California Reforms ADA, Gives Small Business Owners a Break

Owning a business is hard work. There are payrolls to be met, product to get out the door, and capital to be made, invested, and saved. One major impact on the growth and sustainability of any small business is keeping compliant with federal, state, and local laws and regulations. Every business, small and big alike, needs the right guidance and help to ensure its long-term success.

Among the bramble of regulations that pose a risk for a company though noncompliance is the American with Disabilities Act. This act was designed and adopted by the federal government to ensure that those with disabilities are treated equal to those without disabilities. It covers protections in employing those with disabilities, creating access for the disabled, and other important provisions to advance equality. But the ADA also comes with sharp barbs that can cut into a company’s bottom line.

When a company holds itself out to the public as a business providing a service to all, that company is required to make certain the disabled can access the business. This means that companies must make reasonable efforts to display signs for disabled access and parking, ramps for those who use a wheelchair, and other important provisions. Included in the ADA is a provision that allows a disabled person to sue the company for failing to comply with its provisions, and if successful, to recover attorney’s fees.

Attorney’s Fees Provisions

It is the attorney’s fees provision that poses the greatest risk to companies, and it was this provision that was recently reformed by the California legislature and governor. Fee-seeking attorneys and plaintiffs were finding and preying upon companies that  failed to comply with the ADA in minor ways, such as properly displaying a handicapped parking sign.

After noticing the company about their non-compliance issue, the plaintiff would demand the issue be fixed, and then demand the cost of attorney’s fees. For a simple issue, this could mean thousands of dollars in fees when the fix was minimal at best. The ADA was originally envisioned to provide attorney’s fees provisions to ensure that the disabled were not discriminated against, not line the pockets of attorney’s pockets for minor violations – not to mention the havoc such actions can wreak on a company’s bottom line.

The governor signed a new act into law that gives business a grace period to fix and ADA violations after a demand. For small businesses with 50 or fewer employees, the company will grant 120 days to fix a problem before a legal case can go forward. For all businesses, companies will have 15 days to fix minor issues before a case can be brought. This will go a long way to both improve access for the disabled and protect business from frivolous lawsuits.

Helping Your Company Stay Compliant

At The Royse Law Firm we can help your company remain or get into compliance with the myriad of rules that face every company. From compliance with federal law to ensuring your corporations has all of its i’s dotted and t’s crossed, we can ensure that your company mitigates its risk of laws with attorney’s fees provisions, or worse, an investigation from a governmental body. Contact us today.

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Roger Royse

Roger Royse, the founder of the Royse Law Firm, works with companies ranging from newly formed tech startups to publicly traded multinationals in a variety of industries. Roger regularly advises on complex tax structuring, high stakes business negotiations and large international financial transactions. Practicing business and tax law since 1984, Roger’s background includes work with prominent San Francisco Bay area law firms, as well as Milbank, Tweed, Hadley and McCloy in New York City.
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