Carmichael ADA attorney with Placer presence accused of fraud by four ex-employees

Lawsuit claims include allegations he never visited businesses he sued
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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AUBURN CA - The legal tables have turned on ADA compliance attorney Scott Johnson. Four former employees of his Disabled Access Prevents Injury office in Carmichael have filed their own lawsuit in Sacramento County Superior Court alleging that Johnson never entered a majority of the businesses his firm has sued for ADA non-compliance – despite his claims in court documents of doing so. “Plaintiffs were very uncomfortable performing field work because they were going into a business under a ruse – they wanted nothing from the business,” state court documents filed by Sacramento attorney Jordan Peters on behalf of Jenna Doeuk, Esra Jones, Monthica Kem and Micaela Lucas. “They felt as though they were committing fraud; however, if they did not perform this work, their pay was effected – they lost an opportunity to get a bonus.” Johnson has won praise from some in the physically disabled community and criticism from many businesses for hundreds of costly ADA legal actions his one-person firm has launched to bring businesses into compliance. The list of Johnson targets includes dozens of Auburn-area businesses and property owners. One of those is Larry Taylor, owner of Pet Xing. “I don’t want to say anything but it sounds like he’s got his hands full,” Taylor said. “What comes around goes around.” The four former employees are claiming emotional distress, anxiety and other symptoms from being forced to pretend they needed goods or services from businesses, the lawsuit contends. The court action states employees would drive with Johnson and then leave him in the vehicle while they went in to inspect suspect premises. “They were also instructed to request to use the restroom and take pictures of the business overall,” the lawsuit states. “(They) knew that the information that they were collecting would be used by defendants to threaten to sue or to sue the businesses or other commercial entities for ADA violations (and) felt as though they were acting in a fraudulent manner that was setting these businesses up for costly litigation.” Johnson was contacted Thursday for comment on the allegations but said that he would make no comment. He said no response had been filed in court yet to the allegations. “A majority of the time, Johnson did not enter the business,” the lawsuit states. Johnson is also accused in the lawsuit of sexual harassment, perpetuating a hostile work environment, retaliating on sexual harassment complaints, intentional infliction of emotional distress and invasion of privacy. A full copy of the lawsuit is viewable with the online version of this report. A Loomis attorney who has represented clients in actions brought by Johnson said Wednesday that, if allegations in the lawsuit are proven true, they raise serious questions about the foundation of past and pending ADA court actions. Attorney Cris Vaughan said that federal ADA laws require Johnson to personally encounter the barriers in businesses he has launched lawsuits against. “There’s the potential for a review of settlement agreements for potential fraud,” Vaughan said. Johnson and other attorneys in California who mount ADA-related lawsuits are utilizing rules that don’t apply in most other states. Elsewhere, ADA plaintiffs can only sue to have access issues fixed – and recoup attorney fees. In California, civil rights and state disabled persons legislation allow monetary damages, starting at a minimum of $4,000 for each access violation. Disabled Access and Johnson are also facing accusations in the lawsuit of discrimination. Doeuk was on the hiring committee at the firm and one of her duties was to interview job applicants, the lawsuit states. “Before Doeuk began the interview process, Johnson told her not to bring any of the following groups in for an interview, no matter how qualified the person might be: men, ugly women, and anyone over 30.”