Employment discrimination is the unfair treatment of employees based on race, age, sexual orientation, pregnancy, national origin, or religion.
What are the different forms of workplace discrimination?
Workplace discrimination is when an employer treats you differently because you are part of a “protected class.” There are many kinds of protected classes. The most obvious are pregnancy, age, disability, and race. If an employer treats someone in a protected class differently than they treats their other employees, that is workplace discrimination and is against the law.
Can I lose my job for requesting breaks, leave, or other changes to a work situation due to my medical condition or religious beliefs?
You should not be subjected to any type of adverse employment action because of medical conditions or religious beliefs, as long as you work for an employer with five or more employees which is not a religious organization, and you make the employer aware of any accommodations you need.
Religious organizations are allowed to discriminate, and choose only employees that match their religious beliefs, but they cannot discriminate against someone because of a physical disability.
Who is protected from employment discrimination?
All employees of employers with five or more employees are protected from employment discrimination. That means if you are fired because you are pregnant or because you have a disability that prevents you, either permanently or temporarily, from working as hard as you used to, that protection applies to you and to any adverse action your employer takes against you.
What basis does an employer have to refuse to tell me why I was fired?
California is an at-will employment state. Unless you are a member of a union, you are an at-will employee and you can be fired for any legal reason. You also have the right to quit work at any time. However, an employer is not able to fire an employee for an illegal reason. So, rather than do that, the employer will come up with an alternative reason and not share that reason with the employee. Once we obtain the employee’s personnel file, we might be able to discern what the real reason is.
Will a discrimination lawsuit always end up in court?
Not all lawsuits end up at trial, in fact over 90% settle before a trial. But while many claims can be settled pre-litigation, most should be filed in court, because a court filing enhances both the value of your case and the threat to the employer. Oftentimes, as the trial date approaches, the employer feels threatened by the potential harm that an adverse jury verdict could do to their brand and reputation. Employers are willing to pay to avoid the uncertainty of a trial, and the harm to their reputation that might be caused by losing a harassment, discrimination or retaliation case in court.
What laws protecting employees against discrimination?
Federal and state laws are in place to protect job applicants and employees against workplace discrimination. Workplace discrimination can appear at almost any stage of the employment cycle, including application, hiring, job assignment, promotion, compensation, and discipline. Discrimination can also play a role in other areas of employment law, such as employer retaliation and wrongful termination.
What agencies enforce employment discrimination laws?
In order to sue in California, you need a Right to Sue letter. The two agencies that oversee suing for employment discrimination are the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) and the DFEH (Department of Fair Employment & Housing). The EEOC is the federal agency and the DFEH is the state agency. A Right to Sue letter from one is the same as a Right to Sue letter from the other.
Sometimes employees come to us and tell us that they do not know why they were fired. Obtaining those answers is very important. Under Labor Code 11 98.5, you have the right to your employment file, which might hold the answer to why you were fired.
When do Federal employment discrimination laws apply, versus state laws?
Most often, state law applies to an employee’s claims. The state laws are more beneficial to the employee and in fact, unless you work for a federal agency, it is much better to sue under state law, if possible. There are two agencies that are the gatekeepers to suing in court – the EEOC and the DFEH. before you can obtain a Right to Sue letter, you have to report the discrimination to one of those two agencies. Luckily, a report to one is a report to both. The EEOC is the federal agency and the DFEH is the state agency. Either one can accept a discrimination complaint on behalf of the other.
When you receive a Right to Sue letter from either agency, you have one year to file suit. The letter from the EEOC might say you have 90 days to sue in federal court, but in truth, if you have a state claim, the one-year statute applies. You have two choices when going to one of these agencies. You can let the state agency investigate your claim, or you can request an immediate Right to Sue letter. Usually, lawyers request an immediate Right to Sue letter. An attorney can formulate the complaint to the agency, so that you do not have to take part in that proceeding.
Am I considered an employee under employment discrimination laws?
In California, the FEHA (Fair Employment & Housing Act) applies to employers with more than five employees. However, with regard to sexual harassment, even a single employee qualifies. Other exceptions include, for example, religious organizations, which are exempt from religious discrimination laws.
What are a company’s responsibilities under employment discrimination laws?
Employers are obligated to take all reasonable steps to prevent harassment, discrimination, and retaliation from occurring. They are responsible to establish policies and to enforce those policies. When they receive complaints, they are responsible for investigating those complaints, determining whether any illegal actions took place, and taking appropriate remedial actions to reverse adverse decisions against employees.
What are some things an employer cannot ask when hiring?
Typically, employers cannot ask your age, whether or not you suffer from any disabilities, or whether you are pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant. New laws also exist that prevent employers from asking about your old wages, due gender discrimination and the desire to equally pay men and women.
What happens once a company receives an EEOC charge of discrimination?
What happens once a company receives a charge of discrimination depends on whether it is an immediate Right to Sue letter or whether the EEOC has chosen to investigate the complaint. That decision is the right of the employee. If the EEOC is investigating, the employer must provide the EEOC with a response. After that response, the EEOC may ask for further elaboration and then will either decide to take on the case themselves or issue a Right to Sue letter.
How can the EEOC’s mediation program help me resolve a charge of discrimination?
In higher value cases, utilizing the EEOC’s mediation program is selling yourself short. If you are willing to accept less than $20,000 for your employment discrimination case, then the EEOC may be a viable avenue. However, these cases can have very significant value if litigated properly in Court, and the threat of that litigation adds hundreds of times the value you might otherwise see in an EEOC mediation.
Why hire an employment lawyer?
Claims of workplace discrimination can be especially challenging to prove, because it is often difficult to establish that an employer has behaved in a fashion that can be considered discriminatory. California is an “at-will” employment state, meaning an employee could be fired for nearly any reason other than an illegal one. Therefore it is often difficult to establish that an employer’s actions were discriminatory. Wrongful Termination Law Group has more than 10 years experience in uncovering evidence supporting discrimination.
If you believe discrimination has caused you to be the victim of unfair treatment in the workplace, passed over for a position or promotion, or even fired, Wrongful Termination Law Group has the knowledge and experience to help you with your case. We work with residents of Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino, and Orange counties to achieve the best possible legal outcome.
Eric A. Panitz is an experienced employment lawyer with a long track record in discrimination litigation, and is dedicated to bringing justice to hard-working people in need of legal assistance and advice. Wrongful Termination Law Group offers a 100% free case evaluation to discuss your case and answer any questions you might have. In addition, we accept employment discrimination cases on contingency, so that you pay no fees unless we win your case.
To see how our legal experts can help with your discrimination case, contact Wrongful Termination Law Group today.