Category: Uncategorized

Workplace discrimination occurs when an employee, or potential employee, receives unfavorable treatment at work because that person has certain specific characteristics. These actions can include:

  • Hiring
  • Firing
  • Promotions
  • Pay
  • Benefits
  • Work assignments, or
  • Training.

Even if a workplace action is discriminatory, there may not be any protections for the employee. Generally, the employee must belong to a protected class as defined by California state or federal law to file a claim. Both federal and state laws prohibit discrimination based on the following characteristics:

1. Race Discrimination

Racial discrimination is unfavorable treatment at work because of someone’s race. It can also be based on personal characteristics that are commonly associated with certain races. This could include things such as hair texture, facial features, skin color, or even being perceived as a certain race over the phone during an interview because of tone used or vocabulary.  

2. Gender Discrimination

Discrimination based on a person’s gender is prohibited. Title VII offers further protections under federal law for discrimination against a person because of their gender identity or sexual orientation.

The federal Equal Pay Act requires that all employees, regardless of gender, be provided equal pay for equal work. The work is defined by the type of labor and not the title of the job. It protects all forms of pay and benefits like bonuses, stocks, insurance, overtime, or vacation pay. 

3. Age Discrimination

The federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) prohibits age discrimination against people who are over the age of 40. There is not age discrimination if the employer favors someone older over a younger one. This is true even if both employees are over 40. 

4. Religious Discrimination

Religious discrimination includes treating someone unfavorably because of their religious or faith beliefs. This may involve moral and ethical beliefs, although it will be harder to prove in court. It also includes not assigning someone to a job or location because of a perceived or real preference of a client.

Reasonable accommodation is required. This means that an employer must provide sufficient opportunity for an employee to participate in their religion. Examples are letting people pray at certain times of the day, allowing flexible schedules for religious ceremonies, or adjusting company dress codes. The exception to this rule is that the accommodation does not need to be provided if doing so would cause more than a minimal burden on the employer.   

5. Disability Discrimination

Disability discrimination is treating someone unfairly because they have a disability. The amended versions of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act dictate the laws regarding federal disability discrimination. These laws also protect people who have a history of a disability that is currently controlled, like a cancer in remission. 

Reasonable accommodation is required. This means that an employer must adjust for the employee like making an office wheelchair accessible. The exception to this rule is that the accommodation does not need to be provided if doing so would cause significant hardship for the employer.

6. National Origin Discrimination

National origin discrimination is acting unfavorably towards someone because of where they are from. This includes locational discrimination, ethnicity, and accents. It can even include people who appear to have certain characteristics that are commonly associated with an ethnicity, even if that person is not actually of that ethnicity.

It is not discrimination to treat a non-English speaker unfavorably if a job requires that the employee speaks English. This also applies to heavy accents where a person may not be understood in certain situations where clear English is required.

7. Pregnancy Discrimination

Pregnancy discrimination is treating a woman differently because she is pregnant, gave birth, or has a medical condition that is related to pregnancy or childbirth. If the employer provides temporary disability to employees for reasons other than pregnancy, they must also provide it to pregnant employees.  

Other Forms of Discrimination

It can also be discrimination to treat someone differently because they are married to someone who is in a legally protected class. This applies to employees whose spouses are a certain race, gender, religion, or national origin. It does not apply to spouses who are over 40 years old or who have a disability, including short-term disabilities like pregnancy.

Harassment can also be a form of workplace discrimination. Harassment is unwelcome behavior that is based on one of the legally protected classes. While the law doesn’t protect people from teasing, it does prohibit behavior that creates an offensive or hostile work environment.

Differences in California Law

If possible, it is usually better to file a discrimination complaint in a California court. California discrimination law allows for fewer defenses of violations. It also has broader definitions and expands protected classes to include ancestry, physical or mental disability, or ongoing medical condition.