Calif. trial lawyers back bill to protect businesses from lawsuits

Kathy Woods Jul. 12, 2009, 5:51am

Christine Spagnoli

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Legal Newsline) California's trial lawyers for a change are throwing their political muscle behind a bill that would limit lawsuits.

Consumer Attorneys of California, the state's trial lawyers' trade group, is backing legislation by Republican attorney general candidate state Sen. Tom Harman of Huntington Beach.

His proposal would clarify the Unruh Civil Rights Act so that businesses can offer discounts to furloughed state employees.

"It would be an outrage to trivialize the Unruh Civil Rights Act to attack businesses that simply are trying to help people struggling in the face of pay cuts and uncertain employment futures," said Consumer Attorneys of California President Christine Spagnoli.

Senate Bill 367 came after San Diego attorney Alfred Rava threatened discrimination lawsuits against businesses that offered special reduced prices for furloughed state workers. Specifically, he is calling for a settlement from the California ski resort Squaw Valley.

The Unruh Civil Rights Act says that businesses must give "the full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities, privileges, or services" to everyone, "regardless of sex, race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability, medical condition, marital status, or sexual orientation."

Many businesses in the Sacramento-area are offering the discounts to the furloughed workers as a helping hand. But, under the Unruh Civil Rights Act, as it stands now these businesses face a minimum penalty of $4,000 per violation and legal fees.

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