The Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) is a California law that protects employees from illegal discrimination and harassment in employment based on several “protected” categories.

In California, the protected categories are:

• Ancestry
• Age (40 and above)
• Color
• Disability (physical and mental, including HIV and AIDS)
• Genetic information
• Gender, gender identity, or gender expression
• Marital status
• Medical condition (genetic characteristics, cancer or a record or history of cancer)
• Military or veteran status
• National origin (includes language use restrictions)
• Race
• Religion (includes religious dress and grooming practices)
• Sex (includes pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding and/or related medical conditions)
• Sexual orientation

The newest category, which was just added for 2014, is “Military or veteran status.” “Military and veteran status” is defined as a member or veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces, U.S. Armed Forces Reserve, U.S. National Guard, and California National Guard.

Although veterans are protected against job discrimination under the federal Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, with this addition to the FEHA they will now be protected against job discrimination under California law. The benefit is that not only active duty service members are protected, but now all military and veterans are protected.

The federal “Employment and Reemployment Rights Act” (USERRA) prohibits “denial of initial employment, reemployment, retention of employment, promotion or any benefit of employment” for active military members. But, the USERRA fails to enumerate protection from discharge or include coverage of the terms and conditions of employment. The California law includes these protections.

If you have employment related issues that you believe would benefit from a legal consultation, please contact Henk Leonard.