California Fair Employment And Housing Act
Discrimination against and harassment of employees is prohibited by the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”). See Cal. Gov. Code, § 12900 et seq. The FEHA applies to all California employers and applies to all “employees.” The FEHA defines “employee” very expansively and protects unpaid workers, interns, volunteers, and independent contractors.
The FEHA also prohibits discrimination against job applicants. The FEHA bans any type of discrimination or harassment based on a number of protected employee classifications including:
- Race and color
- Religious creed
- National origin and ancestry
- Physical disability or mental disability
- Medical condition (including pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, or related medical conditions)
- Genetic information
- Marital status
- Sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation
- Age (40 and over)
- Military and veteran status
- Political viewpoint
What Can Discrimination Look Like?
Discrimination and harassment can originate from almost anyone in a workplace. Thus, upper management, supervisors and even other employees are banned from engaging in discrimination and harassment. In some circumstances, discrimination and harassment can come from non-employees like third-party vendors and customers/clients. An employer can be liable under the FEHA for discrimination and harassment from non-employees if the employer knew (or should have known) about the discrimination and/or harassment and did not take “immediate and appropriate corrective action.” Employers are particularly likely to be held legally liable if the employer had some control over or legal responsibility for the non-employee engaged in the wrongful behavior.
The FEHA requires that all California employers must “take all reasonable steps” to prevent discrimination and harassment. For example, employers must provide anti-discrimination and anti-harassment training for their employees. Indeed, other California laws specify what type of training is required, how often the training must be given, and how the training can be done. Employees and others in the workplace are required to agree — with a signature — to the employer’s anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies. Other “reasonable steps” include:
- Written anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies — which must be included in employee handbooks
- Reasonable procedures for reporting incidents of discrimination and harassment
- Reasonable protocols for investigating reported incidents
- Punishments and corrective actions for individuals engaging in discrimination and/or harassment up to and including termination of employment (or affiliation with the employer)
- Accommodations for victims of discrimination and harassment
- And more
California law also requires that employers provide conspicuous notice (in places where employees can see and read the notices) of their rights with respect to discrimination and harassment laws. To learn more about California anti-discrimination laws and how they apply to your case, contact a discrimination lawyer at our employment law firm. We can help you with any issue surrounding California labor laws and harassment and discrimination.
What Happens When Employers Violate the FEHA
Employers who violate the FEHA (and other California labor laws) can be sued by victims and can also be investigated and punished by the State of California. Punishments can be severe including the following possible legal remedies:
- An award of money damages to the victims for back pay or lost earnings and for future lost earnings
- Statutory damages
- An award of compensation for other things like out-of-pocket expenses
- An award for other injuries caused by the discrimination and/or harassment — such as an award for emotional distress
- An order requiring the hiring of a victim who was a job applicant or the reinstatement of a victim if they were fired in retaliation for reporting discrimination or harassment
- An award of punitive damages if the employer acted with intent or with reckless disregard
- An award of attorney’s fees and costs
Contact Our Experienced Attorneys
For more information or if you have been the victim of employment discrimination and/or harassment, contact our experienced discrimination attorneys at Guardian Litigation Group. We have the tools and legal experience necessary to protect you and bring your employer to justice. Our Mission is to provide unparalleled legal services for our clients.