Most employers recognize that that there are both federal and state laws that regulate how business is conducted. What several do not comprehend is how these state and federal approaches might vary. Employers in the state need to have to recognize that California labor law differs from federal guidelines in numerous locations of employment legislation.
Which Law to Follow?
Usually speaking, whichever law (federal or state) gives greater protection to the individual employee will take precedent. Other times, state law dramatically broadens the base of workers that qualify for protection.
There is a significant difference in attitude between the federal approach and the state approach relating to the extent to which an employer is responsible to comply with the law. The federal government, by way of different Supreme Court instances strongly ENCOURAGE employers to train and educate their workers regarding the laws of harassment and discrimination. Punitive damages could be reduced or eliminated in circumstances where companies were in a position to supply “proactive” evidence of intent to comply and present a safe and harassment no cost environment. Nonetheless, this training is not mandatory.
In contrast, California (along with Maine and Connecticut), Demands private sector employers to supply unlawful harassment training to all managers of businesses with 50 or much more employees. California takes the law a step further by requiring this training to be provided again every single two years with really specific rules concerning documentation and tracking.
Perhaps one of the most striking differences can be discovered in the area of discrimination protections. The California Fair Employment and Housing Act, otherwise recognized as FEHA, is the main California law that prohibits employment discrimination against employees. By way of the federal laws, such as the Civil Rights Act, Title VII and additional amendments and laws (ADEA, ADA, USERRA, Civil Rights Act of 1991 for example) all employees nationally are protected from discrimination based on race, color, religion, gender (sex) and national origin/ancestry, age, medical conditions, mental and physical disabilities, military service, marital status, pregnancy and related medical conditions.
California also has addressed these problems through FEHA which protects from discrimination by all companies supporting the federal protected categories. FEHA adds sexual orientation and transgenderism as additional protected categories.
Defined by the number of workers
In order for an employer to be covered by the federal laws, they need to have 15 or a lot more employees. For ADEA, the employer has to have 20 or more employees. What that means is that an employer with 14 or fewer workers would be not be subjected to these federal laws.
In contrast, FEHA states that harassment applies to all employers in the state regardless of the number of employees. In addition, FEHA states that all employers in California with five or far more workers must comply with the gender discrimination laws such as sexual harassment, gender harassment and harassment based on pregnancy and associated medical conditions.
A Recent California FEHA Lawsuit
The complexity of FEHA is underscored by a recent judgment issued by the California Court of in a recent case, where an employee was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder, but did not disclose this to her employer. Right after acting aggressively and violently against fellow employees she was let go, and subsequently sued the court for unlawful discrimination. Following an extended trial and appeal, the Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the employer, stating that despite her disability, her threats of violence and unacceptable behavior violated firm policy.
In summary, it is essential for employers to recognize their employment obligations, and possible liabilities, under both labor laws in California and the federal government. It is extremely recommended to engage the services of an employment law skilled in your state of operations to present the correct guidance and direction in all locations of employment compliance.