As a California employee, you have a right to be free from workplace discrimination. California employees are protected by some of the broadest pro-employee laws in the U.S. Discrimination occurs when an employee or job applicant receives less favorable treatment because of a specific characteristic they have.
The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) makes it illegal for employers of five or more employees to discriminate against job applicants and employees because of a protected category or retaliate against them because they have asserted their rights under the law. Such protected categories include race, religious creed, color, national origin, ancestry, physical disability, mental disability, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, age, sexual orientation, or military and veteran status. FEHA applies to public and private employers, labor organizations and employment agencies.
The FEHA also prohibits harassment based on a protected category against an employee, an applicant, an unpaid intern or volunteer, or a contractor. Harassment is prohibited in all workplaces, even those with fewer than five employees.
Sexual harassment, which has been the focus of intense media attention recently, is an insidious and wide-reaching problem in nearly every industry. State regulations define sexual harassment as unwanted sexual advances, or visual, verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. This definition includes forms of offensive behavior and includes gender-based harassment of a person of the same sex as the harasser.
In addition, if your employer has five or more employees, you are entitled to rights and protections under California state law in the event of pregnancy, childbirth, loss of pregnancy, and related physical ore mental conditions. These rights and protections include the right to reasonable accommodations and the right to time off from work. It is illegal for employers to fire, refuse to hire, bar, harass, discharge, or otherwise discriminate against someone because of pregnancy, childbirth, or a related condition.
The California Family Rights Act (CFRA) requires employers of 50 or more employees to provide job-protected leave for the birth of a child, for placement of a child in the employee’s family for adoption or foster care, for the serious health condition of the employee’s child, parent, or spouse, and for the employee’s own serious health condition.
Employers of five or more employees must provide up to four months disability leave for an employee who is disabled due to pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition.
These state laws barring discrimination apply to all business practices, including advertisements, applications, screening, interviews, hiring, transferring, promoting, terminating, or separating employees, as well as working conditions and compensation.
State law provides for a variety of remedies for victims of employment discrimination, including past lost earnings, future lost earnings, hiring/reinstatement, promotion, out-of-pocket expenses, policy changes, reasonable accommodation(s), damages for emotional distress, punitive damages, and attorney’s fees and costs.
If you believe you have been subjected to discrimination or harassment in the workplace based on a protected category, we can help. We have successfully settled discrimination cases involving age, race, pregnancy, medical leave, and physical disabilities, among other protected categories and have procured six-figure awards in some cases. Cases on behalf of employees are taken on a contingency basis, which means we advance all costs and fees and are only paid when we win or settle the case.
Let our team help you assert your right to a discrimination and harassment-free workplace.