The full Assembly today may vote on a California Chamber of Commerce-opposed job killer, AB 1576 (Levine; D-San Rafael), which could require businesses to settle consumer complaints with a minimum of $4,000 in damages or face further costly litigation.
AB 1576 proposes to significantly amend the Gender Tax Repeal Act of 1998 so that businesses could easily be sued for a consumer’s assertion that there was a price difference for substantially similar goods due the gender of the intended user.
CalChamber has identified AB 1576 as a job killer because the legislation will create the same type of litigation environment that has plagued the business community with respect to disability access.
Although the recent amendments to the bill provide a limited list of “gender-neutral” reasons a good may be priced differently, proof of those reasons will come up only after litigation has already been filed and costs and attorney’s fees incurred.
CalChamber Senior Policy Advocate Jennifer Barrera explains that AB 1576 would create a situation where a consumer could go to a separate retailer or even the same retailer daily and purchase multiple items the consumer believes are substantially similar, yet priced differently—with even a penny difference in price—and request the business to settle with the consumer for a minimum of $4,000 or face costly litigation. “While the business may very well be able to prove the price difference was based upon a gender-neutral reason, the cost of litigation to prove that defense is significant,” Barrera says.
Small Business Opposition, Concerns
Several small business owners from Riverside were in Sacramento on May 10 in advance of AB 1576 being considered by the Assembly to meet with their legislators to explain just how detrimental these types of situations are for small businesses.
Francisca Dumlao explained that passage of AB 1576 would make it easy to sue her business. “These people have the opportunity to make demands that are ruining us because we don’t have much money. We just own small businesses which we’re never going to get rich from –we’re just living.”
Graciela Fountain tells Capitol Report viewers that being faced with one of these lawsuits comes as a shock. “They come and surprise us, and tell us we are wrong and we didn’t get a chance to fix it. The only thing we see is the lawsuit, we go to court and spend a lot of money and a lot of time.”
Rosie Quintana shares what it would mean to her Riverside business if AB 1576 becomes law.
“It will give them the right to come in and extort money…extortion is not the way to go…We need to stand up for our rights as small business owners.