California Employment Law: What is Considered a Protected Characteristic?
California Employment Law: What is Considered a Protected Characteristic?

California Employment Law: What is Considered a Protected Characteristic?

Both state and federal laws prohibit discrimination in the workplace. This means that you cannot be treated differently in the terms and conditions of your employment based upon your membership in a protected class. There are many protected characteristics under California employment law: 

Race, Color, Religion, Or National Origin

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers from discrimination against an employee based upon their race, color, religion, and national origin. Many of these overlap: for example, if a foreign worker is discriminated against, they might not know if it is specifically because of the country they came from or because of the color of their skin. Both characteristics are protected. An experienced employment lawyer will know how best to prove that illegal discrimination occurred. 

Mental or Physical Disabilities

The Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 and California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act requires employers to make “reasonable accommodations” for disabled employees. The definition of a disability covers a wide range of physical and mental conditions. Often, disputes in this area focus on what accommodations are reasonable in a given case. For example, an office worker may be able to leave for more frequent breaks without placing much of a burden on the employer. But a factory worker may be on a tightly-scheduled line, and interruptions might cost the employer huge financial losses. “Reasonable” accommodations vary from case to case, so be sure to consult with a lawyer about what is reasonable under your unique circumstances.


The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination based upon an employee’s sex. At the time, few people imagined how expansive this right would become. Later case law and statutes extended gender discrimination to cover pay discrimination against women, as well as discrimination based on pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, and any related medical conditions. Since its enactment, the Civil Rights Act has also been interpreted to include sexual orientation. This was not contemplated in 1964. It has, however, become a vital tool in protecting the rights of employees in the LGBTQ+ community. California has also been a leader in expanding gender discrimination to protect workers’ gender expression and identity. 

Other Protected Characteristics

California law provides expansive rights for employees – more than almost any other state. You may be surprised to learn about all the different characteristics that are protected under California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act. Genetic information, marital status, and your status as an active military member or veteran are all protected characteristics. If you suspect you are being discriminated against at work, consult with a lawyer about your case. One of these protected characteristics could apply. 

Experienced, Aggressive California Employment Lawyers For All Discrimination Cases

You don’t have to spend hours online searching for a California employment lawyer near you. Minnis and Smallets is a California employment law firm that protects workers’ rights to be free from discrimination in the workplace. Contact us today to schedule a consultation with an experienced California employment law attorney. 

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