New Bill Extends Religious Freedoms for California Employees

The California State Assembly approved a bill on May 29 that gives additional protections against religious discrimination in the work place, according to ABC News. It extends California discrimination laws to religious clothing, hairstyles and the right to carry religious objects.

The bill, AB1964, passed with a 59-3 vote in favor. Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada, D-Davis, author of the bill, was upset to learn that Sikh and Muslim workers still faced discrimination in the workplace on a regular basis despite the existing laws to protect them.

“This bill is a little bit like the Rosa Parks issue of the 21st century for me,” says Yamada. “To know that there are Sikhs and Muslims relegated to the back of the store in order to continue their employment is particularly heinous.”

This law can actually save the state from costly lawsuits, some lawmakers argue. A Sikh man sued the California Department of Corrections last year for forcing him to shave a beard he had for religious purposes so he could be fitted for a gas mask. The state settled with the man for $295,000.

“The federal law doesn’t go far enough to accommodate the issues that are important in the modern workforce,” says Assemblyman Donald Wagner, R-Irvine. This bill will clear up some of the gray areas and protect the rights of workers in California.

Kesluk, Silverstein & Jacob—Los Angeles employment law attorneys