California Laws Protecting Women’s Rights in the Workplace
Women’s rights in the workplace have come a long way over the past century, but there’s still more work to be done. Fortunately, California has a number of laws in place to protect women from discrimination, harassment, and unfair treatment.
History of Gender Discrimination at Work
Throughout the history of women in California, discrimination has been a persistent issue. In the 19th century, women were denied basic rights such as the ability to own property, vote, and pursue higher education. Discrimination continued into the early 20th century, with women excluded from many professions and facing limited opportunities for advancement and lower pay.
Despite these challenges, women in California played a crucial role in the struggle for equality throughout the 20th century, fighting for suffrage, reproductive rights, and workplace equality.
Today, while significant progress has been made, women in California still face obstacles such as unequal pay, harassment, and discrimination in hiring and promotions. However, California has enacted numerous laws to protect women’s rights and ensure equal treatment in the workplace.
Are you experiencing discrimination in the workplace in California?
Over the years, California has been at the forefront of protecting women’s rights in the workplace. The state has enacted several laws that guarantee fair treatment and equal opportunities for women.
This article will explore 10 California laws that help protect American women’s rights in the workplace.
1. Fair Pay Act
The California Fair Pay Act, also known as SB 358, was signed into law in 2015 to address gender pay inequality in the workplace. This law prohibits companies from paying employees of one sex less than employees of the opposite sex for performing “substantially similar work,” which includes work that requires similar skill, effort, and responsibility, regardless of job title.
The law requires companies to demonstrate that any pay disparities are based on factors such as the basis of sex, experience, education, and seniority. Moreover, the California Fair Pay Act also protects employees who discuss their wages with colleagues from retaliation, making it easier for workers to share information about their pay and identify any pay disparities.
Employees have the right to ask their employer for information about how their wages are determined and to challenge minimum wage concerns that violate the law, including concerns about their probation review and promotion status.
2. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
The United States has established laws that explicitly prohibit sex discrimination in the workplace under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This federal legislation makes it illegal for companies to discriminate against workers or job applicants on the grounds of their race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. While Title VII has provided broad protections for decades, gender discrimination remains an ongoing issue in modern workplaces, with black women, married women, and transgender women experiencing a disproportionate amount of discrimination.
Despite the enactment of Title VII, many women still face discrimination in the workplace. This can manifest in various ways, including being passed over for promotions, being paid less than male counterparts for similar work, and being subjected to sexual harassment or a hostile work environment. Women of color and transgender women are often at an even greater disadvantage due to the added prejudice they face on account of their race and gender identity.
3. Title IX or Gender Equity Law
In 1972, Title IX, or Gender Equity Law, was established as a federal law to promote fairness and equality for male and female workers and students in educational institutions. Its objective is to prevent sex discrimination, which includes protection against sexual harassment.
A significant proportion of women are impacted by this law, which covers over 17,600 local school districts, 5,000 postsecondary institutions, and various other organizations including libraries, museums, and vocational rehabilitation agencies.
Recipients of this law, which include over 17,600 local school districts, 5,000 postsecondary institutions, and other organizations like libraries, museums, and vocational rehabilitation agencies, are mandated to ensure that their education programs are free from discrimination.
This is to ensure that black workers, women, pregnant, parenting, LGBTQI+ students, and others are not unfairly disadvantaged in areas like admissions, athletics, and financial assistance.
4. Pregnancy Disability Leave Law
The Pregnancy Disability Leave Law (PDL) is a California law that mandates employers to provide up to four months of unpaid leave to employees who are disabled due to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. This law is enforced by the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) and applies to employers with five or more employees.
Under the PDL, employees are entitled to take time off for conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth, including prenatal care, morning sickness, gestational diabetes, childbirth, recovery from childbirth, postnatal care, and any related medical conditions. The law also requires employers to maintain the employee’s health coverage during the leave and to reinstate the employee to the same or a comparable position upon their return to work.
5. California Family Rights Act
The California Family Rights Act (CFRA) is a state law that provides eligible employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in a 12-month period for qualifying reasons. The reasons include the birth or adoption of a child, to care for a family member with a serious health condition, or for the employee’s own serious health condition. The law applies to employers with 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius.
Under the CFRA, eligible employees are entitled to job-protected leave, which means they have the right to return to the same or a comparable position upon their return from leave. The law also requires employers to maintain the employee’s health coverage during the leave.
