California Employees Will Receive Greater Protection From Retaliation
July 28, 2015
The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) prohibits employers from retaliating against an employee because that employee voiced opposition to an unlawful practice or behavior, such as illegal discrimination or harassment. However, Governor Brown recently signed a law that expanded the protections for employees against wrongful retaliation. Going into effect on January 1, 2016, Assembly Bill 987 will prohibit employers from retaliating or discriminating against an employee who requests accommodations for a disability or due to their closely-held religious beliefs.
Employees Should Not Be Afraid to Request Accommodations
In certain circumstances, employers must provide reasonable accommodations to employees based on certain factors if the request is reasonable. For example, religious beliefs can cause an employee to request to violate a dress or grooming code due to headwear, hairstyle, or facial hair, or religious prohibition of certain clothing items. Additionally, an individual may request certain scheduling accommodations to allow for worship on days of worship or religious holidays. If the request is reasonable and does not cause an undue burden on the employer, the employee should be granted the accommodation.
Similarly, certain physical or mental disabilities may incite an employee to ask for an accommodation to allow them to perform their jobs in the most efficient way possible. For instance, an employer may be assigned to an office area that is all on ground level if they have difficulty walking or are in a wheelchair. Hearing or visually impaired employees often request technological assistance so that they can perform their job duties adequately. Like religious accommodations, disability accommodations should be approved if they do not place an undue burden on the company.
It is important that employees feel comfortable requesting such accommodations and they should not have to fear that they will lose their jobs or be treated unfairly because of it. The new law now protects you from retaliation specifically because you made a request for a reasonable accommodation.
Forms of Prohibited Retaliation
Retaliation can take many forms, including the following:
Refusal to hire
Refusal to promote
Transfer to a less desirable job position
All of these forms of retaliation are unlawful and unacceptable and employers should be held accountable for such behavior. Employees can file claims against their employers to receive job reinstatement, lost wages, compensation for emotional distress, and more. Starting next year, employees will be able to successfully file such claims if they suffered retaliation for requesting a disability or religious accommodation. This should also effectively make employees less hesitant to request such accommodations in the workplace.