What is the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) and Why Does It Matter?
This guide provides a background of the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing and its importance for California equal employment claims.
What is the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH)?The DFEH is *the state agency charged with enforcing California*s civil rights laws.* Its specific mission is *to protect the people of California from unlawful discrimination in employment, housing, and publication accommodations, and from hate violence and human trafficking.*
What Protections in the Workplace Does DFEH Enforce?The DFEH is responsible for enforcing California state laws, like the Fair Employment and Housing (FEHA). Under FEHA, it is illegal for employers of five or more employees to discriminate against job applicants and employees because of a protected category, or retaliate against them because they have asserted their rights under the law. Even with workplaces with fewer than 5 employees, FEHA prohibits harassment against an employee because of a protected category, as well as harassment due to a protected category for job applicant, unpaid interns or volunteers, or contractors. These laws apply even before an employee gets a job. The DFEH prohibits discriminatory job ads, job interviews, and screening processes - such as job ad that discriminate on a person's age (for example: "seeking youthful applicants" or applicants of a certain age) and interviews (like declining to hire an employee because they are pregnant).
Under California law, employees are protected from discrimination, harassment, and retaliation based on the following traits:
-Ancestry, national origin
-Age (over 40)
-Disability, mental and physical
-Sex, gender (including pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding or related medical conditions)
-Gender identity, gender expression
-Military and veteran status
The DFEH also enforces employees' rights under the California Family Rights Act (CFRA), which provides job protections for employees who need time off from work due to birth of a child, for placement of a child in the employee*s family for adoption or foster care, for the serious health condition of the employee*s child, parent, or spouse, and for the employee*s own serious health condition.
Finally, the DFEH enforces employees' rights under the New Parent Leave Act (NPLA), which requires employers of 20 or more employees to provide eligible employees job-protected leave for the birth of a child or the placement of a child for adoption or foster care.
In addition, the DFEH enforces other California laws, such as those requiring that employers of five or more employees provide up to four months disability leave for an employee who is disabled due to pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition and that employers of 50 or more employees are required to provide sexual harassment training to supervisory employees. The DFEH will accept employees' complaints about employers not complying with these requirements.
What To Do If You've Experienced Discrimination, Harassment, or RetaliationIf you are an individual who believes you have experienced illegal discrimination, harassment, or retaliation in the workplace, it is important you speak with a California licensed employment lawyer right away. Additionally, you may seek assistance from the DFEH or the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) to file a complaint. Keep in mind that many claims are subject to a strict statute of limitations (aka there is a deadline to file your claim), so if you believe you have been subject to illegal activities, it is important you take action right away.