California workplace discrimination can be broadly explained as a job candidate or employee is treated unfavorably due to their age (if over 40), disability, genetic information, national origin, ethnicity, pregnancy, religion, race or skin color, or sex. Federal law make it illegal for employers to retaliate against applicants or employees who assert their right to be free of employment discrimination.
Here, our Riverside workplace discrimination lawyers explain the basics of employment discrimination laws.
One of the primary sources of our federal workplace anti-discrimination laws is Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This statutes makes it unlawful to discriminate during hiring, discharge, referral, promotion, termination, or any other aspect of employment on the basis of color, race, religion, sex, or national origin. Title VII is enforceable by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
In 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Title VII banned workplace discrimination against LGBT employees on the basis of their sexual orientation. (Prior to that, protections for LGBT workers was only specified in certain states, California being one of them.) Furthermore, federal subcontractors are required to implement affirmative actions to ensure equal employment opportunities regardless of sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, race, color, or religion.
Harassment v. Discrimination
Sometimes the terms “harassment” and “discrimination” are used interchangeably in reference to employment law, but they are a little different. Harassment is a form of discrimination. Some discrimination is harassment, but there are other kinds as well.
Discrimination is when one suffers an adverse employment action due to membership in a protected class, which may include age, race, gender, national origin, etc. Harassment is a level of mistreatment based on one’s protected class to the point of creating a hostile work environment.
Harassment involves unwanted behavior (physical, verbal, or suggested) that would make a reasonable person feel uncomfortable, mentally distressed, or humiliated. State laws set the bar at varying places for what actually constitutes harassment. In general, one-off jokes, minor annoyances, or simple slights probably don’t rise to the level of illegality.
Examples of harassment at work include:
- Offensive jokes, racial or sexual slurs, epithets or name-calling
- Physical or verbal assaults, including intimidation, threats, or ridicule
- Personal insults, presence of offensive objects or pictures, or conduct that interferes directly with an employee’s work performance
Proof of harassment does not require evidence of economic injury, discharge from employment, or even being the direct target of the behavior.
For example, if a man is fired – or never hired in the first place – because of his race, that is discrimination. However, if that same man is verbally abused at work, repeatedly called offensive names and made to feel unwelcome or unsafe, that is harassment. If the man went on to report the harassment and was fired as a result, this is known as retaliation.
Different Types of Workplace Discrimination
In California, workplace discrimination can be based on a myriad of factors, including one’s age, gender, race, ethnicity, skin color, national origin, physical or mental disability, genetic information, pregnancy or parenthood, or relationship to someone who may be discriminated against.
Some examples of employment discrimination include:
- Excluding prospective employees based on their belonging to a protected class.
- Suggesting preferred candidates outside of protected classes in job ads (i.e., specifying only applicants of one gender need apply).
- Denying certain employees equal compensation or key benefits that others receive.
- Paying equally-qualified employees in the same position far different salaries.
- Discrimination when assigning maternity leave, disability leave, or retirement options.
- Denying or disrupting use of company facilities.
- Discrimination when issuing promotions or layoffs.
Per the EEOC, most workplace discrimination claims are for retaliation, followed by sex discrimination, race discrimination, disability discrimination, age discrimination, national origin discrimination, color discrimination, and religious discrimination.
If you have been discriminated against or harassed at work in Riverside or elsewhere in Southern California, our dedicated employment lawyers can help.
Contact the employment attorneys at Nassiri Law Group, practicing in Newport Beach, Riverside and Los Angeles. Call 714-937-2020.
Bostock v. Clayton County, June 15, 2020, U.S. Supreme Court
More Blog Entries:
California Racial Discrimination Alleged by Utility Employees, April 7, 2022, Riverside California Discrimination Lawyer Blog