In California, employment discrimination refers to any unfair treatment of an employee or job applicant based on a protected characteristic, such as race, gender, age, religion, disability, and several others.
The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) oversees and enforces the state’s employment laws, ensuring that all residents have an equal opportunity in the workplace, free from bias or prejudice, and can sue for employment discrimination.
How Do California Employment Laws Define Multiple Factor Employment Discrimination?
Multiple-factor employment discrimination in California refers to the unfair treatment of an individual based on a combination of two or more protected characteristics. This means, for example, that an individual might be discriminated against not just for their gender but for their gender in combination with their age or race.
California’s employment laws recognize the nuanced and complex nature of such cases, and the DFEH takes particular care in investigating these multifaceted claims.
What Are Some California Laws Against Employment or Job Discrimination?
California boasts a strong framework of laws designed to fight against employment discrimination:
Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA)
The FEHA stands as one of the most comprehensive anti-discrimination laws in the U.S. Here’s a closer look:
- Protected Characteristics: Most people know about common protections like race, gender, and age. However, FEHA extends protection to categories like genetic information, marital status, and military or veteran status.
- Coverage: FEHA applies to employers with five or more employees. It also includes employment agencies, labor organizations, and training programs.
- Retaliation: Employees who assert their rights under FEHA, either by filing a complaint or participating in an investigation, are protected from retaliation by their employers.
- Harassment: The FEHA makes employers responsible for preventing harassment based on any protected characteristic. This is irrespective of any negligence on the part of the employer.
California Family Rights Act (CFRA)
The California Family Rights Act provides eligible employees with the right to take leave for specific family and medical reasons without fearing job loss.
- Eligibility: To be eligible, an employee must work for a company with 50 or more employees, have worked there for more than a year, and have worked at least 1,250 hours in the year before the start of the CFRA leave.
- Leave Duration: CFRA provides up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave within a 12-month period.
- Reasons for Leave: These include the birth, adoption, or foster care placement of a child; to care for a close family member with a serious health condition; or when the employee is unable to work due to their own serious health condition.
- Job Protection: After the CFRA leave, employees have a right to return to the same or a similar position.
Equal Pay Act
California’s Equal Pay Act seeks to close the wage gap by ensuring that employees are paid equally for performing substantially similar work.
- Substantially Similar Work: This refers to work that requires similar skill, effort, and responsibility and is performed under similar working conditions.
- Exceptions: Employers can defend wage differentials if they are based on factors like a seniority system, a merit system, a system that measures earnings by quantity or quality of production, or a differential based on any bona fide factor other than sex, race, or ethnicity.
- Transparency: Employers cannot prohibit employees from disclosing their wages, discussing the wages of others, or inquiring about another employee’s wages.
- Record Keeping: Employers are required to maintain wage and job classification records for at least three years.
Each of these laws plays a pivotal role in promoting fair employment practices in California, ensuring that workplaces remain free from bias and discrimination.
What Are Common Examples of Workplace Discrimination?
Workplace discrimination can manifest in various ways, including:
Hiring and Firing
When decisions about hiring or firing are influenced by a person’s protected characteristic rather than their qualifications or performance, it’s considered discrimination. In detail:
- Interview Bias: Asking questions during interviews that relate to a candidate’s age, marital status, religion, or plans to have children can be a form of discrimination, as decisions based on the answers to such questions would be based on protected characteristics.
- Disparate Impact: Sometimes, policies that seem neutral on the surface can disproportionately affect certain groups. For instance, requiring a certain physical ability might unintentionally exclude candidates of a particular gender or age unless that ability is a legitimate job necessity.
Pay and Promotions
Equal work should result in equal pay and equal opportunity for advancement. Discrimination appears when:
- Wage Gaps: If two employees perform the same role with similar efficiency but are paid differently because of gender, race, or another protected trait, it’s a clear violation of the Equal Pay Act.
- Glass Ceiling: This refers to invisible barriers that prevent certain groups (often women or minorities) from advancing to higher positions, irrespective of their qualifications or achievements.
Workplace harassment goes beyond just physical actions. It includes:
- Verbal Harassment: This can encompass derogatory remarks, slurs, and name-calling related to a protected trait. Such comments don’t need to be driven by malice to be considered harassment; even “joking” remarks can qualify.
- Sexual Harassment: This involves unwanted sexual advances or comments, and it can be perpetrated by anyone in the workplace, irrespective of their position. Both the victim and the harasser can be of any gender, and the victim does not have to be of the opposite sex.
- Visual Harassment: Displaying inappropriate or offensive pictures, drawings, or items can also be a form of harassment.
Employees have the right to report unfair treatment without fear. However, retaliation occurs when:
- Punitive Actions: After an employee files a complaint, if they suddenly face punitive measures like being passed over for promotions, given undesired shifts, or assigned more challenging tasks without cause, it’s a form of retaliation.
- Isolation: Excluding the complainant from meetings, team activities, or communications they’d typically be part of can also be a retaliatory action.
- Negative Evaluations: Suddenly receiving negative performance reviews without justification, especially after filing a complaint, can be a sign of retaliation.
Understanding these nuances ensures that both employees and employers are aware of what constitutes discrimination, enabling a fairer and more inclusive workplace.
What Are the Remedies for Multiple Factor Job Discrimination in California?
With the help of a California attorney, victims of multiple-factor job discrimination in California can seek:
- Compensatory Damages: Compensation for emotional pain, suffering, and mental anguish caused by the discrimination.
- Back Pay: Compensation for lost wages from the date of the discriminatory act to the date of the judgment.
- Reinstatement: Returning to one’s position if they were wrongfully terminated.
- Punitive Damages: Additional damages meant to punish the employer for their discriminatory actions, especially in cases of severe or malicious discrimination.
- Injunctions: Court orders directing employers to stop their discriminatory practices.
Should I Hire a California Lawyer for My Multiple Factor Employment Discrimination Case?
Definitely, facing discrimination is already challenging, and navigating the legal complexities can feel overwhelming. An experienced California discrimination lawyer can guide you through the process, ensuring that your rights are protected and you get the best possible outcome.
If you believe you’ve been discriminated against in the workplace, seeking legal advice is a crucial step. You don’t have to handle this complex legal situation by yourself. Let LegalMatch help you find the right attorney who understands California employment laws and can advocate on your behalf in court if necessary.