Common Myths About Workplace Discrimination

It is often up to you as an employee to protect your own rights in the state of California. Although law-abiding employers should be aware of the workplace environment and take steps to prevent or stop discrimination, this unfortunately isn’t always the case. Employees often must act against employers, initiating their own pursuit of justice. Our discrimination attorneys have debunked some of the most prevalent myths regarding workplace discrimination in California. This list can can help employees know where they stand and tell when a lawsuit might be in order.

Myth: I Can File a Claim Against a Mean Employer

Truth: Just because your boss is mean to you does not necessarily give you the right to bring a lawsuit. Employers do have the right to be mean to their employees. When “meanness” steps on civil rights, employees can take legal action. For example, if an employer’s prolonged meanness creates a hostile work environment in which you do not feel safe, this could be a civil rights violation. If the employer’s mean attitude is because of a protected class such as your gender or race, and/or if it results in demotion or loss of your job, these could also be examples of wrongful acts. Discrimination-related meanness could end in a lawsuit.

Myth: My Employer Needs a Good Reason to Fire Me

Truth: Your boss can fire you for no cause at all and without giving you prior notice. In return, you can quit your job in the same manner (e.g., without giving two weeks’ notice). California is an employment at will state. This means your employer does not need a good reason to terminate you. Your employer also does not have to give you severance pay unless the workplace policy states it will. However, if you suspect that your job termination was because of your race, religion, disability, age, gender, gender identity, or national origin, you could have a wrongful termination claim. Talk to a wrongful termination lawyer if you suspect you lost your job for a discriminatory reason.

Myth: My Employer Legally Must Offer Paid Maternity Leave

Truth: California’s employment laws do not require employers to offer paid maternity leave. The California Family Rights Act only states that employers must allow up to 12 weeks of leave (paid or unpaid) to mothers and fathers to bond with newborn (or newly adopted) children without risk of job termination. The Pregnancy Disability Leave Law states that a woman might also receive four extra months of unpaid medical leave if she suffers temporary disabilities related to pregnancy. It is an employer’s prerogative to offer or not to offer paid maternity leave to pregnant employees.

Myth: It’s Okay for a Potential Employer to Ask an Applicant About Disabilities

Truth: It goes against the Americans with Disabilities Act to ask a job applicant about his or her disabilities. Asking whether an applicant has physical or mental disabilities prior to offering a job position is illegal. Employers cannot ask about histories of mental health problems, work injury histories, or what types of medications an employee is taking prior to employment. Only after the employer gives the applicant the position can he or she legally ask about disabilities – and only so that the employer can reasonably accommodate them. Making hiring, firing, or other employment decisions based on a person’s disability is against the law.

Myth: The EEOC and My Coworkers Will Help Me With My Claim

Truth: Neither the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) nor your coworkers are under any obligation to assist you or act as witnesses in a claim against your employer. Do not rely on the assumption that coworkers who saw the alleged act of discrimination will go to court on your behalf. As a wronged employee in California, the only confidant you can rely on to defend your rights and stand up for your best interests is an employment attorney. Do not try to go up against a discriminatory workplace or employer on your own. You may find that it’s an uphill battle. Instead, contact Mathew & George to have skilled attorneys on your side. The best way to fight against a discriminatory employer is with help from a lawyer.