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Even in this day and age, it is not uncommon for workers to face negative employment action due to disability discrimination. For those workers who are wrongly discriminated against based on their disability status, a legal action may be a possibility to help secure damages and remedy inequity.

But, as the old adage goes, no man is an island. Sometimes when a person becomes disabled, he or she needs the assistance of a trusted loved one to carry on with certain day-to-day activities. Yet, while the disabled worker may be protected against discrimination, the loved one may not be shielded from employment discrimination based upon his or status as a caregiver.

If ultimately passed, a new California bill may change that. SB 404 is currently being considered in the California legislature, and could prove to be an important measure for individuals with a disability and the family members they may occasionally rely on.

Possible added status to Fair Employment and Housing Act

The Fair Employment and Housing Act offers protections from discrimination in employment to those who fall under several protected categories. SB 404 would add "familial status" as one of those protected categories.

Under the bill, familial status is defined as "an individual who provides medical or supervisory care to a family member." Family members include children, parents, spouses, parents-in-law, and domestic partners under the bill.

The practical effect of the bill would be to prohibit employers from discriminating against employees because they provide care to a family member. Employers could not take any adverse employment action against an employee because of caregiver status.

The Fair Employment and Housing Act applies to any employer with at least five employees, and SB 404 would expand its scope to a somewhat significant degree. For this reason, many employer groups are opposing the legislation, citing the potential for costly litigation.

Under current California law, workers are already shielded from employment discrimination based on sex, medical condition, pregnancy, physical disability or mental disability. According to the state Department of Fair Employment and Housing, there were just shy of 20,000 discrimination claims filed in 2010 that cited the Fair Employment and Housing Act.

Contact a California discrimination lawyer today about your potential legal claim

SB 404 could add another layer of protection for California employees. However, you do not have to await its fate in the 2013 legislative session before exploring your legal options if you have been discriminated against at the workplace.

Employment discrimination law is complex, and you may already have a cause of action. Talk to a California discrimination lawyer to learn more about the legal remedies that may be available to you.

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