AB 488: Employment Discrimination

“Existing law, the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, protects the right to seek, obtain, and hold employment without discrimination because of race, religious creed, physical disability, mental disability, sex, age, and sexual orientation, among other characteristics. The act prohibits various forms of employment discrimination, including discharging or refusing to hire or to select for training programs on a prohibited basis. The act prescribes requirements for filing complaints of employment discrimination with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing and charges this department with investigating and determining whether or not to bring a civil action on behalf of the complainant, among other duties. The act exempts employers from remedies for specified unlawful employment practices, including when the discrimination is on the basis of physical or mental disability and the disability prevents the employee from safely performing essential duties even with reasonable accommodations. The act excludes from the definition of “employee,” any individual employed under a special license in a nonprofit sheltered workshop or rehabilitation facility. A special license permits the employment of individuals with disabilities at a wage less than the legal minimum wage.”

“This bill would authorize an individual employed under a special license in a nonprofit sheltered workshop, day program, or rehabilitation facility to bring an action under the act for any form of harassment or discrimination prohibited by the act. The bill would provide an employer against whom the individual brings this action with an affirmative defense by proving, by a preponderance of evidence, that the challenged action was permitted by statute or regulation and was necessary to serve employees with disabilities under a special license. The bill would exempt an employer’s obtaining a special license, or hiring or employing a qualified individual at a wage less than the minimum wage in conformity with a special license, from the act’s provisions prohibiting discrimination based on disability. The bill would provide that the definition of employee was not intended to permit the harassment of, or discrimination against, an individual employed under a special license in a nonprofit sheltered workshop, day program, or rehabilitation facility.” Assembly Bill No. 488