Can This New California Law Protect Workers with Disabilities?

California recently enacted a law that may help protect workers with severe disabilities employed by rehabilitation centers or sheltered workshops. Assembly Bill 488 (AB 488) will extend workplace protections in the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) to these disabled workers. The workshops, rehabilitation centers and day programs mentioned in the bill have special licenses that allow them to pay less than minimum wage.

In 1938, Congress instituted the 14c exemption to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). This allowed employers to receive certificates from the Department of Labor that would allow them to pay significantly disabled workers less than minimum wage. These workshops provide specialized employment and job training for significantly disabled workers.

Workers employed by these institutions and workshops suffer a range of physical and mental disabilities. These disabilities include cerebral palsy, Down’s syndrome and autism. However, these workers did not have the same FEHA protections against discrimination provided to other workers.

What Workplace Protections Do Workers Have Under FEHA?

California workplaces with more than five employees must follow FEHA. This law makes it illegal to discriminate against workers based on their age, religion, disability, marital status, medical condition, national origin, race, gender, pregnancy status and sexual orientation.

Common types of workplace discrimination include paying workers less based on their protected status, or verbal and sexual harassment. AB 488 will extend these protections to disabled workers at these workshops. This means these workers can bring action under FEHA against employers for discrimination. The law went into effect on January, 1st.

Workers who experience harassment for a disability or any other reason may have legal options. The Los Angeles employment law attorneys at Kesluk, Silverstein, Jacob & Morrison, P.C. can help workers hold employers accountable for harassment and discrimination.

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