Guide To Fair Employment Housing Act (FEHA) in California
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Guide To Fair Employment Housing Act (FEHA) in California

Guide To Fair Employment Housing Act (FEHA) in California

The Fair Employment Housing Act in California (FEHA California) is a state employment law that was passed to protect employees from unfair employers in the public and private employment sectors, labor unions, and employment agencies.

What is FEHA?

According to California code FEHA 12940, the FEHA protected classes include the following:

  • Age
  • Ancestry
  • Color
  • Disability
  • Gender
  • Genetic information
  • Marital status
  • Medical conditions
  • Military or veteran status
  • National origin
  • Race
  • Religion
  • Religious creed
  • Sex (to include pregnancy)
  • Sexual orientation

The California FEHA law protects employees from being retaliated against by employers for filing a FEHA complaint or helping a co-worker file a FEHA complaint. Employers are not permitted to retaliate against employees who speak out against actions that violate the FEHA Act. Employees with disabilities cannot be discriminated against based on FEHA disability discrimination protections.

FEHA age discrimination protections prevent employers from discriminating against employees who are 40 or older.

What are the Elements of FEHA?

The FEHA Act has four main elements:

  1. An employee took part in an activity that is protected under the FEHA Act.
  2. The employee was demoted, terminated, or otherwise retaliated against by his or her employer.
  3. The adverse employment action was caused by the action protected by the FEHA Act and taken by the employee.
  4. Harm was caused by the employee by the adverse employment action.

What is the FEHA Definition of Disability?

According to the FEHA Act, the definition of disability has a counterpart in ADA FEHA, but the FEHA version provides employees with a much wider scope for filing a claim. The FEHA definition of disability is as follows:

A mental or physical impairment that limits a major life function, such as the ability to work. Under this definition, conditions like irritable bowel syndrome, arthritis, stress, frequent urination, anxiety, and PTSD would all qualify as disabilities protected by FEHA.

For an employee to be protected under the FEHA Act based on disability, he or she must meet one of the following:

  • Have a mental or physical impairment that limits a major life activity
  • Have medical records or history of a condition
  • Is considered as having an impairment and has been subjected to discrimination because of the impairment

Discrimination laws in California also protect employees who care for family members with disabilities. This means that you might be protected as a caretaker under the FEHA Act if you must miss work in order to care for a family member who suffers from FEHA disability regulations that are covered by California law.

The California Family Rights Act (CFRA) requires all employers who have five or more employees to provide job-protected leave to care for a child, parent, spouse, grandparent, grandchild, domestic partner, or sibling who suffers from a serious health issue and for the employee’s own serious health problem.

The CFRA also requires employers to provide their employees with leave in order for the employee to bond with a new child who enters their family due to adoption, foster care, or birth. The leave must be taken within the first year of the child being with the employee. The leave must be job-protected.

Employers with five or more employees are also required to provide no more than four months of disability leave for any employee who has become disabled because of childbirth, pregnancy, or a related medical issue. Pregnancy disabilities might include any of the following:

  • Severe morning sickness
  • Prenatal care
  • Postnatal care
  • Need for bed rest
  • Gestational diabetes
  • Pregnancy-induced hypertension
  • Preeclampsia
  • Post-partum depression
  • Lactation conditions (such as mastitis)
  • Loss or end of pregnancy
  • Recovery from loss or end of pregnancy

New FEHA Regulations 2016

In 2016, California expanded the regulations of FEHA to include protection against discrimination based on national origin under FEHA-015ha-01. These new protections include someone’s actual or perceived:

  • The person’s name that is associated with a national origin group
  • Cultural, linguistic, or physical characteristics that are associated with a national origin group
  • Affiliation with tribes
  • Association with or marriage to a person who is associated with a national origin group
  • Participation in churches, mosques, temples, schools, or other religious entities that are used by national origin groups
  • Membership in an organization that belongs to a national origin group

What Does FEHA Permit?

There are times when an action by an employer might look like discrimination but it’s not. Employers are within their rights to not move an employee to a new position or not to hire someone because of the following:

  • The employee would create imminent danger to himself or someone else
  • The employee is not able to perform the essential duties of the job
  • The employer cannot make reasonable accommodations

In these situations, discrimination is not present because FEHA recognizes that employers have the right to not put their business or their employees at risk. It is important to note that employers cannot discriminate against an employee or potential employee because of possible future harm to that person or to others.

