2016 is a busy year in the often-changing world of California employment law. We have discussed many of the updates employers need to be aware of here (think minimum wage increase, the Fair Pay Act, changes to Unruh, and more). The newest change that California businesses need to be aware of involves changes to the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA).
FEHA is designed to protect employees from discrimination and harassment on the basis of various protected characteristics, including, age, race, religion, gender, and disability, as well as retaliation against an employee who engages in a protected activity, such as requesting an accommodation or objecting to conduct prohibited by the FEHA. What’s more, under FEHA, employers must engage in an interactive process to determine a reasonable accommodation for an employee who is disabled, and to accommodate the employee. All employment provisions of the FEHA anti-discrimination provisions apply to all employers with five or more full-time or part-time employees.
Major Changes to FEHA in 2016
Major changes to FEHA that will have a noticeable impact on employers include:
· The Department of Fair Employment and Housing (“DFEH”) will be allowed to obtain “non-monetary preventative remedies” against an employer, even if there is no evidence of underlying discrimination or harassment.
· Clarification of what constitutes actionable harassment under the FEHA and the basis for co-worker liability.
· A requirement for the dissemination and translation of harassment, discrimination and anti-retaliation policies (more on that below).
According to the Fair Employment and Housing Council (“FEHC”), the new regulations are intended to create unambiguous, “user-friendly” regulations that encompass best practices and eliminate uncertainty regarding whether employers’ anti-discrimination and harassment policies meet FEHA’s requirements. In actuality, they will likely bring additional paperwork to the average employer who is already inundated with reporting requirements as well as additional costs in order to implement these new regulations.
Speak to experienced business attorney Drew E. Pomerance about cost-effectively streamlining these changes into your current employment policy.