Recently-enacted regulations greatly expand and clarify the definition of workplace discrimination based on national origin in California.
The new regulations increase the factors that can be used to prove discrimination, harassment, and/or retaliation based on an employee’s real or perceived nation of origin. For example, in addition to physical and cultural characteristics, the accent of a worker, or even that of their parent(s) or spouse, are now included in the protections.
Limitations on English-only policies were also broadened and businesses must now prove that there is a legitimate business need for creating an English-only workplace. For a complete list of the regulations, visit the Fair Employment Housing website.
Employers in California should take a hard look at their policies and procedures to ensure they are not in violation of new or existing regulations. Here are some things for businesses to do immediately:
- Review your job application process, including written documents and job interview questions, in light of the new regulations;
- Examine your workplace procedures to make sure all employees are being treated fairly;
- Make sure your HR department is aware of the law and that they understand what constitutes harassment, discrimination or retaliation, and that they communicate this to management and supervisory employees;
- Adopt an open-door policy so that employees feel they are being heard and can resolve conflicts at work; and
- Consider having an employment law attorney or HR expert examine your policies, handbooks, applications, and training materials to identify and rectify potential risks.
Most of all, if you are an employer, don’t stick your head in the sand about the new regulations. Be proactive in protecting yourself and your business against a lawsuit or claim from an employee claiming discrimination, harassment or retaliation, based on nation of origin.
To learn more about Kyle Nageotte’s employment law practice, click here to view his profile.