Job discrimination can be devastating for employees, especially when the discrimination results in termination, harassment, or retaliation for complaints. Employees should know there are strict laws designed to protect workers from job discrimination at both the federal and state level. These laws protect all employees and includes discrimination based on:
- National origin
- Gender identity
- Gender expression
- Sexual orientation
- Physical disability
- Mental disability
- Medical condition
- Age (40 and older)
- Military or veteran status
If you are a victim of workplace discrimination, you have legal rights and options moving forward. The employment discrimination attorneys at Shegerian & Associates represent employees from all industries who have been subject to work discrimination obtain favorable outcomes and maximum compensation for their losses.
Reporting Job Discrimination in California
Before you are able to file a lawsuit against an employer for workplace discrimination, there are certain steps that you and your work discrimination lawyer will first have to take. When you initially suspect that you may be a victim of job discrimination, the Civil Rights Department (CRD), formerly the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH), is the government agency which must be notified in order to file a formal charge against an employer.
All employees must take this step before actually filing a lawsuit because all administrative remedies must first be exhausted. You can also simultaneously file a dual complaint with the Equal Employment (EEOC), the federal agency that is responsible for enforcing federal job discrimination laws and will hold an investigation once the charge alleging discrimination is filed.
There are two ways to go about obtaining the right to sue from one of these agencies:
- Obtaining an Immediate Right to Sue. You may request an immediate right to sue notice without having to go through the EEOC or CRD investigation process. If you obtain an immediate right to sue notice, your complaint will not be investigated.
- Waiting for an Agency Investigation. Alternatively, you may first wait until the CRD or EEOC finds no violation and dismisses the claim before obtaining a right to sue notice.
With this right to sue notice, the employee has the right to pursue litigation against his or her employer for violations of job discrimination laws. It is important to note that filing a charge with the CRD or EEOC involves observing strict deadlines for filing. For this reason, it is always wise to obtain the assistance of an experienced workplace discrimination lawyer to help with the filing process.
Filing a Job Discrimination Lawsuit
According to the CRD, it is only advisable to proceed directly to court if you have an attorney. Your job discrimination lawyer will then file your case with the California Superior Court, in the county where the discrimination took place, or in another relevant county. Once you file the lawsuit, an official complaint will be sent directly to your employer and anyone else listed on the lawsuit.
The defendants have the ability to formally respond to the allegations in the claim. Depending on how they respond, the case may then proceed through litigation and eventually may be heard in front of a judge in a bench trial or a jury in a jury trial. Evidence and arguments will be presented in front of either the judge or jury in court, at which point the judge or jury will then:
- Make a judgment on either to rule in favor or against the claim in your discrimination lawsuit
- Decide the total amount of damage that you are entitled to
Oftentimes, the closer that the case gets to trial, the more likely it is that the case will settle outside of court with negotiations. This is because employers often do not want to risk the uncertainty and the legal costs associated with a trial verdict, as the amount that they may have to pay could be substantially higher than the amount that could be paid out in a settlement.
Elements of a Job Discrimination Claim
On a federal level, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination in all forms of employment, including hiring and discharge, when the discrimination falls in any one of the protected categories noted in the law. Similarly, the FEHA is a state legislation that protects employees in California from discrimination based on a protected characteristic.
One of the key differences between these pieces of legislation is that state law has a more comprehensive list of protected classes. Additionally, while federal employment law protects workers in companies with 15 or more employees who have been discriminated against on the job, state law protects workers at companies with 5 or more employees, full time or part-time.
However, both of them protect employees from employment discrimination if the discrimination is due to a protected characteristic, including based on race, color, sex, age, national origin, disability, religion and pregnancy. Both make this type of violation the main requirement in order to successfully bring a job discrimination claim. These laws covers all areas of the employment process, including:
- Hiring or employment practices
- Termination or discharge
- Providing reasonable accommodations
In short, once an employee proves that he or she belongs to any one of these protected categories, it’s necessary to prove that an employer took adverse action against the employee based on his membership in the protected category.
Additionally, it is also unlawful for an employer to discriminate against you based on a perceived characteristic. Thus, even if an employer is wrong about one of your identifying characteristics, they may still be held in violation of the law. Additionally, job discrimination also applies to labor organizations, unions, and apprenticeships.
Job Discrimination and Retaliation
Many employees fear taking legal action against their employers because they fear retaliation. However, in addition to protecting workers from job discrimination, the Civil Rights Act and FEHA also protect workers from employer retaliation. This means that an employer cannot legally fire you or otherwise retaliate against you for reporting workplace discrimination.
If this action is taken against you, your employer may also be sued and found liable for retaliation, a type of wrongful termination. The FEHA specifically protects employers in California from retaliation for:
- Opposing harassment at work
- Opposing discrimination against themselves or other employees
- Reporting workplace discrimination or harassment
- Taking part in CRD investigations or other related government inquiries.
Proving Job Discrimination and Potential Damages
Most workplace discrimination is subtle. This is because employers try to mask their own discriminatory actions or behaviors with a cover story that protects themselves from liability. They often will take steps to make sure nothing that could prove discrimination is in writing or obvious to you. However, there are certain signs that may indicate you were subject to job discrimination, including:
- Sudden changes in your job performance
- Being passed up for a promotion that you were qualified for
- Changes in your work duties or functions
- Differential rule enforcement for employees of various identities
- Exclusion from meetings or events
If you have faced job discrimination, the damages available to you will depend on a number of factors that include the extent and nature of the discrimination, the harm that it caused you, and whether you were subject to workplace harassment. You may be entitled to monetary damages, punitive damages, and damages for equitable remedies. These include:
- Back wages with interest
- Bonus payments
- Lost wages related to promotions or raises that you were denied
- Pension benefits
- Health insurance benefits
- Emotional distress
- Pain and suffering
- Attorney and legal fees
Help Is Available for Your Job Discrimination Case
When job discrimination becomes an issue at your place of employment, it’s important to contact an employment discrimination lawyer that can offer you the expertise and help you need to see your case successfully through to completion.
The workplace discrimination attorneys at Shegerian & Associates are standing by ready to fight for your rights against job discrimination. We have years of legal experience and are available to assist with job discrimination claims ranging from the most straightforward to the most complex and intricate. If you think you’ve experienced discrimination on the job, give Shegerian & Associates a call today for a free case evaluation!