Los Angeles Discrimination Attorneys
In the United States, the only factors that should affect how an employer treats an employee are the quality of the employee’s work and his or her ability to function as a member of an organization. Discrimination is the act of harassing employees on the basis of personal identity, and it can apply to a wide range of factors.
Types of California Workplace Discrimination
Discrimination often espouses harassment, which is another form of treating someone differently due to specific factors about his or her identity. Discrimination is usually used to describe actions taken against a person’s employment status due to specific factors of his or her identity, whereas harassment connotes physical actions taken against the employee for similar motives – such as verbal, physical, or emotional bullying in the workplace. Workplace discrimination often takes the form of:
- Rejecting an individual’s application for employment for no other reason than his or her race, color, religion, disability, or another protected factor.
- Denying an employee a promotion when he or she meets the necessary qualifications. These situations are often difficult to prove, and they often entail another less-qualified employee receiving the promotion despite having inferior qualification.
- Isolating employees due to their personal identity or protected traits.
- Undue negative evaluations or criticisms due to cultural differences or physical attributes.
- Any display of prioritizing one protected group, such as a particular religion or demographic, over another. An example is paying employees with checks printed with Christian scripture passages or ethnic or political symbols.
Discrimination is illegal in California and the rest of the United States. It is important for employees to understand discrimination laws, how these laws work, and what options are available in case employees face discrimination in the workplace. Most states consider employment “at-will.” This means that either the employee or the employer can end the employment at any time, for any reason, with or without prior notice. However, it is vital to recognize that this does not include discrimination – your employer cannot choose to end your employment due to your sex, age, race, religion, or disabilities. If you need help determining whether or not you have a case, a Los Angeles discrimination lawyer can go over the facts of your situation and help determine whether you have the right to sue.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the federal oversight agency responsible for ensuring fairness and equal treatment for all members of the American workforce. There are several types of discrimination; knowing these will help you provide an ethical and legal workplace.
The EEOC prohibits employers from favoring or mistreating an employee or applicant based on age. It is important to note that the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) only restricts discriminatory actions against people over the age of 40. However, some states have special laws designed to protect the rights of younger workers. California prohibits discrimination against employees over the age of 40, which includes apprenticeships and any other employer with 20 or more employees.
Some newer industries tend to appeal to younger professionals and applicants, but that does not mean older individuals should face discrimination. If a person over the age of 40 has the necessary skill and training to fulfill the requirements of a job, he or she has as much of a right as anyone else to perform that job.
It is also important to note that the age of the discriminatory employer does not matter. Discrimination does not only occur when a younger employer takes negative actions against an older employee or treats him or her unfavorably. Age discrimination can still occur when both parties are over the age of 40, even if the employer is older than the employee.
Many people understandably connect sexual discrimination and sexual harassment. Sexual harassment is a form of sexual discrimination that pertains to unwanted actions taken against an individual due to his or her sex – usually in the forms of sexual references, unwanted touching, unwelcome sexual advances, or requests for sexual favors. Sexual discrimination is treating an employee favorably or unfavorably in any way compared to other employees due to his or her sex.
Sex and gender discrimination laws also prohibit employers from discriminating against applicants or employees due to their gender identities or sexual orientation. This also applies to transgender individuals. An employer cannot discriminate against any employee on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity when it comes to pay, promotions, hiring, firing, benefits, or any other aspect of employment.
It is important to note that some forms of sexual harassment may not be of a sexual nature, but rather due to the employee’s sex or sexual orientation. This can include offensive remarks about a woman’s pregnancy, refusing to promote a woman solely because she may have a child and take maternity leave, or refusing to hire a qualified applicant due to his or her sexual orientation.
Disability discrimination describes any instance of an employer treating a disabled employee less favorably due to his or her disability. As long as the employee’s disability does not prevent the individual from performing his or her job duties, he or she has as much right to perform those duties as anyone else.
