California Supreme Court Extends FEHA Protections
On August 21, 2023, The California Supreme Court made a ruling in Raines v. U.S. Healthworks Medical Group, that extended the protections of the FEHA to impose direct liability on third-party businesses that act on behalf of employers.
The Raines v. U.S. Healthworks Case
This case was brought before the California Supreme Court as a class action with named plaintiffs Kristina Raines, and Derrick Figgs. U.S. Healthworks Medical Group is a screening company that provides health screening services for potential employees. The company required employment candidates to fill out discriminatory, overly invasive medical and health questionnaires as a condition of employment. In this case, The Court recognized that the plain language meaning of the statute includes agents of an employer, and it concluded that a third-party business engaging in employment related decisions on behalf of an employer is an agent of the employer.
Understanding the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA)
The Fair Employment and Housing Act of California (FEHA) was designed to protect employees of certain protected classes against discrimination in the workplace. Under the FEHA, employers with 5 or more employees are prohibited from discriminating against an employee, or a potential employee, on the basis of protected characteristics. An employer is only allowed to ask questions under certain circumstances and the employer must be able to show that they had a valid reason for asking a question. The guiding principle of the FEHA is to require employers to focus on applicants’ skills rather than on their disabilities. You can read more about the FEHA here.
Implications of the Court’s Ruling
This ruling is important for potential employees because third-party screening companies can no longer hide from liability if they violate the protections provided by the FEHA. The case also creates direct liability for any third-party business that makes employment-related decisions for an employer.
At TONG LAW, we represent employees in employment discrimination claims.