The Unruh Civil Rights Act is specific to California and provides employees protection from discrimination from all business establishments based on sex, gender, sexual orientation, race, religion, age, physical or mental disability, citizenship, and more. It provides additional guidance for businesses while they must remain compliant with state and local COVID-19 regulations. The Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH), the agency with the authority to enforce and investigate complaints under this act, recently published a new Guidance to address rights and obligations under the Unruh Civil Rights Act. To prevent COVID-19 based discrimination, the Guidance outlines “COVID-19 Safety Measures and Reasonable Accommodations” for businesses.
Let’s break down the Guidance examples and what it means for your business.
According to the Unruh Civil Rights Act, businesses MAY ask customers if they have COVID-19 symptoms or take their temperature.
COVID-19 Vaccination and Tests
Businesses MAY require a recent negative COVID-19 test or vaccination against COVID-19 before allowing entry.
Businesses MAY require customers to wear face coverings before entry.
Under the Unruh Civil Rights Act, these are permitted choices for businesses but are not requirements. Additionally, businesses are prohibited from, and liable for damages of at least $4,000 per violation, for subjecting only certain types of customers, based on a personal characteristic protected by the Unruh Civil Rights Act, to the COVID-19 safety measures provided in the Guidance. Furthermore, reasonable accommodations and modifications must be available on the basis of characteristics protected by the Unruh Civil Rights Act as long as the accommodation does not create a direct threat to the health or safety of others. On a case by case basis, it is up to the business to work with the customer to comply with the businesses’ COVID-19 safety measures.
The examples provided in the Guidance are to prevent your business from facing costly employee disputes and compliance issues. To evaluate where your business stands on COVID-19 safety measures and reasonable accommodations, contact your attorney at The Mitzel Group.