Proving Workplace Discrimination in California: Know Your Rights
California is one of the most diverse states in the United States. When it comes to workplace discrimination, California leads the way with its strong anti-discrimination laws that protect employees against harassment and discrimination based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and more. This blog post will focus on how to prove workplace discrimination in California and what rights you have when faced with potential or actual workplace discrimination.
What qualifies as workplace discrimination?
In California, workplace discrimination is defined as any unlawful act or conduct that results in an adverse employment decision against a person because of their race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), disability, age (40 and older), medical condition, gender, national origin, and ethnicity.
Unfortunately, workplace discrimination is prevalent in every state, including California due to the large number of employees who are not aware that they have rights.
Employment discrimination happens often in the State of California due to the diversity of the population. California’s population is one of the most diverse populations in the United States with people from every race, ethnicity, and national origin represented.
What are some examples of workplace discrimination?
Race, color, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, and age are the most common types of discrimination that are experienced in the workplace. Employers are required to give everyone equal employment opportunities, which is enforced by the equal employment opportunity commission.
- Sexual Orientation discrimination happens when an employee is discriminated against because of their sexual orientation. Sexual orientation is a very important topic in today’s society as people are more socially accepted no matter what sexual orientation they claim. This also means that sexual orientation could attract more attention from people who will discriminate or bully in the workplace.
- Race discrimination happens when an employee is judged differently or unfairly due to the color of their skin. Race discrimination has been prevalent for many years even with the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed to prohibit discrimination in the workplace based on race, sex, and national origin.
- Ethnicity discrimination takes place when there are assumptions made about someone’s ethnic background and they experience negative treatment as a result. Religion can be considered discriminatory if either the employer, employees, or others located in the workplace are not accepting of the person’s religious beliefs.
- Age discrimination is when an individual’s age is used as an excuse for discrimination. Such as, when a younger person is not being hired or compensated as much based on age or when an older employee is being terminated, and the employer is making this decision based on age.
- National origin discrimination occurs when people are not given equal employment opportunities because they were not born in the country of their employment. This type of discrimination occurs more frequently as many nations are experiencing revivalism of nationalism.
- Disability discrimination occurs when a person is not given equal employment opportunities because of a disability that prohibits them from being able to do the job. This could be as simple as not providing adequate accommodations in the workplace for a disabled employee.
- Sexual harassment is another form of discrimination where people are not given equal employment opportunities because of their gender or sexual orientation. Sexual harassment also occurs when an employer holds back a raise/promotion or threatens to fire the employee if they do not perform sexual activity.
The rest of this blog post will provide information about general workplace discrimination in the state of California and what you can do if it happens to you.
What does a qualified employee need for proof?
Just like any other sort of lawsuit, there must be evidence proving one’s claim. There are many different types of proof that is acceptable in court such as:
- eye-witness testimonials
- first hand accounts
What are some examples of discrimination in the workplace?
As with many types of discrimination, there are different kinds of discriminatory behavior that can be experienced by employees in the workplace. An employee may experience harassment or a hostile work environment, for example.
This is when an individual’s race, sex (including pregnancy), religion/beliefs, national origin, age disability status, or genetic information will lead to unwelcome conduct at the workplace such as
- jokes and comments about those protected characteristics
- offensive graffiti
- verbal abuse or threats based on religious beliefs
- written taunts related to sexual orientation
- derogatory name-calling because of one’s gender identity
- Unwanted touching
In most workplaces where this type of treatment exists, it can lead to unjustified lower performance ratings from supervisors who don’t understand why certain individuals seem unable to “perform.”
How can you prove that you were discriminated against?
It is not always easy to prove that you were discriminated against, but the following could be indicators:
- Being treated unfairly in comparison with other employees
- Unfairly being fired or disciplined
- Receiving harsher treatment than others for doing similar things
- Experiencing negative comments about your race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), disability, age (40 and older), medical condition, gender, or national origin. Feeling like people are looking at you differently because of those factors too often can also indicate discrimination.
If this feeling crosses over into an uncomfortable level then it may be time to talk to a lawyer. It’s important to remember that just one incident does not mean something illegal happened. There usually needs to be a pattern of discriminative actions that can be observed.
The best way to prove discrimination in the workplace is by having evidence of discriminatory behaviors. This might include a document, an email, or written communication that outlines their offensive behavior in detail. If this is not enough then you may need to have someone with no association to either party speak up as well.
The first step should be discussing your concerns and reporting any incidents where the discrimination took place with your employer’s HR department. It can also be useful to talk about these things anonymously on sites like Glassdoor or Reddit for advice before going forward from there.
One big issue we see for clients is when they go straight to filing a suit without trying other avenues first which could solve the problem right away! If none of those steps work, then it’s time to consider legal action and find out more information from an employment law firm.
Who is protected by California’s anti-discrimination laws?
California’s anti-discrimination laws protect all employees who work in the state of California. This includes part-time, full-time, and temporary workers as well.
The laws also apply to employers with one or more employees regardless if they are private companies or government agencies. It also covers independent contractors working within the company’s premises but not those that provide services remotely such as outside salespeople.
Employees must be able to show proof of their employment status which means having a W2 form. Self-employed people may not have this protection since it is determined on a case-by-case basis based on how they’re classified for tax purposes.
Employees are also protected by federal laws such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Americans with Disabilities Act, The Pregnancy Discrimination Act, The Equal Pay Act of 1963, The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008.
As you can see, there are protections against employment discrimination at the state and federal levels, which means there is hope for anyone out there who is experiencing employment discrimination.
How to file a complaint with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) or your local Equal Rights Commission (ERC) if you believe that you have been discriminated against at work, based on race, religion, national origin, disability, sex/gender or sexual orientation:
If you believe that your employer has violated any of the following prohibitions, you can file a complaint with DFEH or ERC:
-Unlawful employment practices based on race/color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), age (40+), ancestry, disability, and medical condition.
-Unfair immigration-related practices such as unfair documentary requirements for proof of work authorization by employees and employers.
-Violations of civil rights through discriminatory harassment.
Filing with the DFEH or ERC can be easily done online, but the results may vary as they receive such a high volume of claims, which can take a long time to sort through.
Here are the links to file your claims with the DFEH or ERC:
A person who successfully proves employment discrimination in California may be entitled to remedies that are designed to make them whole again including equitable relief such as job reinstatement or promotion. Backpay cannot exceed two years’ wages, but an employee can try to take their claims to an employment law firm to see if they could file a class-action lawsuit.
What other options do I have regarding discrimination at my workplace?
If filing a claim with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) or your local Equal Rights Commission (ERC) doesn’t work out or is taking too long then you can take your claim to an employment law firm.
Employment law firms are designed to help those who have been victims of workplace discrimination and also work on a contingency fee basis, meaning that you do not have to pay anything upfront.
There are many employment law firms throughout California with varying degrees of experience in the field but one thing they all offer is free consultations.
Crosner Legal began as a Los-Angeles based wrongful termination and employee rights law firm. Our wrongful termination lawyers focus on representing employees who have been discriminated, harassed and/or retaliated against in the workplace. Over time, we became aware that our clients were commonly also facing other legal issues, in addition to unlawful termination and discrimination.
For this reason, we have also expanded our practice to include unpaid wage class actions, tenant rights, and consumer protection. Our mission is to serve our clients and other underrepresented individuals within Los Angeles and the rest of the U.S. in all areas of public interest.
If you have any questions or would like a 100% FREE consultation then feel free to submit a form or call us.
You can learn more about how we can help you with a workplace discrimination claim here.