Governor Brown Signs New Anti-Discrimination Bill into Law

Governor Jerry Brown has signed a new bill into law that expands the reach of California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act of 1959 to include prohibition of discrimination based on an individual’s genetic information. It additionally broadens the scope of the federal Genetic Information and Nondiscrimination Act in the state of California.

California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act makes it illegal for employers, landlords, mortgage brokers, insurance providers and educational institutions to discriminate based on gender, race, religion, sexual preference, disability, age or ancestry. Unruh will now protect individuals from discrimination based on their genetic information.

Unruh and GINA

The Genetic Information and Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) is a federal law that prohibits health insurance companies and employers from discriminating against individuals based on their genetic information. GINA defines “genetic information” as information about genetic testing, family members, information about preexisting conditions of an individual or family members and even an individual’s request for such testing or information.

As of January 1, 2012, California law will extend the provisions of Unruh and GINA to include the ban of genetic information discrimination by housing, education and health care institutions. The bill, known as SB 559, was authored by Senator Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima) and passed through both legislative chambers with bipartisan support.

Impacts of the New Law

The law will significantly impact Californians with preexisting conditions or family histories of severe illness, including cancer, auto-immune disorders and multiple sclerosis. Sometimes, people with these illnesses or family histories are denied health or life insurance. Now, these individuals can be tested and diagnosed without fear of discrimination by insurance companies.

The new addition to the Unruh Act makes California the first state in the country to fully ban discrimination based on genetic information. Its residents are now protected from yet another form of discrimination. If you or a loved one has been discriminated against based on genetic information or another condition, please contact an experienced employment law attorney.