VICTORY - AB 1964 Signed by Governor Brown
Saturday, September 8, 2012
Assemblymember Yamada’s Workplace Religious Freedom
Act of 2012 Signed Into Law
AB 1964 Addresses High Levels of Workplace Religious Discrimination Since 9/11
SACRAMENTO, CA – Today, AB 1964, Assemblymember Mariko Yamada’s (D-Davis) Workplace Religious Freedom Act (WRFA) of 2012, was signed by Governor Brown. AB 1964 strengthens California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) protecting religious accommodation in employment. The bill enjoyed strong, bipartisan support and interfaith cooperation throughout the legislative process and takes effect on January 1, 2013.
“This bill is dedicated to all those who have suffered the indignities of ignorance and discrimination in the workplace because of the tenets of their faith,” stated Assemblymember Yamada. “No longer will it be legal to segregate a worker from public view because their appearance did not fit a corporate image.”
AB 1964, a number chosen to mark its relationship to the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, makes three changes to FEHA. First, the bill removes the confusion between federal and state definitions of “undue hardship”, clarifying that California has a higher “significant difficulty or expense” hurdle for religious accommodation instead of the “de minimus” standard. Second, the bill specifies that religious clothing and hairstyles qualify as a religious belief or observance. Finally, AB 1964 prohibits an employer from segregating an employee from customers and the public to accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs.
"AB1964 provides workers the strongest protection against religious discrimination anywhere in the United States," said Simran Kaur, Advocacy Manager of the Sikh Coalition, which sponsored the bill. "This historic legislation will guarantee equal employment opportunity to all Californians and set a strong precedent for the rest of the nation. We applaud Assemblymember Yamada, the California legislature, and Governor Brown for making civil rights history."
Changing demographics, both nationally and in California, has resulted in increased numbers of religious discrimination cases in the United States, especially in the Sikh and Muslim communities. 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 was supported by AFSCME, AFL-CIO, Agudath Israel of California, ACLU of California, American Jewish Committee, Anti-Defamation League, California Employment Lawyers Association, California Immigrant Policy Center, California Nurses Association, Church State Council, Consumer Attorneys of California, Council on American-Islamic Relations – California Chapter, Hindu-American Foundation, Japanese American Citizens League, North American Religious Liberty Association – West.