Discrimination Lawyer in San Diego| The Larabee Law Firm
Have you ever been treated unfairly by an employer? Most everyone can recall a time when they were passed up for a promotion or denied a raise they felt they deserved, or were fired or demoted for seemingly no reason at all. You may have a gut feeling you were discriminated against, but there are certain criteria that must be met in order to bring a workplace discrimination case against your company.
What is workplace discrimination?
Workplace discrimination happens when an employee is treated unfairly because he or she belongs to a protected class. A protected class is a term used to describe
personal traits that are considered unchangeable and have no influence over an employee’s job performance.
Characteristics protected under California state law include race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability, age, citizenship status, and genetic information. California state law also prohibits discrimination based on ancestry, physical or mental disability, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, AIDS/HIV, medical condition, political activities or affiliations, military or veteran status, and status as a victim of domestic violence, assault, or stalking.
In addition to the many laws that prohibit workplace discrimination, California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act addresses “English-only” policies. This legislature prevents employers from limiting or prohibiting employees from using another language in the workplace unless there is a valid business reason for the restriction.
Other protected classes under California law include genetic information, marital status, medical condition, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation,
and military or veteran status.
How to recognize discrimination in the workplace
Despite the many laws that exist to protect employees from discrimination in the workplace, many people continue to be treated unfairly by their employers. Discrimination comes in many forms, and it’s often so subtle that it can be tricky to recognize. Employees should be on the lookout for all workplace actions that reinforce inequality, including:
Unfair assignment of duties
It’s no coincidence if some tasks and responsibilities are always reserved for people of specific ethnic groups, or if female employees aren’t given the same opportunities as male employees. Another sign of discrimination is if employers routinely exclude people with disabilities from prestigious projects and workplace duties.
Discrimination in promotions
Denying promotions and raises to people of a certain sex, race, religion, or disability is an obvious form of discrimination. Observe the individuals who routinely receive promotions at your company. If you’re the only woman in a group of male employees and everyone has received a raise except you, this should raise a red flag.
Harassment of an employee in any form because of his or her age, race, sexual orientation, religion, or another protected class is considered discrimination. In California, both coworkers and managers who make offensive remarks or jokes that target an individual or group of employees can be sued for harassment.
Discrimination in layoffs
If a company is downsizing or restructuring, only laying off older employees is a form of discrimination. Under California law, it’s illegal to discriminate against an employee who is over the age of 40. Demoting or terminating groups of employees based on sex, disability, religion, or ethnicity is also against federal and state laws.
If an employer gives preferential treatment to a certain group of employees, this could be a subtle form of discrimination. For example, a manager who reprimands male employees for taking a long lunches, yet allows women to leave the office early could be considered unfair treatment.
What should I do if I’ve experienced workplace discrimination?
We first recommend reaching out to a qualified employment attorney to discuss your rights, remedies, and recommended course of action. Often filing with the DFEH or EEOC may only result in being sent a "Right to Sue" letter and it may be advisable and preferable to proceed directly to Superior or Federal court. If you think you’ve been discriminated against at work, you can also file a charge with either the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). There are several advantages to filing with the state agency over the EEOC. In California, anti-discrimination laws are interpreted more broadly than federal laws. And, California anti-discrimination statute covers smaller companies (between 5 and 14 employees) that aren’t covered by federal law. Additionally, the California Fair Employment and Housing Act allows workers an entire year to file a charge, rather than the 180 mandated by the EEOC.
1. File a state claim with the DFEH
There are several advantages to filing with the DFEH over the EEOC. In California, anti-discrimination laws are interpreted more broadly than federal laws. And, California anti-discrimination statute covers smaller companies (between 5 and 14 employees) that aren’t covered by federal law. Additionally, the California Fair Employment and Housing Act allows workers an entire year to file a charge, rather than the 180 mandated by the EEOC.
2. File a federal claim with the EEOC
You may choose to file a federal claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which offers many of the same protections as the DEFH but with stricter limitations.
3. File a lawsuit in court
If you choose to file a discrimination lawsuit in court without the help of the DFEH or EEOC, you will need to hire an employment lawyer to defend your rights. If you decide to go straight to court, you’ll need to request a right-to-sue letter from the DFEH under your attorney’s discretion.
Contact an experienced workplace discrimination lawyer in San Diego
If you’ve been discriminated against at work, we understand the physical, mental, and emotional toll it can take. In many cases, the employee is burdened with the responsibility of proving that he or she has experienced discrimination, which can be difficult to take on alone. At the Larabee Law Firm, we specialize in protecting the rights of California employees who have suffered discrimination in the workplace. Whether you were laid off due to your age or have routinely been denied a promotion because of your sexual orientation or disability, we can help you seek justice.
Contact us today for a free consultation.