Are you aware what protected categories are created for employees under the California Fair Employment Housing Act (FEHA)?FEHA protects employees in California from discrimination, harassment, and retaliation as to certain protected categories.
Protected categories under FEHA include: race, color, ancestry, national origin, religion, creed, age (40 or older), disability (mental and physical), sex, gender (including pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding or related medical conditions), sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, and military or veteran status.
The Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) also makes it unlawful to retaliate against an employee because they oppose any practice or assert any right granted to them under FEHA. For example, if an employee complains about being unlawfully discriminated against or harassed because of their race, the complaint is protected, and the employer would violate FEHA if it retaliates against the employee for the complaint.
Furthermore, the FEHA makes discrimination based on the above categories’illegal, whether the employee’s membership in the protected category is actual or perceived.Below, are some further elaborations on what some of these categories mean.Age
The California Fair Employment and Housing Act ( FEHA ) states that it is unlawful to discriminate against “any person” over the age of 40 because of their age.It is important to note that age discrimination pursuant to FEHA only protects employee who are 40 years old or above. It does not protect younger employees under 40 years old from discrimination.Disability
FEHA defines a disability as a mental or physical condition, which limits a person’s ability to perform any major life activity. Major life activities include physical, mentalor social activities. Examples of major life activities include, but are not limited to, caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, and working.
Mental disabilities include but are not limited to: intellectual disabilities, organic brain syndrome, emotional or mental illness, specific learning disabilities, any other mental or psychological disorder that requires special education or services and having a history of a mental or psychological disorder.
A physical disability under FEHA is an impairment of a system of body such as the neurological system, reproductive system, and digestive system. FEHA defines a medical condition as any health impairment that is associated with a diagnosis, record, or history of cancer or genetic characteristic.
More examples of physical and mental disabilities include HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, epilepsy, seizure disorder, diabetes, depression, bipolar disorder, multiple sclerosis and heart disease. However, sexual behavior disorders, compulsive gambling, kleptomania, pyromania, and substance use disorders that are from the unlawful use of controlled substances or other drugs are not considered disabilities under FEHA.
Pursuant to FEHA employees are entitled to reasonable accommodation for their disabilities. The laws for disabilities are complex, so any employee who is having difficulty working with a disability should contact an experienced California employment attorney for advice.Pregnancy
California's Fair Employment and Housing Act ("FEHA") prohibits employers from discriminating against any employee for becoming pregnant or requesting leave associated with pregnancy. Special rules apply to pregnancy leave, so always consult an attorney who is experienced with California’s pregnancy laws, which protect employees. Furthermore, if a pregnant employee needs some reasonable accommodation because of any physical limitations caused by their pregnancy, an employer must reasonably accommodate them.Marital Status
In California, it is an unlawful employment practice to discriminate against an employee based upon their marital status or perceived marital status.Religion/Creed
FEHA protects employees from being discriminated against because of their religious creed or religion. Religion or religious creed is broadly defined pursuant to FEHA, and it includes traditionally recognized religions as well as beliefs, observances, or practices that an individual sincerely holds and which occupy importance for the employee that is parallel to that of traditionally recognized religions. Additionally, FEHA requires employees reasonably accommodate an employee’s religious practices or observances as long as the accommodation does not cause it undue hardship.Sex
Pursuant to FEHA it is against the law for an employer to discriminate against a person based on sex, gender, or sexual orientation. Discrimination based on sex/gender includes a person’s gender identity and gender expression. FEHA defines gender expression as a person’s appearance and behavior related to gender to the perception of their appearance and behavior, whether or not it is stereotypically associated with a person’s assigned sex at birth.FEHA defines sexual orientation as “homosexual, bisexual or heterosexual.” FEHA prohibits discrimination because of an employee’s “actual or perceived” sexual orientation. Pursuant to FEHA, discrimination based on “sex” includes pregnancy or medical conditions related to pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding. Contact A Los Angeles Employment Attorney Advice If you are a California employee that has experienced discrimination, harassment, and/or retaliation based on any one of the above protected categories, it is important to take the time needed to process what is happening and contact an experienced employment law attorney to determine what actions you want to take.
The best wrongful termination cases generally occur because an employee had the foresight to talk to an attorney before they are fired. There are many, many more situations, which create legally protected activities, for which an employer cannot fire an employee than can be covered in this blog.
Always contact an attorney for advice at the first sign of unlawful discrimination, harassment, or retaliation, so they can help your preserve your rights if a lawsuit is necessary. For more information on how discrimination can manifest itself in the workplace and how it can be proven to have occurred, please see our blog post titled “How to Prove Unlawful Discrimination.