SACRAMENTO– According to a social security disability lawyer, a bill by California State Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) to protect disabled workers from on the job discrimination was signed into law today by the Governor.
AB 488 will eliminate an exemption for employees of sheltered workshops and rehabilitation centers with special minimum wage licenses under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), extending the law’s protections against discrimination and harassment to workers in those environments. Currently those employees do not have the same basic protections as everyone else from discrimination based on characteristics like race, religion, sex, gender expression, sexual orientation, national origin, ancestry, marital status, or age. Similarly, these workers lack the protection provided by FEHA against sexual harassment.
“Today we close an obvious loophole that left working people with disabilities open to discrimination in many forms,” said Gonzalez. “This is a simple fix that helps California continue to lead the nation in the fight against prejudice in the workplace.”
Sheltered workshops and rehabilitation centers provide specialized employment and job training for individuals with disabilities, often for less than minimum wage.
In the past, sheltered workshops and rehabilitation centers have been considered by some to be temporary training environments rather than true employment, but real-world experience has demonstrated that these are employees who often stay in their positions for many years. In 2014, AB 1443 extended FEHA’s protections to cover unpaid interns and volunteers, establishing that these workplace protections are appropriate even for those making less than minimum wage or in a program for a limited time to gain experience.
AB 488 is coauthored by Senator Ben Hueso (D-San Diego), and supported by Disability Rights California, the State Council on Developmental Disabilities and the California Labor Federation.