California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act protects employees from harassment, discrimination, and retaliation by their employers on the basis of several protected categories, including sex and religion.  Two amendments clarifying the scope of these protected categories became effective January 1, 2013.

The first amendment updates the definition of “sex” to explicitly include “breastfeeding or medical conditions related to breastfeeding.”

The second amendment updates the definitions of “religious creed,” “religion,” “religious observance,” “religious belief,” and “creed” to explicitly include “religious dress and grooming practices.” 

“Religious dress” will be construed broadly to include “the wearing or carrying of religious clothing, head or face coverings, jewelry, artifacts, and any other item that is part of the observance by an individual of his or her religious creed.” “Religious grooming practice” also will be construed broadly to include “all forms of head, facial, and body hair that are part of the observance by an individual of his or her religious creed.”

When accommodating an employee’s religious dress or religious grooming practice, an accommodation will not be considered reasonable if it requires the segregation of the employee from other employees or the public.

Employers are encouraged to update their policies, handbooks, and trainings regarding anti-harassment and dress code, if applicable, to maintain consistency with these amendments.


Reed Smith’s Labor & Employment Group will be conducting a series of CLE Programs entitled “Employment Law 2013 – Reed Smith Boot Camp” in locations across the country. Kicking off “Boot Camp” will be an event in our Philadelphia Office on January 31, 2013. If you would like to attend, click here and indicate your location.