Most people are aware that federal and California state laws forbid discrimination against employees based on their race, color, sex, national origin, religion, disability, age, or genetic information. Not as many people, however, think of how a company’s actual workplace practices could effectively be discriminatory, and you should contact a discrimination attorney when you believe that your employer is engaging in practices that might be discriminatory.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) is the state law making it unlawful to discriminate. Victims of discrimination often have the right to file a claim with either a state or federal agency depending on the number of employees in their workplace, but it can be complicated to navigate the legal process.
Some common examples of workplace policies that may be discriminatory include:
While companies are allowed to have dress codes and grooming policies, they cannot place bans on any culturally or religiously significant garments, such as headscarves, robe cloths, hijabs, or skullcaps. Such bans may discriminate against an employee’s religion, and grooming standards banning afros, beards, dreadlocks, or braids can also discriminate against an employee’s race or religion.
Dress codes and grooming policies can also discriminate based on sex or gender identity when they cause transgender or gender non-conforming employees to dress or groom in a manner contradicting their gender identities.
Any kind of forced retirement based on age is usually illegal because of prohibitions under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) or Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA). The FEHA and ADEA protect employees 40 years of age or older against discrimination based on their age, so an employee cannot be terminated or forced to resign simply because they are now 65 or some other age an employer deems to be too old.
When business owners create policies compelling employees to participate in religious holidays and observances, the practices will be illegal because they are imposing religion upon the workers. Employers also face liability for discriminating on the basis of employees’ protected characteristics using their own religious beliefs as a cover.
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 gave female workers protection against employers who would otherwise terminate them for getting pregnant. Under no circumstances can an employer have a general policy that terminates pregnant employees.
Instead, employers actually have to provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant employees when they need such accommodations to continue performing essential job functions. As it relates to giving birth or bonding with new children, the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and California Family Rights Act (CFRA) offer additional protection with unpaid job-protected leave.
While citizenship status and national origin can be two important protected characteristics, employers cannot base any decisions regarding a person’s employment on those terms. Employers cannot adopt or enforce policies requiring employees to be United States citizens unless a federal, state, or local law requires such citizenship for a particular job.
Do you think that your workplace might have been unknowingly partaking in a discriminatory policy in California? You will want to speak to Minnis & Smallets LLP about what legal action you might be able to take in response.
Our firm has a strong understanding of both federal and state discrimination laws, so we will be able to best advise you on what your options will be moving forward. You can call us or contact us online to take advantage of a free consultation that will let us really dig into the details of your case and talk to you about what steps can be taken.
If you are looking for advice or representation, please contact us today using the form below and we will promptly respond to your inquiry.
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