California employers are well-advised to keep an eye on Senate Bill 404, a proposed amendment to the Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”), California’s primary anti-employment discrimination law. If enacted, SB 404 would add another category to the already lengthy list of protected characteristics under the FEHA – “familial status,” which is defined as “an individual who provides medical or supervisory care to a family member.” Neither “medical care” nor “supervisory care” is defined in the Bill, and, given the California Supreme Court’s statement that the FEHA must be liberally interpreted in favor of employees, these phrases may be construed to encompass a broad variety of everyday activities. Moreover, like the other provisions of the FEHA, this Bill would also apply to people who are associated with others who are providing such care, or who are simply perceived as providing such care – even if they aren’t. If SB 404 passes, California employers will need to review and revise their employment practices and discrimination training to ensure that they’re in compliance with this potentially broad and far-reaching new law.
SB 404, which was introduced by Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara), has passed the California Senate and is currently before the Assembly Committee on Appropriations.