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Employment Discrimination Attorney Los Angeles


Your Rights Under California State Law Prohibit Discrimination in Employment

California state law prohibits employers from discriminating against any employee or job applicant on the basis of a wide variety of protected categories, including sex and/or gender, sexual orientation, race, national origin, religion, medical condition, physical or mental disability, age (over 40), and marital status. 

If you have been discriminated against in the workplace due to your membership in one of these protected groups, California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (Govt. Code § 12940), also called the “FEHA,” may give you the right to file a civil lawsuit for monetary damages against your employer.

If you have experienced discrimination in the workplace based on your membership in a protected category, it is important to act quickly, as your time to pursue your civil remedies in court is limited.  California law requires claims for employment discrimination to be filed typically within three (3) years of the most recent incident of discrimination, and other, shorter administrative deadlines also may apply in your particular case.  The statute of limitations will depend on the nature of your claims so it is important to consult with an attorney as soon as possible.

What Kinds of Discrimination Are Prohibited in Employment?

Discrimination – i.e., treating an employee or job applicant less favorably because of a specific characteristic – is prohibited by California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act if it is based on any of the following protected categories or characteristics:
  • Race, color, ancestry and/or national origin;

  • Religion;

  • Medical condition, physical or mental disability, and/or genetic information;

  • Age (over 40);

  • Sex, gender and/or sexual orientation;

  • Marital status; and/or

  • Military or veteran status.

The FEHA also prohibits California employers from restricting or barring employees from using any language in the workplace (e.g., not just English) unless there is a legitimate business necessity for the restriction and specific procedures are followed in imposing it.  In general, FEHA’s antidiscrimination protections are broader than those provided by parallel federal antidiscrimination laws.

Persons of any gender, sexual orientation, race, color, ancestry, national origin, religion or marital status are protected from employment discrimination under California law, regardless of whether or not they are a member of a minority or less-favored group.  This means, for instance, that persons of any race, ancestry or national origin may be victims of prohibited discrimination, and persons of any race, ancestry or national origin may be perpetrators of prohibited discrimination.  Discrimination based on race, color, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, religion or marital status is prohibited by the FEHA, even if the discriminating individual is a member of a minority group, the victim of discrimination is a member of a majority group, or the discriminating individual and the victim of discrimination are members of the same protected category.  For this reason, female supervisors, for example, are still prohibited from discriminating against female employees or applicants on the grounds of their sex/and or gender, even though the victim and the perpetrator are both members of the same protected class.

California’s FEHA allows employees and job applicants to bring two different types of employment discrimination claims: (1) disparate treatment discrimination; and (2) disparate impact discrimination.

What Is Disparate Treatment Discrimination?

Disparate treatment occurs when an employer selects or singles out a specific employee or job applicant for less favorable treatment because of a protected characteristic or their membership in a protected category.

Disparate treatment is the mostly common type of employment discrimination, and is generally easier to establish than a disparate impact claim. In order to successfully establish disparate treatment, an employee or job applicant must prove:

  • The employer subjected them to less favorable treatment in the form of a “negative employment action,” discussed in more detail below;
  • In subjecting them to negative employment action, the employer was motivated by discriminatory intent; and
  • As a result of the negative employment action, the employee or job applicant suffered harm (e.g., lost wages and benefits, lost promotional opportunities, emotional distress, etc.).

A broad variety of conduct may constitute a “negative employment action” for purposes of the FEHA, including but not limited to:

  • Refusing to hire a job applicant because of their protected characteristic;
  • Demoting or refusing to promote an employee because of their protected characteristic;
  • Firing an employee because of their protected characteristic;
  • Refusing to provide reasonable accommodations to allow an employee to practice their religion;
  • Reducing an employee’s hourly pay rate, salary or benefits because of their protected characteristic;
  • Reducing an employee’s regular working hours or assigning them to a less desirable shift because of their protected characteristic; or
  • Refusing to provide reasonable accommodations or refusing to engage in an interactive process to identify available reasonable accommodations for an employee or job applicant’s physical or mental disability or medical condition.

Employment discrimination on the basis of a protected characteristic may be overt and explicit, but more subtle forms of discrimination are common and are equally prohibited by California law. 

What Is Disparate Impact Discrimination?

Disparate impact discrimination occurs when an employer policy that is generally applicable to all of its employee or job applicants causes a more negative impact on employees or job applicants who share a particular protected characteristic than on employees or applicants who do not have that trait. 

In other words, even if a policy applies to all employees without expressly calling out any protected group or trait, that policy may still be unlawfully discriminatory under the FEHA because of its disproportionate negative effect on employees and/or job applicants with a particular protected characteristic.

To successfully establish disparate impact discrimination, an employee or job applicant must prove that:

  • The employer’s policy or practice has a disproportionately negative impact on a particular protected category of employees or job applicants;
  • The employee or job applicant challenging that policy or practice is a member of that protected category; and
  • The employee or job applicant was harmed as a result of the application of that policy or practice.

Although an employee or job applicant alleging disparate impact discrimination is not required to prove that the employer acted with a discriminatory motive, disparate impact discrimination is generally more difficult to prove than disparate treatment, and usually requires the presentation of complex statistical or other expert opinion testimony at trial.

What if My Employer Retaliates Against Me for Reporting Discrimination?

In addition to prohibiting employment discrimination based on a protected category, California’s FEHA also prohibits employers from retaliating against any worker or applicant for reporting or complaining about such unlawful discrimination.

The FEHA bars California employers from firing, demoting, suspending, or otherwise subjecting an employee to negative employment consequences because he or she made a good faith report or complaint about prohibited discrimination based on a protected category or characteristic.  California employers are also prohibited from refusing to hire a job applicant for reporting or complaining about prohibited discrimination.

If you have been the victim of discrimination in employment based on a protected category and are concerned about the consequences of reporting that misconduct, we can assist you with the process of reporting discrimination to your employer, taking steps to minimize the possibility of unlawful retaliation, and if need be, pursuing your civil remedies in court.

Contact Labor Law PC for a Free Consultation

Danny Yadidsion and his experienced team of lawyers at Labor Law PC are dedicated to protecting the rights of California workers and ensuring that their voices are heard.  If you have experienced employment discrimination based on a protected category or characteristic, whether as an employee, an independent contractor, or a job applicant, we can assist you.  Our attorneys value and respect your privacy, and will work tirelessly to help you get the justice that you deserve. 

Call us today at (877) 77-LABOR for a free consultation.


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