California lawmakers over the years have made a handful of changes to the state’s Fair Employment and Housing Act, which protects employees on the basis of race, color, national origin, ancestry, religious creed, physical or mental disability, medical condition, marital status, sex, sexual orientation, age, or pregnancy and childbirth.
The most recent revisions took effect last April. Here’s what you need to know to ensure your rights are protected as an employee, and to ensure your employees’ rights are protected if you are an employer.
Under the new regulations, employers with five or more employees are now required to create detailed, written policies for preventing harassment, discrimination and retaliation in the workplace. The policies must list all of the groups protected under the state law, allow employees to report a complaint to someone who isn’t a direct supervisor, tell supervisors to report all complaints and investigate them in a timely manner, and promise to maintain confidentiality as much as possible. In addition, the policies need to clearly state that action can and will be taken if a complaint is founded, and that employees will not be retaliated against for seeking help if they are being harassed or discriminated against. Finally, the policies must state that supervisors, colleagues and third-parties are prohibited from discrimination, harassment and retaliation under the Fair Employment and Housing Act.
The revised regulations also require a company to distribute its policies to all current and future employees. An employer must translate the policies into a foreign language, such as Spanish or Mandarin, if 10 percent or more of workers speak that language.
The regulations clarify that the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, which enforces the state’s civil rights laws, may “independently seek preventative remedies for violations of Government Code section 112940(k); and • a determination of compliance with Government Code section 12940(k) requires an individualized assessment, considering factors such as workforce size, budget, nature of business, and individual facts of the case,” according to the agency’s website.
If you feel you are being discriminated against or harassed at work, it is important that you speak to a California employment attorney as soon as possible.