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Automobile Lemon Law

Workplace Discrimination

Employee Rights


My employer discriminated against me... What are my rights?


As an employee, you are protect by both Federal and state laws against discrimination. In fact, California’s employment and labor laws are some of the strongest and most employee friendly in the nation. The Fair Employment and Housing Act (known as “FEHA”) gives Californians protections from discrimination based on many different criteria. It is enforced by the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (“DFEH”).

Employees are protected throughout their entire employment process, meaning from hiring all the way through to discharge. This will include job applicants who are not yet employed by a company or employer. So discrimination that occurs during the application process can also be illegal and entitle an individual to compensation.

How do I know if my employer discriminated against me?


Discrimination takes many forms. It can be overt. But far more often it is more subtle and less obvious. Discrimination generally occurs when an employee or job applicant receives different/less favorable treatment as a result of them having particular trait or characteristic that is protected.

Discriminatory behavior by employers typically takes two forms. One type of discrimination targets a specific employee and is the kind of the discrimination that people generally think of.  In this type of situation the employer must have the intent to discriminate against you.

In this situation an employer may demote, refuse or fail to hire, harass, treat differently, or take some other form of negative action against an individual based on a protected characteristic. For example: an employer not hiring a potential employee because of their race or passing an employee up for a promotion because she is a woman. However, other forms of this type of discrimination may be less obvious, like exclusions from meetings, change in an employees workload, reduced hours or pay, mocking or making jokes about an individual’s ethnic background, accent, or foreign name.

The second general category of discriminatory behavior occurs when an employer creates a particular company policy that applies across the board to all employees, however the policy ends up having a more negative impact on a certain group of employees who have a particular characteristic. So an employer may not even have the intent to discriminate, but ultimately as a result of their policy discrimination occurs. The employer may still be liable for discrimination, though they didn’t have a bad intent or motivation, because employees are adversely impacted. An example of this may involve having certain strength requirements for an application that may screen out disproportionate numbers of female applicants.

As previously mentioned, discrimination may be hard to spot. Generally, if an employee suffers some negative or adverse impact as a result of having a protected characteristic, they may have been the victim of discrimination and have rights. Also, it is important to keep in mind that anyone can discriminate. An African American supervisor can discriminate against an African American employee. A female employer can discriminate against a female job applicant. We are familiar with the various forms of discrimination that take occur in the work place. If you think you might be a victim, contact us for a free evaluation. 

What type of discrimination is illegal?

California law protects employees from discrimination based on many protected traits or characteristics. Unfortunately, not all forms of discrimination are actionable under the law and illegal. Employees in California are protected from discrimination based on the following:

Race, color, national origin, or ancestry

It is illegal for employers to discriminate against employees based on their race, the color or tone of their skin, their ancestry or origin. If an individual does not associate his/herself with a particular race or ethnicity, but an employer perceives that individual to be part of a particular race or ethnicity and discriminates against them based on that perception, it is still discrimination. Additionally, discrimination can occur against members of a racial or ethnic majority or those who don’t traditionally experience racism. For example: if a Caucasian is discriminated against, that is still illegal.  

Religion or creed

Employers may not discriminate against an individual because of their genuine religious belief. Further, an employer should also try to make reaonsable efforts to accommodate an individaul’s religious belief or observances that are part of their religion.

Age (over 40)

Employers in California may not discriminate against an individual based on their age. This happens with an applicant or employee over the age of 40 receives less favorable treatment because of their age. For example: if a company fires an older employee because of their age or if an employer passing over a more qualified, older job candidate for a younger applicant.

Disability (both mental and physical)

Employers in California cannot discriminate against an individual on their disability. The disability does not have to be a physical disability; mental disabilities can qualify for protection as well.

Sex or gender


It is illegal to discriminate against someone based on their sex or general. This generally refers to whether they are male or female. Most often female employees are the ones who face discrimination or are treated more negatively than their male counterparts. However, it can go both ways. Male employees too can be victims of discrimination as well. Also, this type of discrimination is not solely based on gender but issues that surround gender. For example, discrimination based on pregnancy, pregnancy related medical conditions and breast feeding.  Additionally, sex/gender discrimination can apply to gender expression and gender identity.   

Pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding or related medical conditions


California makes it illegal for employers to discriminate against women on account of their pregnancy or pregnancy related issues or disabilities. Even if a woman is not disabled as a result of her pregnancy, discrimination or negative treatment because of the pregnancy is illegal. For example, if a pregnant woman is passed up for a promotion because of her pregnancy, that may be illegal. If is woman is legally disabled as a result of her pregnancy, the employer generally must provide a reasonable accommodation for the woman unless it would pose undue hardship for the employer to do so.


Marital status

It is not permissible to discriminate against employees based on their marital status in California, ie if an individual is single, married, or divorced. For example if an employer has bans on hiring married individuals this is generally no allowed. Or if an employer offers better benefits for married individuals vs single individuals, this is often illegal as well.


Sexual orientation

Discrimination based on sexual orientation is also prohibited in California. This refers specifically to whether an individual is homosexual, heterosexual or bisexual. An induvial may not be negatively impacted because of their sexual orientation. Even if an employer perceives something that is not true, it is still discrimination. For example if an employer perceives a heterosexual employee is a lesbian, and fires that individual, that is prohibited. This also occurs in situations where employer says an employee “looks gay,” or “acts gay,” or “sounds gay,” and then takes negative actions against that employee. This is also not allowed.

Gender identity or gender expression

This will include discrimination against individuals who associate as transgender or gender fluid. Discrimination is also prohibited against an individual because of their gender expression or appearance.


Medical condition

Military or veteran status

California law prohibits discrimination against active or former military members. Military members will include Army, Navy and Marines, but will also include armed forces reserves and those in the National Guard. For example, sometimes employers will not want to hire military members because of concern that they will have to report to duty. This type of discrimination is protected against.


Political activities or affiliations


Status as a victim of domestic violence, assault, or stalking

What other forms or types of discrimination are illegal?


As mentioned, California law makes it illegal to discriminate against certain groups or people, or individuals that have certain characteristics. This is the primary form by which discrimination occurs. However, there are also other types of conduct and prohibited acts that employers can commit which are discriminatory as well.

Failing to accommodate a disability


Under California law, employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations to an employee with a disability as soon as the employer knows of the disability. A reasonable accommodation can be an alteration to the employee’s work environment or a change to the employee’s duties which will allow the employee to perform essential functions of his job. Accommodations can include:

  • Changing job duties

  • Providing leave for medical care

  • Allowing an employee to work from home

  • Rearranging the employee’s work area to make it easier for her to perform her tasks

  • Providing aids to accommodate the disability, such as a chair

  • Altering the time period for completing tasks

But the key is that the accommodation has to be within reason. If it is would cause the employer undue burden, it would not be considered reasonable and the employer would not have to provide the accommodation. So really it has to be evaluated on a case by case basis, looking at the specific disability, the company and the requirements of the job.

If you have a question about whether a request you’ve made to your employer is reasonable, contact us today for a free consultation. 

Failing to accommodate a religious preference


An employer is required to provide reasonable accommodations for an employee’s religious preference so long as the belief is sincere, the employer knows about the preference, and that the belief interferes with the requirements of her job. An accommodation is not considered reasonable if it would cause undue burden for the employer, meaning it would be significantly difficult or expensive.


For example: A sporting goods store may require it’s employees to were baseball caps with the store’s logo on it. A female muslim employee may were a head scarf as part of her religious beliefs. A reasonable accommodation would be for the store to permit the female employee to not were the hat if it interferes with her head scarf. This would not cause undue burden for the store and would allow the employee to observe her beliefs.


If you have a question about whether a request you’ve made to your employer is reasonable, contact us today for a free consultation.

Failing to provide lactation break for breast feeding mothers


Generally, employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with conditions related to childbirth or pregnancy. Lactation is a condition related to childbirth. Because of this, lactating/breastfeeding mothers are entitled to reasonable accommodations.

One specific accommodation is to allow a period of time during the work day for breast feeding mothers to pump breast milk. The only exception to this rule is if providing the break would seriously disrupt the employer’s operations. The period of time must be reasonable. Employees are encouraged to take these breaks during their regular rest and meal periods. However, if additional time is required, it must be provided. But the employer is not required to pay the employee during these periods. Failure to provided such breaks as required is a violation of the law.

