Employees who have been subjected to workplace discrimination are protected by law. However, a word of caution: what an employee might think of as discrimination may not qualify as actual discrimination under state and federal employment laws.
Unlawful employment discrimination involves treating an employee or job applicant unfavorably because of that person’s membership in a particular class, such as their race, age, sex, sexual orientation, nationality, or disability. This means that, in order for an action to qualify as discrimination, an employer must treat an employee or job applicant differently because that person belongs to a category that is protected under the law.
Employment discrimination is illegal, and occurs when employers treat employees differently at work because of:
A manager or supervisor acts unlawfully when he or she takes an adverse employment action because of discrimination on the basis of one of these protected categories.
In order to successfully bring a claim of employment discrimination, an employee must be able to show that the employer took an adverse employment action against the employee, and that discrimination motivated that action.
Under California and federal law, adverse employment actions include:
Employees who have been discriminated against should consider reporting it to their employers. While an employee may verbally raise concerns about workplace discrimination, it is often a good idea to report those concerns in writing, too. Keep in mind that the law prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who report discrimination. An employer that retaliates against an employee for reporting concerns about discrimination may be liable for retaliation.
Employees who have been discriminated can also file a claim of discrimination with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) or the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). There are strict deadlines for filing a charge of discrimination with either agency. Generally speaking, a California employee has one year from the time of the discriminatory act to file a charge of discrimination with the DFEH, and 300 days to file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC.
Employees may want to speak with an attorney first in order to determine what options are available to them, so that the employee can consider the pros and cons of each option before making a decision.
Although employees may have little recourse if a supervisor treats everyone unfairly, they do have options when that unfair treatment results from discrimination based on a legally protected category, such as disability, sex, gender, sexual orientation, or age.
At Minnis & Smallets, our lawyers have successfully represented many executives, professionals, and employees who have experienced discrimination at work. Please call us at 1-415-551-0885 or use our contact form.