Employment Discrimination in California

Discrimination in the workplace comes in many various forms and never feels good when you are on the receiving end of it. Many people think it is a rare occurrence, but it happens more than you would think. Fortunately, there are laws that protect employees from being subject to discrimination at work. Employees are protected by both California and federal laws. These laws were enacted to prevent employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of certain characteristics like: race, religion, sexual orientation, disability, age, gender and more.

California has some of the strictest laws in the United States protecting employees from employers for unlawful behavior. In Orange County, and other counties in California, an employee may have many remedies for being the victim of discrimination. There are laws in place for a reason and if an employer decides to break the law, an employee may pursue a case against that employer. Employees that are victims of discrimination can recover the following:

  • Lost Wages and Benefits
  • Pain and Suffering
  • Court Costs
  • Attorney’s Fees
  • Punitive Damages (An act of oppression, fraud or malice, by an officer, director or managing agent, acting on behalf of the employer)

If punitive damages are awarded in a case, this could drastically change the amount of money that a victim of discrimination could recover. This amount could be multiples more than the compensatory damages.

This page was created by Brandon Yousif, a California discrimination attorney. Ally Law Group represents employees to protect their rights against being subject to discrimination at the hands of their employer. If YOU believe YOU have been the victim of unlawful discrimination at work, contact Brandon as soon as possible for a FREE CONSULTATION.

A Simple Breakdown of Discrimination Law in California

The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”), California’s anti-discrimination law, makes it against the law for an employer to terminate or discriminate against an employee because of a protected characteristic (listed below). Basically, employees can’t be fired because of a protected characteristic or because they did a legally protected act. In addition, employers are not allowed to refuse to hire, demote, pay less, or punish someone because they are a member of a protected class.

Protected characteristics and classes include:

  • Race
  • Religious Creed
  • Color
  • National Origin
  • Ancestry
  • Physical disability
  • Mental disability
  • Medical Condition
  • Genetic information
  • Marital status
  • Sex (including pregnancy)
  • Gender
  • Gender expression
  • Gender identity
  • Age (over 40)
  • Sexual orientation
  • Military; or
  • Veteran status. (CA Government Code § 12940(a))

Federal Law also serves to protect employees in most of the protected categories listed above. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) of the United States is responsible for enforcing the federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or employee because of the person’s race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy and related conditions, gender identity, and sexual orientation), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information. Most employers with at least 15 employees are covered by EEOC laws (20 employees in age discrimination cases).

In addition to laws protecting against discrimination based on characteristic traits, they also protect against certain lawful activities. The list of protected activities include:

  • Refusing unlawful discrimination,
  • Refusing unlawful harassment,
  • A hospital worker (nurse, doctor, surgeon, or other person at a health care facility) filing a report of patient neglect or abuse.
  • Filing a complaint, testifying, or assisting in any proceedings relating to unlawful discrimination or harassment,
  • Requesting a reasonable accommodation for a religious belief or observance, and
  • Requesting reasonable accommodations for a physical or mental disability

Talking to an experienced and knowledgeable Orange County employment discrimination attorney could help you determine the best course of action in your situation. Most discrimination cases are not simple. Employers will do anything they can to look like they are well behaved and that the employee is the one that was fired for good reason. For example, ABC Company fired Shannon based on her physical disability but pointed to tardiness and write-ups for her termination. Shannon may then put together evidence that she showed up to work on time and that her performance was more than sufficient. Gathering evidence to prove your case and cast a shadow of doubt on your employers’ statements is crucial to obtaining the outcome you want.

Employer Actions that Qualify as Discrimination in California

To prove you were the victim of discrimination at work, you must show that the employer took an adverse/disadvantageous action against you, and that the action was directly correlated to discrimination of a protected characteristic or activity. Below is a list of adverse actions taken by the employer:

  • Termination / Firing
  • Reduction in Pay
  • Demotion
  • Denial of promotion
  • Transfer (unfavorable to employee)
  • Loss of benefits

What is the Statute of Limitations for an Employment Discrimination Claim?

A statute of limitations is basically a deadline of when a case must be filed. Cases filed after the statute of limitations will not be heard and you will no longer be eligible file a claim on the matter (certain exceptions apply).

There is no definitive answer for the statute of limitations in an employment case because it depends on different laws involved. Most cases involve a number of different laws that were violated. For Example, Shannon is suing ABC Company for firing her based on her national origin. In this example, Shannon would have three years to obtain a Right to Sue letter from the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (“DFEH”). Once she receives a notice of right to sue letter from the DFEH, then she will have 1 more year to file her lawsuit. However, in a situation where wrongful termination claims are brought because the termination violates public policy, then the statute of limitations is 2 years.

The Process of Bringing Forth Your Claim

There are a couple different routes that may be taken, on a federal or state level. As stated above, if you were to file a complaint in California, it would be with DFEH. You would file a written complaint with DFEH within three years of the most recent incident of employment discrimination. Once received, the DFEH will review your letter and decide whether to act on the complaint itself, or provide you a right to sue letter. If you receive a right to sue letter, you have 1 year to file your lawsuit.

If you decide to file your complaint at the federal level, your letter will go to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). A charge must be filed with EEOC within 180 days from the date of the alleged violation, in order to protect the charging party’s rights. This 180-day filing deadline may be extended to 300 days if the charge also is covered by a state or local anti-discrimination law. The EEOC, like the DFEH, has the option to take matters into their own hands, or allow you to take legal action on your own behalf.

How to Sue My Employer for Unlawful Discrimination in Orange County, California?

As stated above, the first step to the lawsuit is obtaining the “right to sue” letter from the California DFEH or the federal EEOC. Once you receive the letter, then you must file your lawsuit within 1 year. Having an experienced Orange County discrimination attorney represent you may make or break your case. An experienced attorney will gather all the evidence needed to help you prove the discrimination occurred, while also discrediting your employer’s false statements. Our experienced discrimination attorneys will gather evidence like statements from witnesses, your personal file, communication records and any other evidence that may be important to your case.

Do I Have an Employment Discrimination Case?

To determine if you have a strong discrimination case, contact an employment lawyer and have them review your case. Ally Law Group offers you a free consultation to completely go over your case. This means that a member of our staff will sit with you, listen to your complete story of what happened and give you honest and truthful guidance on whether or not you have a shot at a successful case against your prior employer. Ally Law Group also offers a ZERO FEE GUARANTEE! This means you will not pay anything unless we win the case and this places all the risk on us. This puts the pressure on us to do the best we can to win your case!

Contact Ally Law Group Today!

We believe we are the best employment law firm in Orange County because we care for our clients. Our clients are an extension of our family and we strive to protect and fight for every penny our clients deserve. If you feel like you may have a case against your former employer for discrimination, contact us today for a free consultation!


About Ally Law Group

Our Law Firm is driven by a diverse clientele that requires us to think outside of the box. Each case has different factual circumstances, so each case will be different. Our attorneys find it exciting to develop strategic plans with our clients, showing them that they do have a chance at achieving their goals no matter what type of case they have.

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