Filing an Employment Discrimination Lawsuit in California

woman experiencing employment discrimination

Although discrimination at the workplace sounds like an ancient matter, more than half of the workers in the United States report experiencing or witnessing discrimination at the workplace.

Under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), discriminating against a protected class of employees or job seekers is illegal. However, employment discrimination is still common. Employers and co-workers often discriminate against employees based on race, sexual orientation, or age.

Victims of discrimination at the workplace can sue their employers for damages. Read on to learn more about employment discrimination in California.

What Is Employment Discrimination?

People can be unhappy at the workplace because of various reasons. Knowing your rights as an employee is essential to avoid mistreatment at work.

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, discrimination is unequal treatment of individuals based on a person’s class, category or group instead of merit. This includes discrimination against workers or potential employees based on sex, religion, and disability.

The FEHA law makes it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against individuals in the work environment. Employment discrimination can take many forms. The major types of discrimination are:

  • Direct: Direct discrimination happens when individuals actively mistreat other people because of their protected characteristics.
  • Indirect: Indirect discrimination occurs when a policy that applies to all people affects a group of individuals sharing a protected characteristic negatively.

If you feel discriminated against at work, it is best to consult an employment attorney for legal advice.

Signs of Potential Discrimination

Employment discrimination is often subtle. Employers know that discrimination exposes them to possible lawsuits and take precautions to ensure they have nothing in writing to prove discrimination. However, they may treat some groups of employees differently or change their attitudes after finding out an employee is a protected group member.

Examples of possible discrimination in the working environment include:

  • Exclusion of job seekers during recruitment because of protected characteristics.
  • Sudden changes in performance reviews.
  • Changes in work duties and increased workload.
  • Unequal pay or benefits opportunities.
  • Denial of promotion based on protected characteristics.

Some employers can discriminate against workers from the same protected class as them. For example, a female employer may discriminate against female job applicants.

Protected Classes in California

California’s FEHA act makes it illegal for employers to discriminate against people because of protected characteristics, like race, gender identity, or political beliefs. Age, disability, and marital status are also protected characteristics.

Workplace discrimination does not affect only minority groups. Discrimination based on any of the protected categories is illegal in California workplaces. Federal law also protects employees from discrimination in work environments. The EEOC is a federal agency that enforces Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Discrimination against employees because employers perceive them to be members of a protected group is also illegal. Therefore, if an employer is wrong about an employee’s status, they may still be legally liable.

Labor laws on discrimination apply to labor organizations and unions, prohibiting these institutions from excluding or expelling members because of discriminatory categories. They also apply to employment agencies and apprenticeship programs.

black man being discriminated against at work

Do Discrimination Laws Apply to Job Applicants?

’Discrimination laws also apply to job applicants. Signs of possible employment discrimination violations include improper questions or forms during interviews. Employers potentially break employment laws when asking questions about protected characteristics like ancestry and sexual orientation.

Employers can ask applicants if they can handle essential job duties. If taking medical or psychological exams is not a requirement for all prospective workers, then employers cannot ask an individual to take such exams. Requiring applicants to take the tests is also unlawful if the exams are not work-related.

Protecting Yourself from Employment Discrimination

Do you feel like you are experiencing discrimination or harassment because of your protected class? If yes, follow the steps below:

Take Notes

Take notes and list all discriminatory events. When taking notes, indicate details on when the event occurred, the location, time, and actions. Write down the names of any witnesses to the events. Electronic and paper trails relating to your case help build a strong case.

Check Out Your Employer’s Code of Conduct

Read and understand your company’s handbook or employer’s code of conduct. These documents should indicate activities or behaviors that violate company policy. They often have a procedure for reporting harassment claims and workplace hostility.

Consider Protection from Retaliation

When working in companies with over 15 employees, you may have legal protections from retaliation. However, put your claim in writing and first contact a decision-maker in your organization about your claims. Inform them that you feel you are the victim of harassment against protected classes. Reporting discrimination through official channels protects you from retaliation.

File Timely Claims

Since EEOC claims are time-bound, you have a limited period to file a claim. If you miss the time limits, you lose your right to file a lawsuit under federal law. California law states you have one year to file a lawsuit in state court.

File an Employment Discrimination Lawsuit in California with Fraigun Law Group

Before filing a lawsuit for employment discrimination in California, you must file a complaint with California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). Ensure to exhaust all administrative solutions before reporting discrimination to DFEH.

You can ask for an immediate right-to-sue notice without needing a complete investigation by EEOC or DFEH. Consequently, this approach means that DFEH won’t investigate your complaint. On the other hand, you may wait for DFEH to dismiss your case before going to court.

DFEH advises employees to proceed directly to court only if they have an attorney. Your employment discrimination attorney at Fraigun Law Group can get a right to sue notice and file the case in a California Superior Court.

After filing the lawsuit, your employer and any other defendant will get served the “complaint.” The defendants then respond to the complaints formally, allowing the case to proceed through litigation.

Civil employment discrimination lawsuits can take a long time to reach the courts. Nevertheless, employers and employees can negotiate a settlement before courts rule on the case.

Failure to agree on a settlement may necessitate a jury trial or judge trial. The judge and jury will hear the arguments, examine the evidence from each side, and decide for or against the plaintiff. They will also determine the damages to award each party.

Get the info you need on employment discrimination from the Fraigun Law Group for free. Call today!

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