California law already prohibits discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodation, and services provided by business establishments based on various personal characteristics such as sex, race, color, national origin, religion, disability, medical condition, marital status, and sexual orientation. Now SB 559 has added another category to the Unruh Civil Rights Act (CC §51) and the Fair Employment & Housing Act (FEHA) (Govt C §§12900–12996): discrimination based on genetic information.
The bill is intended to enhance the reach of the federal Genetic Information and Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (Pub L110-233, 122 Stat 81) within California. The senator who introduced SB 559 explained that
California has a compelling interest in promoting and fostering the medical promise of genomics while relieving the fear of discrimination by strengthening laws to prevent it.
“Genetic information” under the bill includes:
- The individual’s genetic tests;
- The genetic tests of family members of the individual; and
- The manifestation of a disease or disorder in family members of the individual.
For all you need to know about employment discrimination under FEHA, go to CEB’s Advising California Employers and Employees, chap 15 and Wrongful Employment Termination Practice, chap 1. For more on the Unruh Act in the housing context, turn to CEB’s California Eviction Defense Manual, chap 14, California Landlord-Tenant Practice, chap 2, and Advising California Common Interest Communities, chap 8.
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