6. New Parent Leave Act
The New Parent Leave Act (NPLA) is a California law that requires employers with 20 or more employees to provide eligible employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for the birth, adoption, or foster care placement of a child. The law applies to both parents, regardless of gender or marital status, and employees are entitled to job-protected leave, which means they have the right to return to the same or a comparable position upon their return from leave.
7. Sexual Harassment Prevention Training
California law requires employers with five or more employees to provide sexual harassment prevention training to all employees. Companies with at least five employees must provide their nonsupervisory staff with 1 hour of unconscious bias training on preventing sexual discrimination, harassment, and abusive behavior, and their supervisory staff with 2 hours of the same training every two years.
Free online courses provided by the Civil Rights Department (CRD) of California fulfill these obligations and are available for both supervisors and non-supervisors. The courses are offered in Chinese, English, Korean, Spanish, Tagalog, and Vietnamese.
8. Breastfeeding Law
Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), employers are obligated to offer non-exempt employees a secure place and reasonable break time to express breast milk for their nursing child for up to one year. In California, this protection is extended to all employees as long as they are nursing their child, without the fear of discrimination over the woman’s national origin or marital status.
The California Breastfeeding Law states the employer must make a good faith effort to provide a private room or location, other than a bathroom and near the employee’s work area, for milk expression. Additionally, the employer is required to establish and put into action a policy outlining lactation accommodation.
9. Survivors of Domestic Violence Employment Leave Act
The Survivors of Domestic Violence Employment Leave Act in California Labor Code 230 grants female workers who are survivors of domestic violence or sexual assault the right to take job-protected time off work for reasons such as appearing in court or prioritizing their safety and the safety of their children.
Employees may use accrued paid sick leave or vacation time and request reasonable accommodations in the workplace. Employers cannot retaliate or discriminate against employees for exercising these rights.
10. California Continuation Benefits Replacement Act of 1997 (Cal-COBRA)
The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) is a federal law that ensures employees have the option to continue their employer-sponsored health insurance coverage for a limited period after they leave their job. COBRA coverage is available to all, but it is especially critical for women employees who may face additional healthcare needs, such as pregnancy, reproductive health, and cancer screenings.
COBRA allows workers to maintain their health insurance coverage for a set length of time, typically 18 to 36 months after they leave their job. This is important for individuals who may have pre-existing conditions or ongoing medical treatment, as it can provide them with continuity of care during a transition period.
For female employees, COBRA can be critical because it ensures that they have continued access to necessary healthcare services, including prenatal care and preventive screenings for breast and cervical cancer. Pregnant women or those who are planning to become pregnant can also rest assured that they will have access to maternity care under COBRA coverage.
Protecting Women’s Rights in the Workplace
Although there has been significant progress in women’s rights in the workplace over the last century, California continues to work towards gender equality in the workplace. Ten laws are in place to help ensure fair treatment and equal opportunities for women in California’s workplaces, eliminating the concerns over discrimination against women under various circumstances.
As a worker, you have a set of fundamental rights that protect you from workplace discrimination and ensure a safe work environment.
Women’s rights in California include:
- The right to work in a safe, discrimination-free environment
- The right to report gender discrimination to your employer’s human resources department or supervisor, the right to work during pregnancy
- The right to equal employment opportunities, including hiring, promotions, and benefits
- The right to file a grievance for breach of contract if you are a union member, the right to protest against gender discrimination in the workplace
- The right to resist sexual advances or to intervene if you witness an incident of sexual harassment or assault
- The right to access your personnel file, which includes your performance evaluations, pay history, and other relevant information about your employment
Harassment and discriminatory experiences of women can be distressing and traumatic. It is important to take proper steps on reporting any discrimination to your employer’s human resources department or the designated individual responsible for handling workplace complaints. By reporting the discrimination, you can protect your rights, support employee well-being, and help ensure that your workplace is safe.
Speak With Our California Women’s Rights Employment Lawyers Today
We understand that facing discrimination can have a huge impact on a woman’s life, and we are here to support you. Our experienced employment attorneys are equipped to handle a wide range of employment discrimination cases, including those involving gender, race, age, disability, and sexual orientation.
At Labor Law Advocates, we believe that everyone deserves to work in a safe and respectful environment free from discrimination.
If you are facing workplace discrimination, reach out to us to schedule a free consultation. Our key role is to listen to your concerns and provide guidance if you wish to take legal action. Together, we can work towards achieving a fair and just outcome.
Call us at (424) 688-3632.