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Kuehl’s Civil Rights Bill Signed Into Law

Women, disabled workers and contract employees will have greater protection against discrimination under legislation signed this week by Gov. Gray Davis.

Called the Civil Rights Amendment of 1999, the measure by Assemblywoman Sheila Kuehl (D-Santa Monica) refines and expands portions of the Fair Employment and Housing Act.

In addition to giving workers greater rights, the measure (AB 1670) increases maximum payments to aggrieved persons and administrative fines from $50,000 to $150,000.

Kuehl said she has been working to obtain passage of portions of the measure since her election five years ago. Those attempts either failed to pass or were vetoed. The new rules, signed by Davis on Sunday, will go into effect Jan. 1.

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Included among changes are rules requiring employers to provide more rational solutions to accommodating disabilities, such as permitting a pregnant cashier to sit on a stool rather than stand, Kuehl said.

It also would extend protection against sexual harassment to contract employees and prohibit employers from screening applicants for genetic predisposition to illness.

In addition, the bill broadens protection against discrimination on the basis of mental disability from the current provision of employers with 15 or more workers, to employers with as few as five workers.

“If California is to serve as a model for America’s new and diverse society, every person must feel secure that their civil rights will be protected,” Kuehl said, “especially where they live and where they work.

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“Discrimination has no place in a just society,” Kuehl added. “For California to succeed in the global economy, we must ensure that employees are judged by their ability to do the work and not on the basis of their gender and disability.”


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