Starting in 2014, California’s employment discrimination law, the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), will cover two new classes of protected characteristics. Beginning in January, military and veteran status will now be protected the same way as race, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, religion, etc.
The change will define the status as “a member or veteran of the United States Armed Forces, United States Armed Forces Reserve, the United States National Guard, and the California National Guard.”
Unlike other characteristics, however, the law will permit employers an exemption to inquire about someone’s current or former military status for the purpose of awarding a veteran’s preference as permitted by law.
Members of the military were not previously without protections, however. Under California Military and Veterans Code § 394 current members of the military can pursue claims for discrimination in state court, and under the federal USERRA, current and former members of the military, are protected from discrimination and retaliation in federal court. The new changes harmonize these laws, and allow both current and former California service members to stay in state court.
The bill is called AB 556 and can be found here.