The Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) is a comprehensive California law that aims to protect people from discrimination, harassment, and retaliation in the areas of employment and housing. It was first enacted in 1959 and has since undergone numerous amendments to expand and improve upon its protections.
FEHA applies to employers, labor organizations, employment agencies, and housing providers. In the context of employment, FEHA generally applies to employers with five or more employees. However, for harassment claims, it applies to all employers, regardless of the number of employees. FEHA also covers state and local government agencies, as well as nonprofit organizations.
What Are Some of the Specific Provisions of FEHA?
Some specific provisions of FEHA include:
- Harassment: Under FEHA, harassment is prohibited in all workplaces, regardless of the number of employees. This includes harassment by co-workers, supervisors, and even third parties such as clients or customers.
- Protected categories: Under FEHA, people are protected from illegal discrimination based on race, color, national origin, ancestry, religion, age (40 and older), disability, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, military and veteran status, and more.
- Race and color: FEHA prohibits discrimination based on race and color, which includes discrimination in hiring, firing, compensation, promotion, training, or any other terms, conditions, or privileges of employment.
- Sex and gender: FEHA also prohibits discrimination based on sex and gender, which includes pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions, as well as gender identity, and gender expression. This encompasses pay equity, sexual harassment, and workplace accommodations for pregnancy or gender transition.
Who Enforces FEHA?
The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) is responsible for enforcing FEHA. The DFEH investigates complaints, attempts to resolve disputes through mediation, and may file lawsuits on behalf of people who have experienced discrimination or harassment.
You can also file private lawsuits under FEHA after obtaining a right-to-sue notice from the DFEH. Here are the general steps to follow:
- Find a lawyer: If you haven’t already done so, use LegalMatch to find and consult with an experienced employment discrimination lawyer who can guide you through the process.
- File your lawsuit: To file a lawsuit, you will need to prepare and file a complaint with the court. The complaint should include a detailed description of the discrimination you experienced, the harm it caused you, and the relief you are seeking. Your lawyer can help you draft and file the complaint.
- Serve the defendant: Once you have filed your complaint, you must serve a copy of it on the defendant(s) named in the complaint. This means delivering a copy of the complaint to the defendant(s) in person or by mail.
- Wait for the defendant’s response: After the defendant(s) receive the complaint, they have a certain amount of time to respond. If they do not respond within the time allotted, you may be able to win the case by default.
- Discovery: After the initial stages of the lawsuit, both sides engage in a process called “discovery,” in which they exchange information and evidence relevant to the case.
- Trial: If the case is not settled or dismissed before trial, the case will proceed to trial. At trial, both sides will present their evidence and arguments to the judge or jury, who will then decide the case.
What Is the CFRA?
The California Family Rights Act (CFRA) is a state law that grants eligible employees the right to take job-protected leave for specific family and medical reasons. The CFRA allows employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in a 12-month period for purposes such as the birth or adoption of a child, the serious health condition of an immediate family member, or the employee’s own serious health condition.
The CFRA relates to FEHA because both laws aim to protect employees’ rights and prohibit discrimination in the workplace. While the CFRA focuses on family and medical leave, FEHA addresses a broader range of workplace discrimination and harassment issues.
For instance, employers cannot:
- Discriminate against employees or job applicants based on their race, color, or national origin; gender, gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation; age; or disability.
- Discriminate against employees or job applicants with disabilities, and must provide reasonable accommodations to allow them to perform the essential functions of their job.
- Allow harassment of employees based on any of the above protected categories, including sexual harassment, which includes unwanted sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other conduct of a sexual nature.
- Retaliate against employees who oppose discrimination or harassment, or who participate in an investigation or complaint related to discrimination or harassment.
- Discriminate against employees or job applicants based on factors such as their marital status or their religious beliefs or practices.
Which Business Practices Are Covered and What Are the Remedies Available?
Business practices covered under the CFRA include:
- Leave for bonding with a new child (through birth, adoption, or foster care placement).
- Leave to care for a spouse, registered domestic partner, child, or parent with a serious health condition.
- Leave for the employee’s own serious health condition.
Remedies available under the CFRA include:
- Reinstatement to the same or a comparable position after the leave ends.
- Continuation of health benefits during the leave period.
- Compensation for lost wages and benefits.
- Equitable relief, such as job reinstatement or promotion.
- Attorney’s fees and costs.
What Were Some of the Recent Amendments to FEHA?
Some recent amendments to FEHA include:
- Senate Bill 973 (effective January 1, 2021) requires certain employers to submit annual pay data reports to the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, disaggregated by race, ethnicity, and sex, to promote pay equity and address potential pay discrimination.
- Assembly Bill 9 (effective January 1, 2020) extends the time to file a discrimination, harassment, or retaliation claim with the DFEH from one year to three years.
Should I Contact a Lawyer?
Should you believe you have experienced discrimination, harassment, or retaliation in the workplace or have concerns about your rights under the CFRA, contact a California discrimination lawyer. An experienced attorney can help you understand your rights, navigate the legal process, and work to ensure that you receive the remedies to which you are entitled.
LegalMatch can help connect you with an experienced California discrimination lawyer who can assist you with your workplace discrimination, harassment, retaliation, or CFRA-related concerns.
Here’s how LegalMatch can help:
- Matchmaking: LegalMatch uses a unique algorithm to match you with qualified and experienced discrimination lawyers in California who have experience handling cases like yours.
- Lawyer Profiles: LegalMatch provides detailed lawyer profiles that include information about their education, experience, fees, and reviews from past clients.
- Client Reviews: LegalMatch also provides reviews from past clients, which can help you get a sense of what it’s like to work with a particular lawyer.
- Free Case Evaluation: LegalMatch provides a free case evaluation, which allows you to present your case to a lawyer and get their feedback on your legal options.
- No Obligation: There is no obligation to hire a lawyer after using LegalMatch’s services.
By using LegalMatch, you can find a discrimination lawyer in California who can help you understand your legal rights, navigate the legal process, and work to ensure that you receive the remedies to which you are entitled.