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Assembly Bill 1670 (Assembly Committee on Judiciary-1999)

Chapter 591, Statutes of 1999 - AB 1670

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Assembly Bill 1670, a large employment and housing civil rights bill was introduced by the Assembly Committee on Judiciary, chaired by Assembly member Sheila Kuehl, on March 15, 1999.  (See Exhibit A, #1a)


Assembly Bill 1670 was assigned to the Assembly Committee on Judiciary and the Senate Committee on Judiciary where policy issues raised by the bill were considered.  (See Exhibit A, #3 and #8)  The fiscal ramifications of the bill were examined by the Assembly Committee on Appropriations and the Senate Committee on Appropriations.  (See Exhibit A, #5 and #10)  While Assembly Bill 1670 was before the Legislature, five amendments were made to the bill.  (See Exhibit A, #1b through #1f and #2)  Subsequent to legislative approval, Governor Gray Davis signed the bill on October 2, 1999, and the Secretary of State recorded it on October 10, 1999 as Chapter 591 of the Statutes of that year.  (See Exhibit A, #1g and #2)


The Third Reading analysis of the bill as last amended that was produced by the Office of Senate Floor Analyses described the bill as an “omnibus bill which would make several changes to the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) . . . .”  (See Exhibit A, #12b, page 1)  This same analysis identified the co‑sources for Assembly Bill 1670 as the California Office of the Attorney General, California Fair Employment and Housing Commission, the American Civil Liberties Union, the California Labor Federation AFL-CIO, and the California Civil Rights Coalition.  (Id., at page 15)


To review the numerous changes that were proposed by this omnibus bill as they related to the law existing prior to passage of Assembly Bill 1670, you may wish to review the analyses produced by the Assembly Committee on Judiciary, the Senate Judiciary Committee, and the Office of Senate Floor Analyses.  (See, generally, Exhibit A, #3, #8, #12a, and #12b, respectively)


The Senate Judiciary Committee analysis of the June 1st amended version of Assembly Bill 1670 provides extensive comment on the need for the legislation and the provisions drawing opposition, such as extending FEHA harassment protection to contract employees, raising the cap on employment discrimination damages, and accommodating pregnant workers, just to name a few of the issues addressed.  (See Exhibit A, #8, pages 5 through 10)


Changes in the law proposed by Assembly Bill 1670 were summarized in the Concurrence in Senate Amendments analysis prepared by the Assembly Committee on Judiciary as follows:


 


SUMMARY:  Strengthens and clarifies various civil rights protections afforded by the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) and other civil rights statutes.  Specifically, this bill, among other things:


 


1)   Increases the amount of damages and administrative fines that may be awarded by the Fair Employment and Housing Commission in employment discrimination cases from $50,000 to $150,000, and permits a court to award expert witness fees to a prevailing party in FEHA cases.


 


2)   Extends harassment protections under FEHA to contract workers.


 


3)   Requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant employees, clarifies that genetic testing of employees is prohibited, and expands the class of employers subject to FEHA’s prohibition against discrimination on the basis of mental disability.


4)   Clarifies that protections against housing and employment discrimination cover discrimination based upon a victim’s perceived membership in a protected class, and clarifies that FEHA’s protections against housing and employment discrimination cover the right to freely associate.


(See Exhibit A, #14, page 1)