2015 California Employment Laws Part 3: Discrimination

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Part 3 of a 4-part series on California Wage and Hour Law changes. Discrimination laws in California expand in 2015 to encompass protection against discrimination for drivers license holders who present licenses obtained regardless of being able to submit proof of their residency in the United States, documentation compliance in immigration workers, protection from harassment for unpaid volunteers and interns, and mandatory abusive conduct prevention training. In 2015, many new laws have placed additional obligations on employers and have expanded liability.

Discrimination against employees with undocumented drivers’ license – AB 1660

Existing law requires the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to issue a driver license to otherwise qualified California residents even if they are unable to submit proof that their presence in the United States is authorized under federal law. This bill amends the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) to make it illegal for an employer to discriminate against individuals because they present a driver’s license obtained under these provisions.

Expansion of “unfair immigration-related practices” and clarification of discrimination – AB 2751
This bill expands the definition of an “unfair immigration-related practice” to include threatening to file or filing a false report or complaint with any state or federal agency. Current law extends the protection only to reports filed with the police. The bill also clarifies that an employer can’t discriminate or retaliate against an employee who updates his or her personal information “based on a lawful change of name, social security number, or federal employment authorization document.”

Discrimination and harassment protection for unpaid interns and volunteers – AB 1443
This bill extends the harassment and discrimination protections of FEHA to unpaid interns, volunteers, and apprenticeship trainees. In addition to being liable to these individuals for conduct by another employee or a supervisor, an employer may be liable for harassment by a nonemployee if the employer knew or should have known of the conduct and failed to take immediate and appropriate corrective action.

Abusive conduct prevention training – AB 2053
Employers with 50 or more employees are required to provide managers with two hours of harassment training (under AB 1825) and additional training on prevention of abusive conduct (under AB 2053) every two years—and within six months for newly hired or promoted managers.
Employers subject to the mandatory sexual harassment prevention training requirement for supervisors must now include in the training prevention of “abusive conduct.” Abusive conduct is defined as conduct of an employer or employee in the workplace, with malice, that a reasonable person would find hostile, offensive, and unrelated to an employer’s legitimate business interests.