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2013 CALIFORNIA LABOR & EMPLOYMENT LAWS – Part 1 of 4

Several important new laws affecting California employers will take effect this year. In this initial series of blog posts, we will provide a brief synopsis of these changes. For more information on how to remain compliant and up-to-date, we invite you to contact our firm.

This first entry addresses new laws pertaining to employment discrimination.

The FEHA’s Definition of Sex Expanded to Protect Breastfeeding

The California Legislature expanded the definition of sex under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), which prohibits specified discriminatory practices in employment.  Under existing law, sex includes gender, pregnancy, childbirth, and medical conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth.  AB 2386 expands the definition of sex to include breastfeeding and medical conditions relating to breastfeeding.

Religious Accommodation Under the FEHA Enhanced

Under the FEHA, employers must reasonably accommodate religious beliefs and observances of their employees unless the accommodation would create an undue hardship for the employer.  AB 1964 clarifies that religious dress and grooming practices are covered beliefs and observances.  In addition, the new law states that FEHA’s significant difficulty or expense definition of undue hardship, rather than the narrower federal Title VII standard, applies to the FEHA religious discrimination section.  AB 1964 also specifies that segregation, such as assigning an employee to a stock room out of public view, will no longer be an acceptable religious accommodation.

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