The EEOC discrimination laws and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) also legally obligate employers to make reasonable accommodations for disabled employees, such as installing a wheelchair ramp or similar fixture. As long as the accommodations would not cause “undue hardship” or significant expense to the employer, they must make the necessary arrangements to ensure the disabled employee can perform his or her work.
Additionally, employers are forbidden from verbally or physically bullying employees. The laws typically do not include light workplace teasing, but they do pertain to persistent harassment that creates a hostile, unwelcoming, or distressing work environment. This would include sustained teasing or berating against an employee due to a disability or excessively teasing disabled employees for their disabilities.
It is important to understand what qualifies as a disability under the employment laws of the United States and California. A person is classified as disabled if he or she fulfills at least one of three possible criteria:
- Having any mental or physical condition that significantly hinders major life activities, such as speech, mobility, hearing, or learning impairments.
- Having a history of disability, such as a former cancer patient who is in remission.
- Having any mental or physical impairment that is not medically considered minor or transient (lasting less than six months).
Employers are not permitted to ask questions about a potential employee’s medical history or require a medical exam to qualify for a job. Employers are also legally forbidden from asking an employee about the nature of even obvious disabilities, such as the required use of a wheelchair. The only acceptable questions an employer may ask about a disability are whether or not it will impact the applicant’s ability to perform the duties of the job and whether or not the applicant will require any special accommodations.
Racial discrimination occurs whenever an employer takes an adverse action against an applicant or employee due to his or her race, ethnicity, or skin color. This can also apply when employers take negative actions against employees who are married to people of a certain race or color. Similar to age discrimination, it is important to remember that racial discrimination can still take place when the employer and the employee are the same race or color.
Discrimination on the basis of race also includes promoting any particular ethnic groups or racial traits. Employers cannot show undue favor toward a particular race or denigrate a race in any way. Additionally, light teasing is common in many personal interactions, but if the employee faces sustained criticism, cruel jokes, or inappropriate or unprofessional remarks due to his or her racial attributes, he or she can file racial discrimination charges against the employer.
This type of discrimination can also include policies meant to apply to everyone in the organization without regard to race or color. For example, a company may have a policy against men having facial hair as part of the company dress code. This is discriminatory against African-American men, who are naturally susceptible to irritating bumps from shaving. Although such policies are typically enacted in an effort to treat everyone equally, if they negatively affect people of a particular race or skin color, they are discriminatory.
Employers are forbidden from discriminating against employees or applicants due to their religious beliefs. Religious discrimination laws not only apply to followers of large traditional, religions such as Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, or Judaism, but also any other individuals with strongly held ethical, moral, or religious beliefs that may conflict with those of an employer. An example of this could be an employer denying an applicant employment because he or she is an atheist. Religious discrimination applies to lack of belief the same as any other belief system in some situations.
Similar to disability discrimination laws, employers must also make reasonable accommodations for employees’ religious practices and beliefs. This could include allowing the employee to take certain religious holidays off or permitting specific times for other religious activities. Employers must also allow employees to dress in accordance with their religious practices. While employers must accommodate the religious requirements of employees, they are not required to make any accommodations if doing so creates an undue hardship or a significant expense. Additionally, an employer does not have to make any changes that might impact workplace safety, efficiency, or other employees’ working experiences negatively.
Discrimination against pregnant women is another form of sexual discrimination. Many people associate sexual discrimination with acts of a sexual nature, but it also applies to remarks or actions taken due to a person’s sex. Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 forbids employers from infringing on a pregnant woman’s employment rights. Employers must also make appropriate accommodations for pregnant employees (as long as they do not create any undue hardship for the employer).
Pregnancy discrimination also applies to childbirth and nursing. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) protects pregnant women from losing their jobs so they can deliver their babies and assures that they will be able to return to the same job once their maternity leave concludes. Additionally, nursing mothers must be allowed to take breaks to use breast milk pumps at work. Employers must take care to provide an appropriate, private room with a lockable door. Bathrooms are not acceptable choices, so the employer may need to move the employee to a private office temporarily or reserve other rooms for certain times of the day.
