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Employees are protected from discrimination at work under federal and state laws, meaning they cannot be treated differently or unfairly because of membership in a protected class or based on certain protected characteristics. At work, this translates to decisions involving hiring, firing, promotion decisions, and other employee treatment based on these protected characteristics. Unfortunately, despite laws in place in California that give employees even broader protections than federal laws, discrimination still occurs on a regular basis. If you have been the victim of discrimination at work, speak to an experienced California employment attorney at Walton Law, APC to see if you may be entitled to compensation for adverse actions that injured you or other remedies.Prohibited Discriminatory Conduct
Proving job discrimination requires an employee prove negative action was taken against them by their employer and at least partially caused as a result of discrimination. Employers are prohibited from negative employment actions such as:
- Deciding not to hire someone
- Failure to promote or provide a pay raise
- Reduction in pay or benefits
- Termination from a job or being forced to quit a job
- Unfavorable job assignment, duties, or transfer to an unfavorable location, job, or shift
- All other negative decisions which significantly affect the victim’s employment terms and conditions
In California, the passage of the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) prohibits employers from discriminating against people based on certain characteristics. Some of the protected characteristics that most commonly report discriminatory behavior include:
- Age – Employers may not discriminate against employees over 40 – this includes forcing them to retire from a job because of their age.
- Race or National Origin – No employee may be subjected to adverse employment actions based on race, ancestry, national origin, or color.
- Gender – Discrimination and unequal treatment due to gender is illegal.
- Pregnancy – Discrimination due to pregnancy or any medical condition related to a pregnancy or childbirth is prohibited.
- Disability – Physical and mental disabled employees, both short- and long- term, are protected. Further, employers are required to reasonably accommodate disabled employees and discuss with them in good faith the accommodations necessary to perform the duties of their job.
Other employees may be protected from discrimination by other characteristics like:
- Military status
- Veteran status
- Marital status
- Medical condition
- Gender expression
- Sexual orientation
- Gender identity
Within some protected classifications, other characteristics employees possess may be protected from discrimination as well. In California, protections are afforded for:
- An employee’s hygienic practices and cultural manner of dress
- Having an accent when speaking
- Predisposition to any type of hereditary, genetic, or other disease
- Hairstyle or head covering that is associated with any religious affiliation or culture
- Associating with anyone who is a protected class member
- Someone being perceived as a member of a protected class – even if the employee does not actually belong to the protected class
Employees who belong to a protected class are afforded the right not to experience discrimination or adverse employment actions on that basis. Some characteristics may not be discriminated against under any circumstances – for example, race, ethnicity, color, an employee being over 40 years of age, pregnancy, or an employee’s need to take a leave of absence from work due to their pregnancy.Protections for Employees
In California, employees have a broad variety of legal protections both against discrimination or taking steps to report or address discrimination. Not only is discrimination illegal, but any retaliatory actions taken by employers against employees that report discriminatory acts, file discrimination lawsuits, or aid in investigations regarding these types of practices are also prohibited.Proving Discrimination
Even if an employer took negative employment action for both legal and prohibited reasons, if discrimination is shown to be a factor at all – no matter how small – the action may still be wrongful. Employees can use both direct and indirect evidence to substantiate their claim of discrimination. Direct evidence is often either discriminatory statements or other written communications or documents created by either a supervisor or an employer.
Successful indirect evidence takes several forms. For example, an employee may be able to prove there is a pattern of unfair and unequal treatment on the job; if other employees who possess the same or similar protected characteristics also report adverse treatment, it indicates discrimination may be occurring. An employee may also show the falseness or nonsensical nature of an employer’s “reason” for taking negative actions and prove discrimination; if an employee is told they were demoted because of budget cuts but several other employees were hired at the same time, it raises suspicion that the employer was not being truthful and their action was discriminatory and unlawful.Contact a Lawyer
If you are the victim of discrimination at work, or faced retaliation for speaking out about discriminatory behavior, you should know there is help. By speaking with a California employment lawyer, you can ensure you don’t miss critical deadlines when filing administrative complaints or legal claims, and dealing with government agencies like the DFEH and the EEOC. Contact us 24/7 by calling (866) 338-7079 or using our Contact Us page to schedule your risk free case review. The initial consultation is always free. Let our attorneys review your situation, explain your options, answer your questions, and help remedy the situation so you can work in a discrimination-free environment without fear of retribution.