The laws against discrimination in California focus on protecting people from discrimination based on ancestry, color, race, religion, nationality, mental impairment, age, gender, sexual orientation, medical condition, marital status, genetic information, or medical diagnoses/conditions. When employees are treated differently and negatively based on protected criteria, whether perceived or real, the act is considered discriminatory.
Discrimination in the workplace comes in many shapes and sizes. It can be the result of antiquated policies that benefit certain groups within an organization unfairly (e.g. attendance policies that may prevent pregnant women from being promoted) or treatment practices (e.g. favoring certain identities for positions in management). Harassment is another well-known form of workplace discrimination. Harassment can include uninvited advances, intimidation, malicious teasing, or other unwanted conduct based on a protected characteristic.
California law prevents employers from unnecessarily restricting certain languages in the workplace. Employers in the state must specify a business need for English-only policies and notify employees about when and where language is restricted.
Holding Employers Accountable for Discrimination in California
Both federal and state law protects employees from workplace discrimination. In California, the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) oversees discrimination cases in the state. Employers who violate anti-discrimination laws may be required to take certain actions in the workplace as well as pay damages. Employers may have to:
- Hire individuals discriminated against during the job application process
- Pay front and back pay to those who have suffered a loss because of discrimination
- Promote or reinstate persons to certain positions within the organization
- Pay for fees and expenses associated with a discrimination legal claim
- Pay punitive damages
- Pay damages for any emotional stress placed on the victim
- Be required to follow any cease-and-desist orders
State law also provides a way for victims to hold coworkers personally liable for harassment activities, whereas federal law strictly targets those in a managerial role. This provides employees additional legal recourse if and when they encounter harassment and discrimination in the workplace.
Experiencing Discrimination in the Workplace
If you are concerned about discrimination in your workplace, you may feel like speaking out will put your job in jeopardy or otherwise change your role at a company. Never feel afraid to speak out against workplace discrimination. It is your right to feel safe in a work environment, and speaking out may prevent others from experiencing the same type of discrimination.
Many companies have documented procedures about filing a discrimination complaint. Talk with a supervisor you trust or your HR department to learn more about how to file a complaint. Remember to document as much of your discussions with the company as possible. Keeping factual information may help prove your complaint later on.
Consulting with an experienced labor and employment attorney may also be a good idea. If your employer tries to hide the discrimination, you may need an attorneys help to investigate the situation and expedite the claims filing process with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing and the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Employees have one year from the time of the incident to file a report with the state department. For federal violations, employees need to submit a report within 180 days of the incident. Do not wait to report an employer if you are experiencing discrimination.
The attorneys at Curran & Curran Law have over 20 years of experience with labor and employment cases. Our attorneys believe a personal relationship with clients and a strong commitment to the truth are the fundamental keys to successfully resolving discrimination cases in the workplace. Discrimination cases tend to be complex, and individuals may have a hard time achieving a successful outcome by filing on their own. Contact our attorneys in San Diego today to learn more about how we can help expedite the process and obtain the justice you deserve.