Failing to stop discrimination in the work place


Often times, harassment and discrimination take place by other employees within a company. This is employee to employee discrimination, and not discrimination by superiors or management. However, companies have a duty to take reasonable steps to stop this behavior once they become aware of it or once they should be aware of it. In other words, a company cannot just plead ignorance or they did not perpetrate the discrimination. Companies are responsible for the environment within their organizations and the conduct of other employees.


As an example: an employee may be the victim of discrimination, harassment or abuse at the hands of another employees or several employees. If the employee reports it, informs his superior, and nothing is done. This can result in the company failing to take action to stop the behavior, and it may result in the company being responsible as well.


If you work in such an environment, contact us immediately for a free review of your rights.

Which employees are protected from discrimination?


Generally speaking an employee is someone who is under the direction and control of an employer. They will generally receive a W2. If you work for a company you likely are an employee. You don’t need to have a written contract. Typically, it can be inferred from a company’s actions, the you are an employee. For example: if you receive a pay check. So if you are discriminated against, you will have rights.

However, some individuals work as independent contractors. Businesses hire these individuals to perform work but they are technically not employees of the business. If you receive a 1099 form from a company you are an independent contract. Generally, because an independent contractor does not work under the direct control and supervision of a company, they will not be afforded the same protections under the law as an employee would be. However, they will still have rights with respect to claims of harassment.

But just because you don’t work for a company does not mean you are not protected. For example: an individual applying for a position is not technically an employee. But California law extends to cover job applicants as well. So if you are applying for a job and were not hired for discriminatory reasons, you will be protected by the law. California law takes it even one step further. If you wanted to apply, but were prevented from even applying because of a company’s discriminatory practices or actions, you could still have a right to sue.

Additionally, if you are an intern or extern working who is working for school credit, but doesn’t receive pay, you may also have rights. California law has also been expanded to grant rights to interns who are the victims of discrimination in the work place even though they do not receive pay. However, volunteers are generally not protected under the law, unless they suffer harassment.

Another group of individuals who many not necessarily be “employees” of a company are temporary employees or temps. These are individuals who are often hired by an agency who then in turn assigns them to work at different companies and businesses. Temps are generally protected by California law from discrimination, and depending on the nature of the work and the degree of control exercised over them by the temp agency and business exercised, many have rights against both the temp agency and the business they’re assigned to.

Which employers can be held liable for discrimination?

Generally, California law applies to businesses who regularly employ five or more persons, who act as an agent for a covered employer, and to governmental entities. These categories will typically cover most businesses. However, there are also many exceptions to these requirements as well. For example, there is no minimum employment requirements for matters involving harassment. If you have any questions about whether the law applies to a particular employer, please contact us immediately and we’ll be able to let you know.

What are my rights if my employer discriminates against me?

If an employer is guilty of discriminating against their employee in violation of California law, the employer may have to pay civil damages and different types of penalties. And you are as the employee will be entitled to compensation. You may be entitled to backpay; money equal to the amount of what you lost if you were unfairly fired or not promoted; compensation of emotional distress or suffering; and reinstatement of your job (hiring you back).

In addition to this, the employer will have to pay for your attorney’s fees and expenses. Also, if the employer’s conduct was really bad, the employer may have to pay punitive damages to you.


The consequences of discrimination for an employer are harsh. The government doesn’t not take these matters lights which is why they have instituted these laws to protect California employees. If you think you have been discriminated against, contact us today for a free case review, and we can explain your rights.

My employer discriminated against me, what should I do?


Under the law, if you are the victim of discrimination by your employer, there are certain steps that you must take in order to file your claim. You cannot simply file a lawsuit against your employer. You must first exhaust your administrative remedies. One important step in this process is that you must file a charge in writing with California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). You only have one year from the date of the discrimination to do this. If you miss this deadline, you are out of luck, except for some rare exceptions. The DFEH may investigate the matter. But this often does not have beneficial results for the employee and can take a long time. So when you file your charge with the DFEH you can simultaneously request that the DFEH issue you a “right to sue” letter. This letter then authorizes you to file a lawsuit against your employer. But caution that you only have year then from the date of the letter to file your lawsuit.

The whole process can be very confusing to handle on your own and the deadlines are important to meet. This is why it is critical that you contact an experienced attorney. If you has suffered from discrimination contact us immediately to understand your rights.   

Thank you for submitting your inquiry. A firm member will contact you to follow up shortly after we review your information to see if we can assist you. If you do not receive a response within 48 hours, please call our firm to ensure your message was received. 

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