Discrimination Lawyers in San Diego Helping California Workers Protect Their Rights and Fight Back Against Workplace Discrimination
California laws prohibit employers from engaging in discrimination against workers and job applicants. Discrimination occurs when a worker or applicant is treated less favorably due to that person having a specific characteristic or belonging to a protected group. Any employer that engages in discriminatory practices may face legal consequences, including payment of damages to the affected employee or group of employees. Learn what the laws say about discrimination protection in California and see what you can do if you have been a victim.
What Kind of Laws Protect California Workers From Discrimination?
The ability to seek, obtain and hold employment without being subjected to discrimination is a civil right at the federal and state levels. For that reason, California workers are protected by various anti-discrimination laws.
The state’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) offers discrimination protection against many factors, such as race, military status, religion, gender, and disability. These laws apply to employers with at least five employees or more. Many groups also receive protection at a federal level. There are a variety of federal anti-discrimination laws, such as the Americans With Disabilities Act, the Age Discrimination Act, and the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It is essential to understand which set of laws applies to a particular discrimination case type before seeking enforcement of those laws.
What Are the Two Categories of Discrimination Cases?
Discrimination cases under FEHA are usually classified into two categories – disparate treatment discrimination and disparate impact discrimination. The key difference is that disparate treatment is usually intentional discrimination, while the disparate impact is often unintentional.
Disparate treatment is sometimes referred to as adverse treatment. It occurs when an employer has a discriminatory intent and singles out or targets a specific employee due to their protected characteristic. This type of discrimination is very common and happens when the employer purposefully refuses to hire, demotes, harasses, or otherwise negatively affects an employee. On the other hand, disparate impact is usually unintentional, at least on a superficial level, and can also be referred to as an adverse impact. Disparate impact discrimination happens when a policy adopted by the employer appears to be unbiased but ends up having a disproportionate impact on protected groups.
For example, if an employer only requires male applicants of a certain race or ethnicity to undergo pre-employment drug tests, that could be considered disparate treatment. In contrast, if all male applicants must undergo a drug test but only those of a certain race fail the drug test and are denied employment, that could be considered a disparate impact.
Who Is Eligible for Discrimination Protection Under California Laws?
The FEHA applies to both public and private employers with five or more employees. The act also applies to labor organizations, licensing boards, apprentice training programs, or employment agencies. An employee is considered to be any individual who is under the direction and control of an employer by means of an employment contract, appointment, or apprenticeship. That also includes part-time employees, temporary employees, unpaid interns, and those currently on paid or unpaid leave.
Job applicants are also protected from discrimination. A job applicant is someone who has expressed a desire to be considered for employment in writing or not. Finally, independent contractors are only protected against harassment under FEHA, as they are not considered employees and therefore are not covered by most anti-discrimination laws. The same is true for volunteers and certain non-profit employees.
What Are Some Examples of Protected Characteristics?
It is unlawful for employers to discriminate against an employee or job applicant due to them having one or more protected characteristics under FEHA. Examples of protected characteristics include race, color, religion (including the manner of dress, customs, and rituals), sex and gender (including pregnancy, breastfeeding, and any related medical conditions), gender identity and expression, national origin, language, military or veteran status, disability, and situations such as pregnancy, medical issues or family care needs that require an employee to request a temporary leave.
In addition, failure to accommodate a disability may also be considered a form of discrimination in some instances. Employers in California are required to make reasonable accommodations to allow the employee to perform their job duties, meaning the employer must make certain adjustments to the employee’s work environment, schedule, or duties depending on the nature of the disability.
What Kind of Damages Is an Employee Entitled to Receive in a Discrimination Case?
In a discrimination case, it is up to the employee to prove that the employer engaged in illegal, discriminatory practices that negatively impacted the employee and their ability to perform their job duties or remain employed. An employee who wins a discrimination case may be entitled to civil damages and penalties.
Some of the remedies available in discrimination cases usually include the payment of past lost earnings and future lost earnings, damages for emotional distress, payment for attorney’s fees and other costs as well as out-of-pocket expenses, and in some cases, reinstatement, promotion, policy changes, and punitive damages. Each discrimination case is unique, and therefore if you are planning to take legal action against an employer for discrimination, it is best to discuss your case with an attorney to better understand what kind of damages you may be entitled to receive.
When Should I Seek the Help of a Discrimination Lawyer?
While an employee is not required to have an attorney to initiate an anti-discriminatory action, it is strongly recommended to resort to a knowledgeable employment law attorney who can help navigate the entire process, as laws can be complex and steps to seek damages compensation are not always straightforward.
It is also worth mentioning that many discrimination claims are subject to a statute of limitations, which is a legal deadline for taking action. Cases going through DFEH may be given a one-year time limit for a lawsuit to be initiated after the administrative process has been completed and the plaintiff is given a right-to-sue letter. If taking matters to the federal level, the deadline for filing a complaint is approximately 300 days from the date when the alleged discriminatory act occurred and only 90 days to initiate a lawsuit after a right-to-sue letter is issued.
If you believe you have an anti-discrimination case against your employer, it is best to seek the help of an attorney as soon as possible. At Khosroabadi & Hill, our attorneys can help guide you through the process of filing a claim, initiating a lawsuit, and gathering all the necessary evidence to prove your case and maximize your compensation. Contact our San Diego office by calling 858-240-2093 and requesting an initial consultation to discuss your case and learn your options.