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Retaliation and harassment protections under FEHA

Last updated: May 3, 2023

In California, the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) protects individuals in the workplace from retaliatory practices or harassment in workplaces. It is crucial to better understand how they can protect themselves if they encounter retaliation or harassment while at work.

This article will discuss the scope of retaliation and harassment protections under FEHA for workers who may have been subjected to such treatment in their workplace. It will also address the legal remedies available to aggrieved employees when faced with these circumstances.

Purpose Of FEHA

Retaliation and harassment are both serious issues in any workplace setting as they can lead to feelings of distress and demoralization among affected staff members. The purpose of retaliation and harassment protections under FEHA is to ensure that all employers act responsibly towards their workforce by providing adequate protections against acts which could be defined as retaliatory or harassing behavior.

California law requires employers to take steps towards preventing retaliatory or harassing conduct within their organization, through the implementation of policy initiatives and employee training programs designed to promote an inclusive working environment free from discrimination and intimidation.

Retaliation And Harassment Protections Under FEHA

Retaliation and harassment are two of the most abhorrent forms of workplace discrimination. Retaliation occurs when an employer takes adverse action against an employee in response to their protected activity. Protected activities include making complaints about discrimination or filing a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Harassment is any unwanted conduct based on race, color, national origin, sex, age disability or religion that creates an intimidating hostile or offensive working environment. Under California's Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), both retaliation and harassment are prohibited practices.

FEHA In California

The Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) of California was enacted in 1959 to protect people from discrimination, harassment, and retaliation. This law prohibits employers from discriminating against or harassing employees based on race, religion, gender identity, disability status, sexual orientation, age, national origin, ancestry, marital status, medical condition, political activity or affiliation. The FEHA also provides protection for victims of workplace retaliation and harassment by their employers.

Under the FEHA's provisions, it is illegal for an employer to retaliate against an employee who has made a complaint about discrimination or harassment in the workplace. Retaliation includes:

  • demoting or terminating employment

  • reducing pay

  • denying promotions

  • taking away job duties

  • changing work schedules

  • assigning unfavorable tasks

  • transferring to another office location without cause

  • refusing reasonable accommodation requests related to pregnancy/childbirth leave

  • issuing negative performance evaluations unjustly

  • creating a hostile work environment through verbal abuse or physical threats

  • withholding information that would otherwise be provided to other employees regarding job opportunities or advancement prospects.

If any of these actions have been taken as a result of a worker filing a complaint with their employer about possible discrimination or harassment in the workplace then they may have grounds for legal action under the FEHA.

Employment Practices Prohibited By FEHA

The Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) is a comprehensive California law that prohibits discrimination in employment. It also provides protections against retaliation and harassment based on protected characteristics such as race, color, religion, nationality, sex or gender identity.

This law applies to all employers who have five or more employees - including state and local governments. The provisions of the FEHA are enforced by the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). Employers must not retaliate against any employee for exercising their rights under the FEHA. Retaliation can include termination, demotion, suspension, reduction of hours or pay, failure to promote an employee, discipline or other adverse action taken because the employee has made a complaint about possible discrimination, filed a charge with DFEH or testified regarding alleged discriminatory practices.

Employers cannot harass employees based on any protected characteristic either. Harassment includes:

  • Verbal abuse

  • Physical assault

  • Offensive jokes

  • Postings online that are derogatory toward an individual's protected characteristics

  • Displaying symbols that indicate hostility towards someone due to his/her protected status

  • Requesting sexual favors in exchange for job benefits; treating someone differently than other similarly situated individuals due to his/her protected status

  • Creating a hostile work environment where one’s ability to perform his/her job duties is hindered due to comments or conduct related to his/her protected status.

Under FEHA it is illegal for employers to take retaliatory action against employees who exercise their rights under this law. Likewise, employers must ensure that they provide a workplace free from harassment so that all workers can feel safe while performing their jobs without fear of being targeted based on their identity or beliefs.

Enforcement Of FEHA Protections

FEHA protects California employees from retaliation and harassment in the workplace. Employers are prohibited from taking adverse action against an employee for filing a complaint, participating in an investigation or opposing any practice that is illegal under FEHA. The law also prohibits employers from retaliating against someone who has filed a discrimination claim with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH).

To enforce these protections, DFEH enforces regulations to prevent unlawful discrimination and harassment in employment. An employer found to be in violation of FEHA could face substantial penalties including potential liability for damages suffered by aggrieved individuals as well as civil fines levied by the court. In addition, employers may be ordered to pay attorney's fees if they unreasonably fail to comply with laws regarding anti-discrimination and retaliation practices.

FEHA Protection For Employees From Retaliation And Harassment

The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) is an important part of protecting employees from retaliation and harassment in the workplace. This law provides clear protections against unlawful employment practices, ensuring that each employee has a safe working environment free from discrimination and abuse. Those who experience such violations must understand their rights with retaliation and harassment protections under FEHA and how they can seek justice through enforcement mechanisms available within the act.

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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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