8 Ways a CASp Report Can Save You MoneyPosted on: June 15, 2022 in Construction
When the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed in 1990, its goal was to prevent discrimination against people with disabilities in all aspects of public life, from transportation to employment and government programs to public accommodations. While the ADA aims to make the world accessible for all, one drawback is that it opened the door for more lawsuits, particularly where the goal was profit rather than access.
In 2008, the California legislature passed Senate Bill (SB) 1608, which introduced the concept of a Certified Access Specialist (CASp). The goal of SB 1608 is to reduce the number of “shakedown” lawsuits in the state and protect companies. Commercial property owners and tenants should hire a CASp to inspect their property and receive protection under California law.
What Is A CASp Report?
A CASp is an individual who’s received certification from California and has passed an exam demonstrating knowledge of federal and state accessibility standards, particularly those relating to construction. Businesses can hire a CASp to inspect their properties and issue a CASp inspection report.
During the inspection, the CASp will evaluate the property based on its age, current building codes and upgrades or improvements made to the property. After their assessment, the CASp will write up a report that outlines their findings.
The value of a CASp report is two-fold. First, it details the changes a business owner should make to ensure ADA compliance. Businesses need to include a timeline for updates along with the report. Second, the report protects businesses from lawsuits, particularly ADA-related lawsuits.
Is a CASp Mandatory?
California doesn’t require businesses to hire a CASp or schedule an inspection. Many businesses find the benefits of having a CASp certification make it worth the time and effort involved.
Why Get CASp Certified?
There are several reasons why hiring a CASp makes sense for businesses. While the ADA’s goal is to improve access for all people, an unintended side effect of it is an increase in shakedown lawsuits. These lawsuits often benefit the attorneys that instigate them more than the plaintiffs who are supposedly bringing the lawsuit. More than a decade after SB 1608 passed, certain lawyers are still accused of bringing shakedown lawsuits, highlighting why getting a CASp report matters.
Some of the tangible benefits of getting a CASp report are as follows:
1. Minimize Lawsuit Damages
Lawsuits are expensive. Even if a court rules in favor of the defendant, a business still has to invest considerable time, energy and money in the cases. Shakedown attorneys often aim to get companies to settle the suits, often for five-figure amounts.
A CASp report won’t keep unscrupulous attorneys from targeting your business. But it will give you certain protections if a lawsuit comes your way. It can also protect you from future lawsuits.
If someone sues your company, and you haven’t yet hired a CASp, you won’t be protected by the report during the lawsuit. But, the CASp inspection can help you if another lawsuit comes your way in the future, particularly if you make corrections based on the findings in the report.
Qualified Defendant Status
If you schedule a CASp inspection and get your report before any claims get filed, your business receives qualified defendant status. As a qualified defendant, your business gets several benefits. The status implies you’re aware of any compliance issues with your property and that you plan on correcting them.
To earn qualified defendant status, it’s critical that your company get the CASp report before any lawsuit is filed. Your company also needs to follow the improvement schedule to demonstrate it has every intention of complying with the ADA.
Delay Court Proceedings
Once your business has qualified defendant status, you get a 90-day stay on any court proceedings. That means there will be a three-month delay between when the plaintiff files the lawsuit and when you go to court. The 90-day stay can help your company save money in two ways.
If the lawsuit is legitimate, it gives your company time to work with the plaintiff and come up with a settlement. It also provides time to make any necessary improvements to the property.
Early Evaluation Conference
Another benefit of a CASp report is an early evaluation conference. During an early evaluation conference, the court will act as a mediator between your business and the individuals or companies bringing the lawsuit. The conference provides an opportunity to settle with the plaintiff or create a solution that works for both parties without going to a trial.
Reduce Statutory Damages
In California, when businesses violate the ADA, they also violate the Unruh Civil Rights Act, which protects against discrimination. Violations of the Unruh Act typically lead to statutory damages of $4,000 per instance.
Earning qualified defendant status thanks to a CASp inspection reduces your business’ statutory damages liability from $4,000 to $1,000 per occasion.
2. Increase Business
Getting a CASp report does more than protect your company from lawsuits. It can also be good for business overall. One of the goals of the inspection and report is to highlight what your company needs to do to bring its property into ADA compliance.
As you go about making the required changes, you increase the accessibility of your property. More people can use your property or visit your place of business. That means you’re likely to see an increase in traffic and an uptick in your sales or business in general.
Updating your property based on the CASp report can lead to more word-of-mouth recommendations. If a person visits your property and finds you’ve widened the doors so that people using wheelchairs can get in more easily or that you’ve installed ramps in place of stairs, they might be more likely to tell anyone they know who uses a wheelchair that your building is accessible. The same is potentially true if you make updates to make restrooms more accessible.
3. Verify Construction Requirements
You may know your current building isn’t up to date on the current accessibility requirements. What you might not know is what changes or improvements you need to make to bring it in line with current requirements.
A CASp inspection and report takes the guesswork out of making improvements. Your report will tell you what you need to improve and how to go about making the improvements. Verifying the construction required before you begin improvements means you can schedule only the work you need. You won’t spend money on unnecessary projects or updates that won’t ultimately help you attain compliance.