California FEHA Regulations and Requirements

In order to remain in compliance with the law, California and FEHA regulations require employers to do the following:

  • Create FEHA harassment policies
  • Create policies against discrimination
  • Hold regular training sessions for employees on harassment and discrimination
  • Distribute written copies of all policies created under the FEHA Act to all employees in English and any other language that at least 10 percent of the workforce speaks

Part of this training must be sexual harassment training attended by nonsupervisory and supervisory employees if the company employs five or more people. Complaints will be accepted by DFEH if an employee believes that their employer has not complied with these training requirements.

Employers with five or more employees must have a two-hour training process in place as of January 1, 2021, for supervisory employees. One-hour training must be available for nonsupervisory employees. This training must be provided to all employees within six months of being hired and must be repeated every two years.

All sexual harassment training provided by an employer must include the following information:

  • The Fair Employment and Housing Act and Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 definitions of sexual harassment
  • The statutes that prohibit sexual harassment in the workplace
  • Examples of the conduct that can be considered sexual harassment
  • The remedies the company has in place for victims of sexual harassment
  • The obligation of the supervisor to report sexual harassment
  • The limitations of the complaint process regarding confidentiality
  • Resources for the victims of sexual harassment
  • What the employees should do if a supervisor is accused of sexual harassment
  • How the employer will correct sexual harassment actions
  • “Abusive conduct” under Government Code section 12950.1, subdivision (g)(2)
  • An anti-sexual harassment policy and how to use it

FEHA Discrimination in All Business Practices

The FEHA Act was passed to prevent discrimination in all business practices by all employers in the state, including the following:

  • Job ads (digital, radio, TV, newspaper, etc)
  • Job applications
  • The screening process
  • Interviewing candidates
  • Hiring, promoting, terminating, transferring, or separating employees
  • Workplace conditions
  • Participating in unions, employee organizations, apprenticeship programs, or training

Does FEHA Apply to My Employer?

For the most part, FEHA applies to all companies that have five or more employees. There is an exception to the FEHA Act for companies with less than five employees. The law still prohibits harassment if the company has only one employee or does business with just one independent contractor. No matter the size, all governmental employers are subjected to the FEHA Act requirements.

Do I Have Options if My Employer Violated FEHA?

There are three steps you can take if you were retaliated against or terminated for doing something protected by the FEHA Act.

  1. If still employed, report the retaliation act to your direct supervisor or to the human resources department if the retaliation was conducted by your supervisor.
  2. File FEHA claims with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH).
  3. Once you have received the FEHA right to sue notice from the DFEH you can file a retaliation or wrongful termination lawsuit against your employer.

When filing a complaint with the DFEH, make sure you have the following ready to submit for the investigation:

  • Records of the incident
  • Facts about the incident
  • Contact information of the person or entity you believe caused you harm
  • Copies of evidence related to your claim
  • The names and contact information of any and all witnesses

FEHA Statute of Limitations

The statute of limitations for filing a FEHA claim used to be one year from the date that the violation of the law occurred. However, the new 2021 FEHA regulations and updates increased the statute of limitations to three years from the date that the FEHA retaliation violation of the law occurred. There is also a one-year statute of limitations in place for filing a wrongful termination or retaliation lawsuit from the date you receive the FEHA notice to sue from the DFEH.

What Damages Can I Claim in a FEHA Lawsuit?

If you file a FEHA disability or FEHA sexual harassment lawsuit for retaliation, you can recover damages in the claim, including the following:

  • Damages for emotional pain and suffering
  • Lost wages and lost benefits
  • FEHA attorneys fees
  • Punitive damages (awarded by the judge to punish the defendant for malice, oppression, or fraud where the employee was wrongfully terminated or retaliated against)

Why You Need an Attorney for Your FEHA Lawsuit

The law in California protects employees from discrimination based on sex, race, national origin, religion, disability, and other protected classes. If your employer has retaliated against you for taking part in an activity protected by the FEHA Act, it is in your best interest to speak with an experienced FEHA attorney immediately.

Manukyan Law Firm will investigate your claim of a FEHA Act violation and build a case against your employer. Our experienced team will fight for your right to compensation, help you regain your position with the company, and hold your employer accountable for their actions. Call our firm today at 818-559-4444, or complete a contact form on our website to schedule a consultation. Be sure to read through the reviews on our website of satisfied clients to find out why we are the most trusted wrongful termination law firm in California.

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