What Conduct Is Discriminatory in a California Workplace?

employees in a meeting

Employees often experience uncomfortable situations in the workplace, but it can be difficult to determine if an employee has been subjected to discriminatory conduct. California employees can file a lawsuit against their employer for discrimination if the employer took an adverse action against them based on protected characteristics, including race, color, religion, sex/gender, gender identity/gender expression, sexual orientation, and more. According to the 2020 Annual Report of the California Civil Rights Department (formerly the Department of Fair Employment and Housing), the most commonly cited basis for employment discrimination in 2020 was a disability, with 2,350 complaints in 2020. Sex/gender, race, and age were also frequently cited, with 1,638, 1,548, and 1,174 complaints, respectively.

If you believe you’ve experienced discrimination in the workplace, it is important to understand whether you are protected under California law. Our team at Hadsell Stormer Renick & Dai LLP can explain to you your rights as a California employee.

California Discrimination Laws

The California Fair Employment and Housing Actmakes it illegal for employers to discriminate against their employees because of a protected characteristic. In fact, California has some of the strictest protections for employees across the country. This is because California’s anti-discrimination laws provide broad protections based on the state’s fundamental principles of public policy. These laws protect employees from discrimination and allow them to seek compensation and other remedies if they are subjected to an employer’s wrongful conduct.

What Are Protected Characteristics Under California’s Anti-Discrimination Laws?

Under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), it is unlawful for employers to discriminate against workers based on protected characteristics, including, but not limited to:

  • Race & Color: It’s unlawful for employers to discriminate against workers based on their race. Race discrimination involves treating an employee unfavorably because of characteristics associated with race, such as a person’s hair, skin color, or facial features.
  • Religious creed: Religious discrimination occurs when an employer is treated unfavorably because of their religious beliefs. California law protects employees with religious beliefs even if not part of a traditional or organized religion.
  • National Origin: Employers cannot treat employees unfavorably because they came from a particular country or part of the world, have an accent, or appear to have an ethnic background.
  • Physical & Mental Disability: Disability discrimination occurs when an employer treats an employee differently or unfavorably based on their disability. 
  • Genetic Information: It is unlawful for an employer to discriminate against employees because of their genetic information. Genetic information includes information about an individual's genetic tests and those of their family members, as well as information about the manifestation of a disease or disorder in an individual's family members.
  • Sex/Gender & Sexual Orientation/Gender Identity (SOGI): It is unlawful for an employer to discriminate against an employee based on their sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or sex. Employers cannot inquire or require documentation of an employee’s sex, gender, gender expression, or gender identity as a condition of employment.
  • Age: California workers 40 years of age or older are protected from discrimination based on their age.
  • Military and Veteran status: California laws prohibit discrimination based on military and veteran status against an employee. The military status protected class covers veterans, individuals on active duty, and members of the reserves and National Guard.

Which Workers are Protected by Anti-Discrimination Laws in California?

Employees are not the only individuals protected by California’s anti-discrimination laws. California employers cannot discriminate against job applicants and unpaid interns. The FEHA’s protection against discrimination generally applies to employers with at least five employees.

How Do I File a Discrimination Case in California?

You can file a discrimination claim in California with the California Civil Rights Department (CRD) if you would like to use their administrative investigation process. At the conclusion of an investigation, the CRD will make a determination as to whether there is reasonable cause to believe that the law has been violated. Alternatively, you can obtain a right-to-sue notice from the CRD immediately and file your discrimination claim in court. To file a claim with the CRD to investigate, please review and follow the process here: https://calcivilrights.ca.gov/complaintprocess/. To obtain a Right to Sue, please review and follow the instructions here: https://calcivilrights.ca.gov/obtainrighttosue/

It is important to speak with an experienced employment law attorney to determine if you have a valid case and to evaluate your options for pursuing a discrimination claim. Our team at Hadsell Stormer Renick & Dai LLP can review your situation, explain your options, and guide you through the process of seeking compensation for your employer’s wrongdoing.

Why You Should Hire Hadsell Stormer Renick & Dai LLP

Our team at Hadsell Stormer Renick & Dai LLP has decades of experience successfully representing employees throughout California. We have filed lawsuits against the largest and most powerful corporations and public entities. We have a reputation for taking all actions necessary to protect the best interests of our clients. If you believe you are experiencing discrimination in the workplace, our team is here to help you.

Contact our California employment law attorneys today at (626) 775-7870 to schedule a consultation!

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