Schwarzenegger protects businesses from lawsuits

Chris Rizo Nov. 3, 2009, 12:00pm

Arnold Schwarzenegger (R)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Legal Newsline)-Legislation to allow California businesses to offer discounts to furloughed state workers without fear of being sued has been signed into law.

The measure was signed Monday by Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has furloughed most state workers three days a month to help the cash-strapped Golden State to make ends meet.

After San Diego attorney Alfred Nava sent letters to businesses warning of possible civil rights lawsuits if they continued offering furloughed state workers special discounts, Senate Bill 367 was introduced.

The bill cleared both houses of the state Legislature unanimously. The measure was supported by a range of groups, including the state's trial lawyers group, the California Chamber of Commerce and the California Retailers Association.

The new law was co-sponsored by state Sen. Tom Harman, R-Huntington Beach, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, who is seeking his party's nomination for attorney general in 2010.

State Sen. Gloria Negrete McLeod, D-Chino, is the bill's other co-author. She said her proposal is aimed at protecting businesses.

"We need to remove barriers and impediments that can be used to prevent business from offering a helping hand to those down on their luck," Negrete McLeod said after introducing the legislation.

California's 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."

Violators of the law face a minimum penalty of $4,000 per violation plus the cost of the lawsuit's winner's legal fees.

From Legal Newsline: Reach staff reporter Chris Rizo at

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