California Senate Bill 559, a civil rights protection bill was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown in September 2011, and will go into effect on January 1, 2012. The new law will protect Californians by prohibiting discrimination based on an individual’s genetic information. This state law follows along with federal law ("GINA") already in effect. The bill’s sponsor, Senator Alex Padilla states:
This new law enhances the civil rights of every Californian. Ten years from now as more and more Californians obtain their genetic information they will look back and thank Governor Brown for protecting them from discrimination.
The bill amends the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) to prohibit employment and housing decisions based on genetic information. SB 559 also 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. SB 559 defines “genetic information” as information about an individual’s genetic tests, the genetic tests of family members of the individual, or the manifestation of a disease or disorder in family members of the individual.
“Genetic information” includes “any request for, or receipt of, genetic services, or participation in clinical research that includes genetic services, by an individual or any family member of the individual.” The definition excludes information about an individual’s sex and age, which are already considered to be protected classes under state civil rights laws. SB 559’s definition of genetic information closely tracks the language of the corresponding definition in GINA.
In sum, workplace investigators should note that this law creates a new "protected class" under California law.