There may be some changes coming to how California enforces its antidiscrimination law, the Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”). In February 2017, a bill (Senate Bill 491) was introduced in the California Senate proposing to allow local government entities to enforce antidiscrimination statutes.
The authors of the bill declared that this bill is needed to counteract “dramatic budget cuts to federal labor standards and civil rights enforcement” and struggles with investigator caseload in the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (“DFEH”).
Under the current state of the law, FEHA is enforced by private lawsuits, lawsuits brought by the DFEH, or lawsuits brought by the Attorney General’s office. FEHA preempts local governments from enforcing its protections. However, California is revisiting whether it is feasible to allow local governments to act as another enforcement arm of FEHA.
In April 2018, the DFEH announced the formation of an advisory group to study the feasibility of local government enforcement of the employment provisions of FEHA. Local enforcement may include activities by local government such as fact gathering, workplace site visits, collection of data, mediation, intake assistance and outreach. The advisory group will study whether the law should allow local authorities to enforce FEHA and provide a report with findings and recommendations to the Governor and Legislature by December 31, 2018.