4. Civil Penalty Protection
The ADA is the law of the land. It’s overseen and enforced by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). The DOJ monitors businesses and ensures they comply with the requirements. Individuals who believe that a company isn’t complying with the ADA can file a complaint with the DOJ.
The DOJ can issue civil penalties against businesses that violate the ADA. Those penalties are up to $55,000 for the first offense and up to $110,000 for any subsequent violations.
Getting a CASp report and working to make the necessary improvements and updates that bring your business in line with the ADA helps you avoid a hefty penalty from the DOJ.
5. Fewer Fines
The ADA also offers employees protections against discrimination based on a disability. Disability discrimination occurs when a company treats an employee or potential employee differently or unfavorably because of a disability. The disability can be current or something that existed in the past, such as an illness that the person has since recovered from.
Under the ADA, an employer must provide accommodation to candidates or employees with disabilities unless doing so creates an undue hardship on the employer. If a company doesn’t provide the necessary accommodations or otherwise discriminates against an individual, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) can award compensatory and punitive damages to the individual.
Employers are also responsible for making their facilities accessible to any employees or job applicants with disabilities. Under the ADA, an employee needs to be able to enjoy the same privileges available to other employees and participate in the same application process. If the company accommodates the public, it must also provide accessibility to the general public.
The value of damages charged by the EEOC varies based on company size. Companies with up to 100 employees can pay penalties up to $50,000. If a company has more than 500 employees, the limit jumps to $300,000.
Ordering a CASp inspection and report can help to reduce the chance of an employee or job applicant bringing a charge against your company through the EEOC. While the report itself won’t necessarily protect you from EEOC’s fines, making a good faith effort to become compliant with the ADA can trickle down to the way your company treats its employees.
6. Improve Business Reputation
Penalties and fines hurt your business’s bottom line. So does losing customers because people believe your building isn’t accessible or your company otherwise doesn’t comply with the ADA.
When you set up a CASp inspection and report, you receive a Disability Access Inspection Certificate that provides evidence that the inspection occurred. You don’t have to display the certificate publicly but have the option of doing so if you wish. Displaying your certificate or a copy demonstrates that your company has taken steps toward compliance. That can make you look better in the eyes of the public.
Actions can speak louder than words or certificates, too. Along with scheduling the inspection and report, it’s important to follow up on any recommendations made by it.
Your company can also help to improve its reputation by complying with the employment portion of the ADA. If your business develops a reputation as an accommodating employer, it will become an attractive place to apply for people with and without disabilities.
The result is a more engaged workforce, which often means more productivity. The more productive your team is, the more revenue your company is likely to see, leading to more profits in the long run. A little reputation boost can go a long way.
7. Faster Review
You’ll need to submit plans for any corrections or improvements to your local building department for review before construction can begin. The review process can be long, but having a Disability Access Inspection Certificate helps streamline things.
With the certificate, any plans you submit can receive an expedited review. To qualify for the expedited process, you need to present the certificate and state the project’s goal of correcting the violations listed in the CASp inspection report. You also have to provide evidence that a CASp reviewed the plans you’re submitting.
Getting your project plans reviewed and approved faster can mean reduced project costs, as you can get a jump start on making the necessary improvements.
8. Access to Financing
The CASp report identifies the changes your company needs to make, and it will cost money to make those updates. California has a program, the California Capital Access Program Americans with Disabilities Act Financing Program (CalCAP/ADA), which reimburses up to 5% of a loan made to small businesses for ADA improvements.
To qualify for the program, your business needs to have fewer than 30 full-time employees or a gross annual income under $5 million. Your facilities need to be under 10,000 square feet. You also need to have had your property reviewed by a CASp and need a cost estimate for the changes needed.
The lender needs to review your company’s CASp inspection report to confirm that the changes you want to make are relevant to the report’s recommendations.
You’ll need to find a lender that participates in the program, too, as not all do. The loan you receive can be worth up to $50,000.
Get Your CASp Inspection From Maintco Corp
To take advantage of the benefits of a CASp inspection, you need to work with a certified CASp. Maintco Corp offers CASp consulting services that help your company save time and money and minimize the risk of lawsuits. We have a team of CASps who provide the following services:
- CASp inspection: During an inspection, a CASp will assess your property to determine how well it complies with the ADA and where it needs improvement.
- CASp reports: Following the inspection, we’ll produce a report summarizing the findings and stating whether the property meets standards. If not, the report will identify areas of non-compliance and make recommendations to help you achieve compliance.
- Certificate: Your business will get a Disability Access Inspection Certificate that verifies that the inspection took place. You can display the certificate or keep it in a safe place to show when required.
- Guidance: Getting a CASp inspection takes the guesswork out of making improvements. We’ll provide you with a schedule that lists the improvements to make and when to make them.
CASp inspections and reports are just one component of the suite of ADA compliance consulting services Maintco Corp offers. Contact us today to learn more or set up a consultation.