Changes to California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act have created an additional layer of protection for the state’s workers. These protections apply mainly in the areas of workplace discrimination and harassment.
These changes are the result of Senate Bill 1300, which was signed into law in September 2018. The law goes into effect January 1, 2019.
This article was written to generally discuss some of the changes created by SB 1300, as well as related areas of employment law. If you have questions about anything discussed on this page, don’t hesitate to schedule a consultation with our office.
What Senate Bill 1300 Means for Workers
One of the key changes of SB 1300 was the closing of several loopholes in existing employment law. Some of the benefits for employees under these changes include the following:
– Employment contracts prohibiting employees from suing for discrimination or harassment are no longer valid.
For years it has been common for employers, either as a condition of hiring an employee, or promoting an employee, to require these workers to sign a contract that prohibits the employee from filing a discrimination or harassment claim in court. Thanks to proposition 1300, these contracts are now prohibited. If you’ve signed one of these contracts, and believe you have experienced discrimination or harassment, contact our office to schedule an appointment.
–Employers can now be held responsible for harassment and discrimination committed by third parties against company employees.
This rule applies to companies that make use of third party services. For instance, imagine an employee who is required to visit a remote site where outside contractors provide maintenance services. One day, while visiting this remote site, the employee is subject to sexually suggestive comments from one of the contractors. The employee’s manager could potentially be held responsible for the actions of the contractor. While third party sexual harassment has long been unlawful, prop 1300 has expanded the law’s power to include discrimination.
This means, discrimination based on an employee’s race, religion, sexual identity, military status, gender, or other traits, committed by a third party against a company employee is prohibited. The company the employee works for can potentially be held responsible.
–State law now rejects a previous legal standard established in a 9thCircuit Court Decision heard in 2000, known as the “one free grope” standard.
The wording of the new law is written to reflect this rejection. It states:
” A single incident of harassing conduct is sufficient to create a triable issue regarding the existence of a hostile work environment if the harassing conduct has unreasonably interfered with the plaintiff’s work performance or created an intimidating, hostile working environment.”
The law further states:
“In that regard, the Legislature hereby declares its rejection of the United States Court of Appeals for the 9thCircuit’s opinion in Brooks v City of San Mateo (2000) and states that the opinion shall not be used in determining what kind of conduct is sufficiently severe or pervasive enough to constitute a violation of the Fair Employment and Housing Act.”
That specific standard established in Brooks v City of San Mateo has informally been referred to as the “one grope standard.”
If you believe you have experienced harassment, but have questions as to whether or not your situation qualifies as severe enough to file a lawsuit, contact our office to schedule a consultation.
–The legal standard for sexual harassment will no longer vary depending on the workplace.
The law now specifically states that it is irrelevant that a particular occupation might have previously been known for a higher occurrence of sexual related commentary or conduct. If you work in an industry where harassment has been commonplace, and you have questions, give us a call.
SB 1300 Updates the Fair Employment and Housing Act
The specific law updated by SB 1300 is California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). This law lists the protected classes that employers are prohibited from discriminating against. These include: race, color, national origin, religion, age (over 40), disability, sex, gender, pregnancy status, sexual orientation, gender identity, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, military and veteran status.
Additionally, the law states that an employer can be held responsible when an employee experiences sexual harassment in the workplace.
Employees Who Experiences Harassment/Discrimination Can Recover Monetary Damages
Employees who call our office will often want to know what type of money they can recover in a lawsuit. While this question is impossible to answer with specificity, it is possible to discuss the different types of damages available.
First, it’s important to note that many cases settle out of court. These settlements are typically confidential, and as a result, no data exists on average settlements.
Clients whose cases make it before a jury will sometimes be awarded:
- Back pay
- Lost Wages
- Punitive Damages
- Pain and Suffering Damages
These damages can add up significantly.
Contact an Attorney for More Information
If you believe you have experienced harassment or discrimination in the workplace, contact our office to discuss your case. If you believe that changes to the Fair Employment and Housing Act under SB 1300 might apply to you, give us a call.
Our office offers free consultations, and will often provide services on a contingency basis. This means if we take your case, you don’t pay out-of-pocket fees. Rather, your attorney is paid with proceeds from your award or settlement at the conclusion of the case. You have little to lose by reaching out to an attorney and asking a few questions. Contact the office of Robert Odell for more information, and find out how we can help.