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What is the FEHA?

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California is one of the most progressive states in the country when it comes to anti-discrimination law and equal rights for all. One of the landmark pieces of legislation regarding discrimination in California is the Fair Employment and Housing Act. This is a sweeping law that addresses unfair conduct in the course of hiring, employment, and securing housing. Here’s what you need to know.

History of the Act

The FEHA was passed on September 18, 1959. It is the main statute in California that prohibits employment discrimination and applies to employers, labor unions, apprenticeship programs, employment agencies, and more. It forbids employment discrimination on the following grounds:

  • Race
  • Religion
  • National origin
  • Sexual orientation
  • Sex
  • Marital status
  • Physical disability
  • Mental disability
  • Medical condition
  • Age
  • Pregnancy or childbirth, or any related medical condition

The Act also prohibits retaliation against anyone who opposes conduct that is forbidden by the Act. This includes such activity as filing a complaint, testifying, or assisting in any FEHA-related proceeding.

In 1978, the California government passed an amendment that also required employers to provide unpaid protected leave for individuals who were disabled by pregnancy, for a term up to 4 months.

Why Is It Necessary?

While federal law does have some antidiscrimination statutes on the books, none are as comprehensive as the FEHA. Many states in the U.S. have expanded upon the current federal statutes to provide more avenues for recourse when victims have endured workplace discrimination.

The FEHA is much like federal statues Title VII and the Americans with Disabilities Act, but it extends further and offers further protections. Examples of additional protections include payment of attorney’s fees and reimbursements to prevailing plaintiffs, and looser criteria regarding definition of workplace harassment, retaliation, and discrimination.

Lastly, the FEHA allows for the award of punitive damages when a corporation or its agents engage discrimination or harassment, or they consciously allow misconduct by lower-level employees. Punitive damages are specifically designed to punish the defendant for wrongdoing and discourage future incidents.

Filing a FEHA Complaint

If you believe you have been a victim of workplace discrimination or harassment under the criteria listed above, California provides an important avenue for recourse. FEHA works to protect employees in California from the misconduct and discrimination of others. These proceedings are typically complex and require the assistance of an attorney familiar with the law. While you can file you’re own lawsuit with the courts, having an attorney by your side helps ensure that you meet all filing deadlines and attach relevant supporting documentation.

If you win a FEHA case, you may be entitled to any number of damages, which may include:

  • Back pay for any lost wages
  • Front pay to compensate for any future lost earnings
  • Rehiring or reinstatement
  • Promotion
  • Policy changes for the company
  • Mandated training for the defendant
  • Reasonable accommodation
  • Awarding of general damages for emotional distress
  • Attorney’s fees reimbursement

A FEHA violation is a serious matter, and as a victim of discrimination you may be entitled to compensation. Talk with an attorney for more details.