The state of California is known for its extensive laws regarding equal employment opportunities and the protection of people with disabilities in the workplace. And that is all thanks to the California Fair Employment and Housing Act or FEHA. Passed in 1974, FEHA or the Government Code 12900 - 12996, provides protection from any kind of harassment or discrimination actions in the workplace based on the following reasons:

• Age (40 and over)

• Ancestry

• Creed

• Denial of Family and Medical Care Leave

• Marital status

• Medical condition (cancer and genetic characteristics)

• National origin

• Physical and mental disability

• Religion

• Sex or sexual orientation

Employees or job applicants with disabilities who think that they have been discriminated or harassed may file a complaint to the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). The department remains neutral when it comes to these cases and even helps the involved parties resolve the issue. However, when these efforts end up in vain, the department will then file a formal complaint or a lawsuit. FEHA claims and hearings are done before the Fair Employment and Housing Commission.

If the FEHC verdict favors the complainant, the losing party will have to provide remedies through administrative fines and damages that should not exceed $150,000. Other actions that would be asked from the employer are the hiring of a disabled applicant, back pay or promotion for the disabled employee, reinstatement of the employee's previous position, cease-and-desist order, and payment of punitive damages and damages for emotional distress. The complainant may further pursue the case in a civil court.

With the protection given to disabled people under FEHA, one might think that the law is quite similar to ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act). Both acts surely protect disabled employees against discrimination, but there are significant differences about the two laws which should be considered.

• ADA considers a person as disabled if: he has a mental or physical impairment that affects one or more major life activity, if he has a history of impairment, and if he is regarded as someone who has such impairment. On the other hand, FEHA states that a person is disabled if he is not able to perform one important life activity.

• Mitigating conditions: These are measures taken to lessen the disabling effects of a condition. A person with disability, under ADA, is assessed on his mitigated state, so there is a chance that he would not be considered as disabled. But under FEHA, the person is assessed on his unmitigated state, therefore there's a bigger chance for him to be called disabled.