Los Angeles Workplace Discrimination Lawyer
Every employee deserves to be treated fairly and equally in the workplace. However, sometimes employers will discriminate against their employees, denying them opportunities and benefits due to bias against a protected characteristic of their workers. Workplace discrimination is illegal and wrong and, at the Dolan Law Firm, our lawyers understand how stressful dealing with workplace discrimination can be for our clients. We provide compassionate advocacy and represent our clients to the fullest extent of the law in order to ensure that their rights are protected in the workplace.
What is Workplace Discrimination
Under California law, workplace discrimination is defined as treating an employee differently on the basis of a protected characteristic while performing acts that are part of the employer’s job description. The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) protects employees of all public and private employers, labor organizations, and employment agencies with five or more employees and applies to all business practices, including advertising, applications, screening, interviews, hiring, transferring, promoting, terminating, working conditions, compensation, and participation in training or apprenticeship programs, employee organizations, or unions.
California has one of the broadest set of protected characteristics in the country, making it one of the most employee-friendly states. In all fifty states, federal law makes it illegal to discriminate against an employee based on the following real or presumed characteristics:
- National origin;
- Religion or creed;
- Sex (including pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions);
- Disability (mental or physical);
- Age (over 40 years);
- Citizenship status; and
- Genetic information.
In addition to the federally listed protected classes, California has extended the definition of protected characteristics to also include the following:
- Sexual orientation;
- Gender identity or expression;
- Medical condition;
- Marital status; and
- Military or veteran status.
Types of Workplace Discrimination
There are two main types of workplace discrimination: disparate treatment and disparate impact.
It is important to note here that workplace discrimination differs from workplace harassment. Workplace harassment is defined as someone in the workplace mistreating another because of a protected characteristic when the mistreatment involves acts outside of the job description of the person committing the harassment. Examples of workplace harassment include interpersonal interactions such as sexual harassment, insensitive comments about race or national origin, or other biases that create a hostile work environment. While workplace harassment is a serious issue, it differs from the workplace discrimination described below.
- Disparate Treatment
Workplace discrimination happens often in the form of disparate treatment. This occurs when an employment action is taken by an employer against a single employee because of their protected characteristic. Examples of disparate include terminating an employee because of his race, only promoting males in the workplace, laying off the oldest employee first, or refusing to hire an applicant because of her sexual orientation.
- Disparate Impact
Workplace discrimination can also occur in the form of disparate impact. This happens when an employer’s actions create a policy that discriminates against an entire protected group of employees. To show disparate impact workplace discrimination, a plaintiff must show either that the employer has no business purpose related to the policy or that another, less discriminatory policy is possible but not deployed by the employer.
Examples of disparate impact in the workplace include counting all absences and leaves against seniority including time off after childbirth, which discriminates against all pregnant women, or mandating that a specific percentage of positions be filled by people who identify as minorities.
How to File a Workplace Discrimination Lawsuit
California law dictates a number of steps that must be completed before filing a workplace discrimination lawsuit in court. The first step is to report the discrimination to a supervisor or, if the supervisor is the one committing the discrimination, to their boss, the human resources department, or an equal opportunity officer.
If the situation is not resolved internally in the workplace, the next step is to file a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). This step may be waived if a complaint has already been filed with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The employee can ask the DFEH to conduct an administrative investigation into their claims or to issue a Right-to-Sue notice with the California court. By requesting a Right-to-Sue notice, the employee waives any DFEH investigation into the claims and allows their attorney to handle all aspects of evidence gathering for the lawsuit. An employee has one year from the date of the issued Right-to-Sue notice to file a workplace discrimination lawsuit in court.
Remedies for Workplace Discrimination
An employee who has been discriminated against in the workplace has a number of remedies under California law. Compensation for a workplace discrimination lawsuit can include the following damages:
- Back pay;
- Front pay;
- Hiring or reinstatement;
- Out-of-pocket expenses;
- Employment policy changes;
- Reasonable accommodations made in the workplace;
- Damages for emotional distress; and
- Attorneys’ fees.
In the most serious cases of workplace discrimination, punitive damages may also be awarded to the employee. Punitive damages are given above and beyond other compensation to punish the employer for their actions and to serve as a deterrent to other employers who may consider discriminating against their employees in a similar manner. In order to be awarded punitive damages, the behavior by the employer must be particularly willful and wanton towards the employee.
Reach Out to Our Workplace Discrimination Lawyers in Los Angeles
No one deserves to be mistreated and discriminated against in the workplace, and employers who do discriminate against their employees must be held accountable for their actions. The employment law attorneys at the Dolan Law Firm provide zealous and compassionate advocacy for their clients that have been discriminated against in the workplace so, if you are looking for a lawyer to help with your workplace discrimination case in the Los Angeles area, you have come to the right place. Call the office or contact us today to schedule a consultation of your claims.