies and departments.

Currently, this bill is geared toward only small business owners, with expansion to all businesses being explored.

Your move

So, what can you take away from this news in California? Make sure you’re informed of building code requirements in your area. Make your bathroom ADA compliant from the start. If you don’t know where to find this information, contact your Hortica agent for assistance.

The time to make changes isn’t when you’re forced to because of pending litigation and/or possible liability claims. Act proactively, and avoid a lot of headaches later.