What is FEHA in California?

The Fair Employment and Housing Act (or FEHA in California) is a protective law that applies to public and private employers, employment agencies and labor organizations. This state law is designed to protect workers from unfair employers.

FEHA: California’s Anti-Discrimination, Anti-Harassment and Anti-Retaliation Law

California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act prevent discrimination in these categories.

  • 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 same law protects people from retaliation after making a complaint or helping someone else make a complaint. It also prevents employers from retaliating against employees who speak out against workplace actions that violate the law. Finally, employers can’t discriminate because hiring someone with a disability could raise the company’s insurance rates.

Each of the classes protected under FEHA in California describes specific characteristics or circumstances. For example, age discrimination refers to people over the age of 40. And in 2018, the Fair Employment and Housing Council expanded FEHA’s protections against national origin discrimination.

The new protections include a person’s actual or perceived:

  • Name that’s associated with a national origin group
  • Physical, linguistic or cultural characteristics that are associated with a national origin group
  • Marriage to or association with a person or persons of a national origin group
  • Tribal affiliation
  • Membership in an organization (or association with an organization) of a national origin group
  • Attendance or participation in churches, schools, temples, mosques or other religious institutions that are generally used by people of a national origin group

Requirements for FEHA in California

The Fair Employment and Housing Act require employers to do certain things to stay in compliance with the law. Under FEHA, employers must:

  • Create anti-discrimination policies
  • Create anti-harassment policies
  • Distribute written copies of their policies in English and any other language that’s spoken by at least 10 percent of the workforce
  • Conduct training on discrimination and harassment

What FEHA Allows

Sometimes things look like discrimination when they’re not. Employers can choose not to hire someone or to move an employee to another job if:

  • The person is unable to perform the job’s essential functions
  • The person would create an imminent and substantial danger to him- or herself (or others)
  • It’s impossible for the employer to make reasonable accommodation

The employer isn’t discriminating in these cases. That’s because, in California, FEHA recognizes the right of employers to not put other employees or their businesses at risk.

You do have to know, though, that employers can’t discriminate because there’s a possibility of future harm to the person or to others.

Discrimination in Business Practices

FEHA is in place to prevent discrimination in all business practices. That includes:

  • Ads
  • Job applications
  • The job screening process
  • Job interviews
  • Hiring, promoting, transferring, terminating or separating employees
  • Working conditions, including things like compensation
  • Participation in training or apprenticeship programs, employee organizations or unions

What if Your Employer Violates FEHA in California?

If you believe your employer has violated your rights under the Fair Employment and Housing Act, you could have legal recourse. Many people choose to contact an attorney about situations involving discrimination against a protected class – and that might be the right choice for you, too.

You could be entitled to receive back pay or front pay (pay you would’ve earned in the future). The employer could also have to hire or reinstate you, promote you, make policy changes and provide training. In some cases, judges order employers to pay people damages for emotional distress. Sometimes judges order employers to pay punitive damages, too. (The term punitive damages refers to money that one party pays another as a form of punishment. Courts often order punitive damages to “make an example” out of a bad actor so other companies don’t make the same mistakes.)

Do You Need to Talk to a Lawyer About FEHA in California?

We may be able to help you if your employer has violated your rights or discriminated against you in any aspect of employment.

Call us at 844-332-4332 to tell us what happened. We can evaluate your situation and determine whether you have a case on your hands – and if you do, we’ll do everything possible to get you the compensation you deserve.

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Based in California, we focus exclusively on employment law, protecting employees' rights. We handle a broad range of employment disputes including wrongful termination, harassment, discrimination, retaliation, wage and hour issues, among others.

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