Majority Democrats in the Senate passed Assembly Bill 559 (Swanson, D-Alameda) off the Senate floor today, another “job-killer” that contradicts their stated commitment to make job creation a top priority during the waning days of the current legislative session.
AB 559 exempts many civil actions brought pursuant to any provision of the Fair Employment and Housing Act from the statute that provides discretion to judges to determine costs, if the prevailing party recovers a judgment that could have been rendered in a limited civil case, where recovered damages were under $25,000.
Effectively, the bill will eliminate a deterrent to the filing of frivolous lawsuits and allow plaintiffs’ attorneys to collect excessive fees for small or only partially successful recoveries under the Fair Employment and Housing Act. If signed into law by Governor Brown, AB 559 will strain our already overburdened court system with unnecessary litigation and leave taxpayers on the hook for exorbitant legal fees in cases involving public employers.
“This is a terrible bill that undermines the notion of judicial discretion,” said Senate Republican Leader Bob Dutton (Rancho Cucamonga) who spoke against AB 559 on the floor. “There are ample protections in current law to protect workers from civil rights’ violations in the workplace. AB 559 is about lining the pockets of trial lawyers, not correcting any legitimate injustices under the Fair Employment and Housing Act.”
A coalition of groups united against AB 559 – including the California Chamber of Commerce and the California Manufacturing and Technology Association – concluded in their opposition floor alert, “This bill uses bad facts to justify a sweeping change to the legal system, which is a poor way to make policy, worsens California’s legal climate, and sends the wrong message to employers thinking of locating or expanding here.”
By passing a bill that adds to employers’ business litigation costs, the majority party in the Legislature illustrates once again that their actions contradict their rhetoric. While they pay lip service to the need for job creation, they continue to pass bills that limit the ability of job creators to succeed in California -- demonstrating that their true priority is protecting special interests and trial lawyers rather than getting unemployed Californians back to work.
Senate Republicans continue to press for a bipartisan jobs package. Unfortunately, Senate Democrats continue to pass legislation that does nothing for the two million Californians out of work. Actions speak louder than words.
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