On October 10, 2013, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill, A.B. 556, to add “military and veteran status” to the list of categories protected from employment discrimination under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”).

When this bill becomes operative on January 1, 2014, the FEHA will prohibit harassment and discrimination in employment because of:

• Race
• Religious Creed
• Color
• National Origin
• Ancestry
• Physical Disability
• Mental Disability
• Medical Condition
• Genetic Information
• Marital Status
• Sex
• Gender
• Gender Identity
• Gender Expression
• Age
• Sexual Orientation
Military and Veteran Status

“Military and veteran status” will be defined to mean any person who is “a member or veteran of the United States Armed Forces, United States Armed Forces Reserve, the United States National Guard, and the California National Guard.”

As a general reminder, any employer regularly employing five or more persons is covered by the FEHA. Employers subject to the provisions of the FEHA include private employers as well as state, city, county, and other government bodies. In fact, all governmental employers are covered under the FEHA regardless of size. Also covered are labor organizations, employment agencies, and apprenticeship programs. Furthermore, when harassment is at issue, every employer employing one or more persons or receiving the services of one or more independent contractor(s) is subject to the FEHA’s prohibition of harassment. Additionally, individual employees who harass another co-worker in violation of the FEHA can be held personally liable.