In the state of California, employers are not allowed to discriminate in employment decisions when a person is a member of a protected class. But what are the California state laws on discrimination in the workplace, and what to they govern? Here’s what you need to know.
California State Laws on Discrimination in the Workplace
Several California laws prohibit discrimination, including the Fair Employment and Housing Act, or FEHA. It’s illegal for a public or private employer, labor organization or employment agency to discriminate in business practices, including:
- Job applications
- Job screening
- Job interviews
- Employee transfers
- Termination or separation
- Working conditions, such as compensation and benefits
- Participation in training or apprenticeship programs
- Participation in employee organizations or unions
Who Does California Law Protect Against Discrimination?
California law protects a wide range of people from discrimination. Employers cannot discriminate against a person for reasons based on the person’s:
- Race or color
- Ancestry or national origin
- Religion or creed
- Age (provided the person is age 40 or over)
- Disability, including mental or physical
- Sex, including pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding or related medical conditions
- Sexual orientation
- Gender identity or gender expression
- Medical conditions
- Genetic information
- Marital status
- Military or veteran status
What Protections Does California Law Offer to Discrimination Victims?
Employers that discriminate have several avenues by which to make things right. Courts can order employers to provide back pay for lost earnings in the past or front pay for future earnings. They can also require an employer to hire or reinstate a person who’s been discriminated against, pay the victim’s out-of-pocket expenses, or promote the employee who was discriminated against.
Many times, companies must create policy changes and provide adequate training to all employees, as well as create reasonable accommodations that they should’ve made in the first place.
In some cases, courts can order employers to pay damages for emotional distress, as well as punitive damages to punish the company for wrongdoing. (Punitive damages also “make an example” out of the company so that other companies that may be doing the same thing will quit out of fear of being sued.) Courts can even order employers to pay a victim’s legal fees and costs.
What Are California’s State Laws About the Complaint Process?
Generally, before you can file a lawsuit for discrimination in the workplace, you must file a formal complaint with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing, or DFEH. Usually, DFEH evaluates the situation and decides whether to investigate the case. If DFEH investigates the case, it attempts to resolve the dispute between the employer and the victim – and that can include taking legal action against the employer.
You don’t have to wait for DFEH to conduct an investigation, though. You can ask for the immediate right to sue the employer. Usually, this is done through a workplace discrimination attorney; the attorney asks DFEH for the appropriate notice and then proceeds to take the case through the right steps that can lead to a lawsuit.
Should You File a Discrimination Lawsuit?
Only you can decide whether you want to pursue legal action after you file a complaint with DFEH. For most people, the best thing to do is consult an employment law attorney who understands California’s state laws, as well as federal laws, before even filing a complaint with DFEH.
Your lawyer will answer your questions about your case, explain your options, and fill you in on what to expect after you file a complaint with DFEH. He or she will also give you legal guidance and explain what types of remedies a judge might order if you were to go to court over your case. You could be entitled to financial compensation after being the victim of discrimination in the workplace, so it’s a good idea to call our office at 818-230-8380 right now for a free consultation.