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California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act

The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) is a comprehensive civil rights law designed to protect individuals from discrimination, harassment, and retaliation in employment and housing. FEHA covers a wide range of protected classes, including race, gender, disability, and sexual orientation, and applies to public and private employers, labor organizations, and employment agencies.

FEHA is known for its broader scope and stronger protections compared to federal anti-discrimination laws, making it a cornerstone of civil rights legislation in California. FEHA enhances worker protections beyond those provided by federal law in several important ways:

Broader Coverage of Employers: While federal laws like Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 apply to employers with 15 or more employees, FEHA lowers this threshold to include businesses with five or more employees. This expansion means that more workers in smaller businesses are protected under California law.

Wider Range of Protected Classes: FEHA includes all the protected classes covered by federal law, such as race, color, religion, sex, and national origin. Additionally, it covers some categories not explicitly protected under federal law, like sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, and genetic information.

Harassment Protections for All Employees: Under FEHA, all employees, regardless of the size of the business, are protected against harassment based on any of the law’s specified categories. This includes employers with fewer than five employees, a protection not offered by federal law.

Stronger Pregnancy Discrimination Protections: FEHA provides greater protections for pregnant employees. For example, California law requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers and prohibits discrimination against pregnant employees, which is more comprehensive than the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act.

More Comprehensive Disability Accommodations: FEHA mandates employers to engage in a timely, good-faith, interactive process to determine reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities. This requirement is generally considered more robust than the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Stricter Anti-Retaliation Provisions: While federal law prohibits retaliation against employees who file discrimination claims, FEHA imposes stricter penalties and broader definitions of what constitutes retaliation, offering more comprehensive protection for employees who exercise their rights under the Act.

Higher Damages and Penalties: Under FEHA, there is no cap on compensatory or punitive damages, unlike federal laws, where damages are capped based on the size of the employer. This means potential higher payouts in discrimination and harassment lawsuits.

Mandatory Training Requirements: FEHA requires employers with 50 or more employees to provide at least two hours of sexual harassment training to all supervisory employees, which is not a federal requirement.

Language Discrimination: FEHA includes provisions against language discrimination, requiring employers to justify any “English-only” policies and prohibiting language-based discrimination unless it is necessary for the operation of the business.

In summary, California’s FEHA provides broader protections and coverage, includes more categories of protected classes, imposes stronger obligations on employers regarding harassment and discrimination, and allows for greater penalties and damages compared to federal law.

Has Your Employer Violated Your Workplace Rights?

If you believe that your employer has engaged in unlawful employment practices, the Hardin Law Group is here to help explain your rights and what you can do to enforce them. Attorney James Hardin is a dedicated Los Angeles employment lawyer who exclusively represents employees in all types of employment cases, including wrongful termination, harassment, discrimination and wage and hour violations. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation with Attorney Hardin today, call (310) 606-2122 or connect with us through our secure online contact form.