AB 987 states that an employee’s request for an accommodation for a disability or for religious reasons is considered a “protected activity” for a retaliation claim under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA).  The FEHA applies to all California employer with five or more employees.

Existing law requires an employer covered by the FEHA to provide a reasonable accommodation to an employee based on, among other things, a person’s disability or a person’s religion.  This can include things like allowing for a chair on an assembly line due to a disability, or allowing a woman to wear a religious head covering in lieu of the standard uniform.  The FEHA also prevents discrimination against an employee if the employee files a complaint.

AB 987 amends the existing FEHA law to now prohibit an employer from retaliation or discrimination on the basis that the employee requested an accommodation due to disability or religion, regardless of whether the accommodation request was granted or denied.  This makes it easier for a terminated employee who has made a request for an accommodation, even if the request was granted, to sue for employment discrimination upon termination.

Employers should always be documenting and recording the specific, non-discriminatory reasons behind employment termination or any other adverse employment decision.  With AB 987, this is even more important.