Workplace Religious Freedom Act Passed by the Sate Assembly
Tuesday, May 29, 2012
Assemblymember Yamada’s Workplace Religious Freedom Act of 2012 Passed by the State Assembly
AB 1964 Strengthens Religious Protections in the Workplace
SACRAMENTO, CA – Today Assemblymember Mariko Yamada (D – Davis) presented AB 1964, the Workplace Religious Freedom Act of 2012, on the floor of the State Assembly. AB 1964 clarifies the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) to ensure that religion receives equal protection under law. AB 1964 passed out off the Assembly Floor with strong bipartisan support and now moves to the State Senate.
“The spirit of interfaith cooperation and bipartisanship that AB 1964 has garnered mirrors efforts on the federal level and in other states that have passed similar legislation,” said Assemblymember Mariko Yamada. “Both sides of the aisle can agree that equal employment opportunity and religious protections in the workplace are of the utmost importance to California.”
AB 1964, a number chosen to reflect its relationship to the landmark federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, states that undue hardship, as defined in the Definitions section of FEHA, will also apply to the Religious Discrimination section. This change clears up legal confusion of federal vs. state definitions of “undue hardship”. The bill would also specify that religious clothing and hairstyles qualify as a religious belief or observance and that segregating an employee from customers or the public is not a reasonable accommodation of an employee’s religious beliefs.
Changing demographics, both nationally and in California, has resulted in increased numbers of religious discrimination cases in the United States. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission religious discrimination cases rose 9.5 percent in 2011, contributing to the nearly 100,000 charges of employer discrimination nationwide. In California, employers faced over 500 such cases.
“AB 1964 affirms the promise of equal opportunity for all Californians,” said Simran Kaur, Advocacy Manager for the Sikh Coalition, who is a sponsor of AB 1964. “We are thrilled that the bill received overwhelming support in the Assembly and look forward to further success in the Senate.”
The bill has recently added the Hindu American Foundation and the Japanese American Citizens League to the growing list of support which already includes the Sikh Coalition, ACLU, Anti-Defamation League, Agudath Israel of California, American Jewish Committee, California Employment Lawyers Association, California Immigrant Policy Center, California Nurses Association, Church State Council, Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the North American Religious Liberty Association.
AB 1964 has also passed the Assembly Committees of Labor & Employment, Judiciary and Appropriations – all with bipartisan support.