Employees and job applicants are protected from bias

State laws prohibit discrimination in the workplace

The Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) is responsible for enforcing state laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or employee because of the categories listed in the box “Who is Protected?”


  • The Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) applies to public and private employers, labor organizations and employment agencies.
  • It is illegal for employers of five or more employees to discriminate against job applicants and employees because of a protected category, or retaliate against them because they have asserted their rights under the law.
  • The FEHA prohibits harassment based on a protected category against an employee, an applicant, an unpaid intern or volunteer, or a contractor. Harassment is prohibited in all workplaces, even those with fewer than five employees.
  • The California Family Rights Act (CFRA) requires employers of 50 or more employees to provide job-protected leave for the birth of a child, for placement of a child in the employee’s family for adoption or foster care, for the serious health condition of the employee’s child, parent, or spouse, and for the employee’s own serious health condition.
  • Employers of five or more employees must provide up to four months disability leave for an employee who is disabled due to pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition.
  • Employers of 50 or more employees are required to provide sexual harassment training to supervisory employees, and DFEH accepts complaints when a person believes that an employer has not complied with these training and education requirements.

These state laws barring discrimination apply to all business practices, including the following:

  • Advertisements
  • Applications, screening, and interviews
  • Hiring, transferring, promoting, terminating, or separating employees
  • Working conditions, including compensation
  • Participation in a training or apprenticeship program, employee organization or union

Here are more details on what the law covers and what resources are available from the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH).

What remedies are available?

State law provides for a variety of remedies for victims of employment discrimination, including:

  • Back pay (past lost earnings)
  • Front pay (future lost earnings)
  • Hiring / Reinstatement
  • Promotion
  • Out-of-pocket expenses
  • Policy changes
  • Training
  • Reasonable accommodation(s)
  • Damages for emotional distress
  • Punitive damages
  • Attorney’s fees and costs

Who is protected?

California law protects individuals from illegal discrimination by employers based on the following:

  • Race, color
  • Ancestry, national origin
  • Religion, creed
  • Age (over 40)
  • Disability, mental and physical
  • Sex, gender (including pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding or related medical conditions)
  • Sexual orientation
  • Gender identity, gender expression
  • Medical condition
  • Genetic information
  • Marital status
  • Military and veteran status

Resources

DFEH provides multiple resources for anyone needing more information on California’s laws against discrimination in the workplace.

Disability requirements

For details on how employers are required to accommodate those with disabilities, click here.

Other workplace issues

If you have a question related to wages, workplace safety, workers’ compensation or other workplace issues, you need to contact the state agency that handles your particular concern. Since DFEH can only enforce California’s civil rights laws, we have provided a list of other appropriate agencies and their contact information.

DFEH cooperates with federal EEOC

DFEH files signed complaints with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) if the matter falls within the jurisdiction of that agency. As a substantially equivalent agency, DFEH’s findings are usually accepted by EEOC.