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Looking Ahead to 2013: New Laws Protect California Employees

With the 2012 elections in the past and holiday decorations starting to appear everywhere, 2013 is already right around the corner. California’s legislature passed 18 new laws affecting employment in the state – all of them will take effect with the start of the new year.

This post will summarize some of the most important changes that affect employment discrimination cases, including sexual harassment lawsuits.

Two big changes give employees greater protections than they had before. The first of these new laws deals with religion. While California law already prohibited employers from discriminating against workers on the basis of religious beliefs, the new law explains that these protections apply to religious dress and grooming practices. So, as one frequently discussed example, an employer cannot discriminate against a Sikh employee for wearing a turban at work.

Instead of discriminating against these people, employers must reasonably accommodate religious-based dress and grooming practices. Employers need to follow the reasonable accommodation laws and frameworks that already apply to physical disability cases.

The second big change targets sex discrimination. California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act now explicitly covers breastfeeding mothers. This means that an employer cannot discriminate against women for breastfeeding or because they might choose to breastfeed in the future. The law now considers this to be sex discrimination.

These are big new protections for California employees. Check back later for more discussion of another new protection dealing with social media and the workplace.

Source: HR California, “2013 New Laws Affecting California Employers,” 2012

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