What is the Fair Employment and Housing Act?

Frank S. Clowney III

The Fair Employment and Housing Act is California’s non-discrimination statute. Tracking closely with and sometimes expanding upon the provisions of federal civil rights laws, FEHA prohibits discrimination in employment and housing based on a person’s membership in a legally-defined protected class. The protected classes of race, gender, religion and disability are likely familiar to most Californians. However, FEHA also prohibits discrimination against other protected classes, including persons with certain medical conditions, pregnant women and veterans.

Under FEHA, California employers may not engage in discriminatory hiring and employment practices intended to exclude specific groups of people. As such, an employer may not consider a person’s membership in a protected class when making hiring and employment decisions. Employers also may not retaliate against employees who complain about workplace discrimination. Similarly, FEHA prohibits the exclusion of persons meeting all other qualification from housing accommodations based on their protected class status.

A person who believes they have been discriminated against in housing or employment must exhaust the administrative remedies afforded by FEHA before proceeding to a discrimination lawsuit in civil court. This is accomplished by filing a complaint with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing, the agency charges with enforcing the provision of FEHA. When filing the complaint, the complaining party may request an investigation of their complaint or the granting of an immediate Right to Sue letter, which is required before initiating a lawsuit in civil court.

Since many other factors can affect the viability of a potential discrimination claim, and the circumstances of each such claim will differ, the information provided here is not intended as legal advice. In discussion with legal counsel, those who believe they have been subjected to employment or housing discrimination may be able to determine whether their claims rise to the level of discrimination under FEHA.

Source: Ca.gov, “Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA)”, December 30, 2014