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Protected classes under FEHA

Last updated: May 3, 2023

The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) serves as a symbolic beacon of hope for those living in the state, protecting them from discrimination. It is essential that citizens understand their rights and responsibilities when it comes to fair housing practices, making clear distinctions between what is deemed acceptable or unacceptable behavior. By providing clarity around this topic, individuals are empowered with knowledge that can help protect them against any form of discrimination they may experience. The importance of such awareness cannot be overstated; therefore, understanding the protections afforded by FEHA is paramount.

This article will explore what constitutes Protected Classes under FEHA, delving into its intent and implications on the livelihoods of Californians.

Overview Of Protected Classes Under FEHA

The Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) is a California law that protects individuals from discrimination based on certain protected classes. FEHA prohibits employers from denying employment, training, promotions, or other benefits based on any of these protected classes. Employers must also make reasonable accommodations for individuals with disabilities and provide equal pay for equal work. The protected classes, as defined by FEHA, are:

Race And Color

FEHA prohibits discrimination based on race and color, ensuring that all employees are treated fairly and equally, regardless of their background or ethnicity. This protection extends to hiring, promotions, terminations, and other employment-related decisions.


FEHA safeguards the rights of individuals to practice their religion without fear of discrimination in the workplace. Employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations for employees' religious practices and beliefs, as long as doing so does not create undue hardship for the business.

National Origin And Ancestry

FEHA protects employees against discrimination based on their national origin or ancestry. This includes individuals born in other countries, those with a foreign accent, or individuals with a particular cultural background.

Sex And Gender

Under FEHA, discrimination based on sex or gender is strictly prohibited. This encompasses discrimination against individuals due to their biological sex, gender identity, or gender expression. Moreover, FEHA also provides protection against sexual harassment in the workplace.

Pregnancy And Pregnancy-Related Conditions

FEHA ensures that pregnant employees are treated fairly and equally in the workplace. This includes protections against discrimination based on pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. Employers are also required to provide reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees, such as modified work schedules or temporary job reassignments.


FEHA provides protections for individuals with both physical and mental disabilities, ensuring that they have equal opportunities in the workplace. Employers must provide reasonable accommodations for disabled employees, as long as doing so does not impose undue hardship on the business.


FEHA prohibits age discrimination for individuals who are 40 years of age or older. This protection ensures that older employees are not unfairly targeted for layoffs, demotions, or other adverse employment actions based on their age.

Sexual Orientation

Under FEHA, employees are protected against discrimination based on their sexual orientation, whether they identify as heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual.

Marital Status

FEHA prohibits discrimination based on an individual's marital status. This means that employers cannot make employment decisions based on whether an employee is single, married, divorced, or widowed.

Military And Veteran Status

FEHA provides protection for members of the military and veterans, ensuring that they are not subject to discrimination in the workplace due to their service.

Implications For Employers And Employees

Understanding the protected classes under FEHA is crucial for both employees and employers in California. Employees should be aware of their rights and the protections afforded to them under this legislation. If an employee believes they have been subjected to discrimination or harassment based on any of the protected classes, they should report the incident to their supervisor or human resources department and consult with an experienced employment attorney.

Employers, on the other hand, must take all necessary steps to ensure that their workplace is free from discrimination and harassment. This includes providing regular training for managers and employees on FEHA's requirements, implementing clear policies and procedures for addressing complaints, and taking prompt action to investigate and remedy any allegations of discrimination or harassment.

By understanding and adhering to the provisions of FEHA, employers can create a diverse and inclusive work environment that fosters productivity, employee satisfaction, and overall business success. In addition, compliance with FEHA can help minimize the risk of costly litigation and potential damage to an organization's reputation.

Additional Protections Under FEHA

Aside from the primary protected classes mentioned earlier, FEHA also offers additional protections for employees in California. These include:

  • Genetic Information: FEHA prohibits discrimination based on an individual's genetic information, including information about their genetic tests, the genetic tests of their family members, or the manifestation of a disease or disorder in their family members.

  • Medical Condition: FEHA provides protection against discrimination based on an employee's medical condition, which is defined as any health impairment related to or associated with a diagnosis of cancer, a record or history of cancer, or genetic characteristics.

  • Request For Family And Medical Leave: Under FEHA, employees are protected from discrimination or retaliation for requesting or taking family and medical leave in accordance with the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) and the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

  • Whistleblower Retaliation: FEHA provides protection for employees who report or oppose any activity they believe to be unlawful, such as discrimination or harassment, from retaliation by their employer.

Best Practices For Employers

In order to ensure compliance with FEHA and promote a discrimination-free workplace, employers should implement the following best practices:

  • Develop And Implement Anti-Discrimination Policies: Employers should create comprehensive anti-discrimination policies that outline the company's commitment to equal employment opportunities and provide clear guidelines for addressing and resolving complaints.

  • Provide Regular Training: Employers should offer ongoing training for all employees, including managers and supervisors, to ensure that they understand their rights and responsibilities under FEHA.

  • Establish Clear Reporting Procedures: Employers must have a transparent and accessible process for employees to report incidents of discrimination or harassment. This may include providing multiple reporting channels, such as an anonymous hotline, a designated human resources representative, or a third-party reporting system.

  • Investigate Complaints Promptly And Thoroughly: Upon receiving a complaint, employers should conduct a thorough investigation to determine whether discrimination or harassment has occurred. This may involve interviewing the complainant, the alleged harasser, and any witnesses, as well as reviewing relevant documentation.

  • Take Appropriate Remedial Action: If an investigation reveals that discrimination or harassment has occurred, employers must take prompt and effective action to address the situation. This may include disciplinary action against the perpetrator, providing additional training, or implementing new policies to prevent future incidents.

  • Maintain Confidentiality: To the extent possible, employers should maintain the confidentiality of all parties involved in a discrimination or harassment complaint. This can help protect the privacy of those involved and minimize the risk of retaliation.

Understanding Protected Classes Under FEHA

The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) is an important piece of legislation that prohibits discrimination on the basis of certain characteristics. Understanding what qualifies as a protected classes under FEHA is essential for any employer operating within the state of California. By knowing which groups are included in this list they will be able to better understand how they should handle employment decisions while also taking appropriate steps to prevent future instances of discrimination occurring at their workplace.

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Zoey Appleton
Zoey has worked with Cheri for years and has been creating the best articles not only for Disability Help but for our readers. Her job hits close to home for she has a brother with special needs. She hopes to see science and technology pave the way for a better life, with Disability Help to cover it and share it with those that need it.
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