Filing a Workplace Discrimination Lawsuit in California
If you believe that you have been discriminated against for any of these factors, it is vital to understand your rights and have an idea of what you should do. Connecting with an experienced employment law attorney is a wonderful first step in building a case. Your employment discrimination lawyer will help you gather the necessary evidence to build a case and hold the discriminatory employer accountable for actions taken against you. Employment discrimination cases can become complex quickly, so a skilled attorney is a valuable asset to have on your side.
In almost all workplace discrimination cases, the first step in making an employment discrimination claim is to file a complaint with the EEOC. Claims must adhere to the EEOC statute of limitations of 180 days, so you must file your complaint within this time from the date of the incident in question or the date when the employee became aware of his or her employer’s discriminatory conduct. Some states have additional laws that may apply to your case, which will extend this deadline to 300 days.
After the EEOC receives a complaint, an investigation will take place. During this investigation, the EEOC will obtain pertinent evidence of the employer’s illegal conduct. If the EEOC determines that workplace discrimination did occur, one of several things may happen:
- The EEOC will arrange a settlement meeting between the employer and the employee. During this meeting, the EEOC will mediate an appropriate settlement to end the claim and compensate the employee.
- The EEOC will file a lawsuit on the employee’s behalf.
- The EEOC will issue a “right to sue” letter. The employee will receive this if settlement negotiations fail or if the investigation team deems that no discrimination took place. The EEOC will still allow the employee to pursue a lawsuit if he or she chooses to do so.
Compensation for a California Workplace Discrimination Claim
Every case is different, but if the plaintiff (party suing) wins his or her workplace discrimination lawsuit against the defendant (the employer being sued), the court will award compensation to the employee. In most cases, the settlement or lawsuit award will attempt to rectify any negative actions taken against the plaintiff in an effort to help things return to how they were before the discrimination took place. Damages typically include the following:
- Back pay for lost wages. This can include cases in which the employee should have received a higher rate but did not due to the employer’s discriminatory conduct.
- Front pay for lost wages. This replaces wages lost in the time between the case’s final judgment and the employee’s reinstatement. In some cases, reinstatement may not be possible, and the employee will receive alternative compensation.
- Lost benefits. If the employer’s conduct prevented the plaintiff from receiving health, vacation, or pension benefits, he or she can sue for these damages as well.
- Reasonable accommodations. The ruling may force the employer to make reasonable accommodations for the employee’s situation. For example, an employee may sue an employer for refusing to install a small wheelchair ramp that would have been inexpensive and would not have hindered other employees or the workplace. If the employee wins his or her lawsuit, the employer will likely need to install the ramp as part of the employee’s compensation.
- Punitive damages. Some judges will require a discriminatory employer to pay large amounts to the plaintiff if the case involved heinous or extreme discriminatory conduct. As the term implies, punitive damages are meant to punish a defendant for egregious wrongdoings.
Every case will differ, and the types and amount of compensation possible changes for every claim. One of the most important steps you can take toward securing just compensation for your workplace discrimination case is to connect with a qualified, experienced, and tenacious California employment lawyer.
Mathew & George Attorneys at Law have a reputation for excellence in employment law claims for residents of California. Part of the reason why we have such a stellar record is because we maintain a limited caseload. We believe in taking the time to get to know every one of our clients’ situations inside and out. Our firm is dedicated to providing compassionate and courteous legal representation to our clients and aggressively pursuing fair settlements and court awards.
The employment discrimination attorneys at Mathew & George believe in open communication and tenacious advocacy for our clients. We have the experience to handle any type of workplace discrimination case. Reach out to our team of Los Angeles employment discrimination attorneys if you have any more questions about California workplace discrimination laws or if you think you may have a discrimination case. We’ll interview you in a free consultation and let you know what legal recourse is available.