If you live or work in California, you probably know that California laws generally protect employees more than other states or even federal law. This is certainly true with California’s antidiscrimination law, the Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA” or the “Act”).
Who Is Covered?
The breadth of California’s antidiscrimination coverage is first apparent when you look at who is covered. Most federal laws cover only large employers, but the California Legislature thought it important to capture small employers, too. For this reason, the FEHA generally applies to employers with five or more employees, full- or part-time. And the antidiscrimination part of the law applies to all employers, even if they only have one employee.
The FEHA also covers more groups of people (called “protected classes”) than federal laws. It guards against discrimination against people based on membership in the following groups:
- Race, ancestry, color, or national origin;
- Sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation;
- Pregnancy, childbirth, or related conditions;
- Religious creed or belief;
- Denial of leave under the Family and Medical Care Leave Act, medical condition, or genetic information;
- Marital status; and
- Any other characteristic protected under federal, state, or local law.
In other words, an employer cannot treat an employee differently than a similarly situated employee on the ground that she is a member of one of these classes of people.
What Are an Employer’s Responsibilities Relating to Harassment?
California’s Act requires employers to take reasonable steps to investigate complaints of harassment and to prevent harassment. It also allows an employee to bring a claim of constructive discharge if she has filed a complaint that has not been timely or properly resolved. This means that an employee with an unresolved allegation of harassment may be able to quit her job if she has no reasonable alternative other than to do so, then hold her employer responsible for the termination of her employment.
In addition to covering smaller employers, the antiharassment provisions of the FEHA also cover independent contractors. Importantly, the Act opens the door for an employee’s supervisors to be held personally liable for harassment. This is an important deterrent for illegal conduct by supervisors. Contact Labor Law Office, APC today to speak with an experienced discrimination lawyer in modesto.
Sacramento, CA 95821