On April 1, 2016, several amendments to the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) went into effect. The new amendments expand California workplace discrimination protections, enhance state enforcement mechanisms, and more. These new regulations also require that California employers have a specific policy to both prevent and correct workplace discrimination and harassment.
Understanding California's New FEHA Regulations
Amendments to the FEHA Mean Expanded Coverage
Prior to April 1, 2016, the California Fair Employment and Housing Act only applied to employers who employed five or more California-based workers. But now, FEHA counts employees who work outside of California towards the minimum number of employees an employer must have in order to be subject to FEHA. However, at least one employee must work in California in order for FEHA to cover the employer.
Anti-Discrimination and Harassment Policies Are Now Required Under FEHA
Amended California FEHA regulations now also require covered California employers to put in place workplace discrimination and harassment policies. Under the new amendments, specific procedures must be included in the policies, as well. These new regulations are helpful to not only employers, but employees because the policies must lay out what constitutes proper workplace discrimination or harassment complaint protocols, the information that must be provided to employees within the policy, and how it must be distributed to workers.
Under FEHA, California anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies must also be in writing and list all protected categories (race, gender, age, religion, et al.). The new amendments must also state that employers provide more details about training methods and record keeping regarding sexual harassment training for supervisors.
This is all good news for employees who may face workplace discrimination or harassment in California because they will be provided with more information on how to handle their claims.
FEHA Pregnancy Disability Leave Protections Have Been Expanded
Pregnant employees in California are now offered more protections under the FEHA amendments, as well. The FEHA has clarified that Pregnancy Disability Leave (PDL) of four months is now available to employees per pregnancy, rather than per year. FEHA now also clearly states that PDL does not have to be taken continuously, either.
The definition of "eligible female employee" has also been updated to include transgender employees who have been disabled by pregnancy. The new regulations also specify that unlawful pregnancy harassment must include harassment due to breastfeeding, childbirth and other pregnancy-related medical conditions.
FEHA Amendments Further Expand Protections to California Employees
Under the new regulations, California employees who can be categorized as unpaid interns, volunteers, or individuals who present a driver's license that can be issued to undocumented people are now protected under the FEHA.
In addition to these protections, sexual harassment in the workplace does not have to be motivated by sexual desire. The FEHA amendments also include explanations of the different types of sexual harassment such as "quid pro quo" and "hostile work environment."
The disability and religious accommodation in the workplace sections of the FEHA have also been given quite a makeover. Some of the notable protections for disabled workers include that the use of a "support animal" may now constitute an appropriate workplace accommodation, and employers may not lawfully discriminate against a worker for requesting disability accommodations (even if accommodations aren't granted to the employee). The same goes for religious accommodations. Under the new amendments, religious discrimination has also been updated to include "all aspects of religious belief, observance and practice, including religious dress and grooming practices."
If an employer doesn't abide by the aforementioned new FEHA amendments, the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) can now obtain, "non-monetary preventative remedies" against employers.
Adapted from original article, California Enhances Discrimination Laws via JDSupra
If you feel your employer is violating the new amendments under the FEHA, California employment law is on your side. Contact the expert Los Angeles employment attorneys at Hennig Ruiz for your free consultation today.