California Adopts Genetic Anti-Discrimination Protections


California Senate Bill 559 (“SB 559”), which expands state civil rights laws to prohibit discrimination based on genetic information, has been signed into law by Governor Brown.

SB 559 adopts the philosophy of the federal Genetic Information and Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (“GINA”), which prohibits discrimination in employment and health insurance coverage decisions based on genetic information. However, the California bill offers broader protection than GINA by prohibiting discrimination based on genetic information in the additional areas of housing, business services, emergency medical services, licensing qualifications, life insurance coverage, mortgage lending, and participation in state-funded or state-administered programs. This client alert will focus primarily on changes affecting California employers.

The bill amends the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) to prohibit employment and housing decisions based on genetic information. FEHA, as amended, also prohibits licensing boards from requiring any qualification based on genetic information, unless the practice is demonstrably job-related. In addition, SB 559 amends the Unruh Civil Rights Act to prohibit unequal access to accommodations, advantages, facilities, privileges, or services provided by business establishments based on genetic information.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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