Proposed FEHA Amendment: "Familial Status" Discrimination

This week, the EEOC issued new "ENFORCEMENT GUIDANCE: UNLAWFUL DISPARATE TREATMENT OF WORKERS WITH CAREGIVING RESPONSIBILITIES." The EEOC recognizes it can't create new discrimination criteria not in Title VII. However, the agency explains, discrimination against those who care for family members or against those who care for individuals with disabilities may constitute discrimination. Much of this guidance deals with "work/family" conflict, and the effect of gender stereotypes associated with assumptions about familial responsibilities.

Coincidentally(?), the California Senate introduced SB 836, adding a new protected category to the Fair Employment and Housing Act: "familial status." Familial status is vaguely defined as "an individual who is or who will be caring for or supporting a family member." "Family member" means child, spouse, domestic partner, parent, parent-in-law, or grandchild.

Most of us fall (or will fall) within this new category. Congratulations. So, if the bill passes, will those ineligible for FMLA/CFRA have a new way of proving discrimination? Does "caring for" mean permanently, or just one day of care?

Stay tuned.