workplace discrimination in california

Creating a healthy and inclusive work environment is a vital aspect of modern business ethics. Employees have rights that protect them from various forms of discrimination or harassment, ensuring that the workplace is a fair playing field for all.


California, at the forefront of progressive labor laws, has a robust legal framework to combat discrimination in employment practices. Those who feel that they are being subjected to unfair treatment in the workplace may choose to file a lawsuit or claim with the help of a skilled employment attorney.



Understanding Workplace Discrimination

Discrimination occurs when someone is treated unfairly or harassed in a prejudicial way because of who they are.


In the context of the workplace, this could pertain to a variety of factors such as race, gender, age, national origin, disability status, and sexual orientation, among others. It’s important to understand what constitutes workplace discrimination in California, and how federal and state laws offer protection to individuals against such behavior.

Types of California Employment Discrimination

The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) is one of the most expansive anti-discrimination laws in the country. The act protects employees from discrimination based on the following categories:

  • Race
  • Color
  • National Origin
  • Ancestry
  • Physical or mental disability
  • Medical condition
  • Genetic information
  • Marital status
  • Sex
  • Gender
  • Gender identity
  • Gender expression
  • Age
  • Sexual orientation
  • Religious creed
  • Military and veteran status
  • Pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions
  • Crime Victim Status
  • Citizenship status
  • Status Or Perceived Status

Examples of Workplace Discrimination in California

examples of workplace discrimination in california

The following are specific examples of workplace discrimination that can occur in the State of California.

Hiring Practices

Unlawful Job Advertisements

An employer who specifies a preference for one protected category in a job advertisement without a legal basis, thereby deterring individuals who do not belong to that category from applying, is violating the law.

Recruitment Bias

Employers who make hiring decisions based on personal biases rather than the qualifications of the candidate are practicing discrimination. This might include making assumptions about a candidate’s abilities or suitability based on nationality or other protected categories.

Promotion and Pay Practices

Glass Ceiling

When employees are not promoted or given opportunities for advancement based on their protected status, such as due to their gender or race, it is a violation of California workplace discrimination laws.

Gender Wage Gap

Paying women less compared to men for equal work, which includes substantially similar work when viewed as a composite of skill, effort, and responsibility, under similar working conditions, is a form of discrimination under California wage laws.

Terminations and Layoffs

Disparate Treatment

Employees who are terminated or laid off because of discriminatory reasons instead of legitimate business needs may have a case of wrongful termination and workplace discrimination. Disparate impact discrimination occurs when seemingly neutral policies or practices disproportionately affect a protected group, such as women or people of color.

Age Discrimination in Layoffs

Companies laying off employees based solely on their age are practicing discrimination, particularly if the employment decision disproportionately affects older employees.

Anti-Discrimination Law: Legal Consequences for Workplace Discrimination in California

Employers who engage in workplace discrimination can face severe legal repercussions under both California law and federal law. This may include damages for lost pay, emotional distress, punitive damages, and attorney’s fees.


Employers and employment agencies may also be subject to court orders to change their practices, as well as state-imposed fines and criminal penalties for particularly egregious offenses.

Defenses and Legal Obligations

It is important for employers to establish non-discriminatory reasons for their employment actions and to understand and comply with anti-discrimination laws. Employers should also provide their employees with a way to raise concerns and be prepared to respond promptly and effectively to any discrimination complaints and allegations.

The Employee’s Role in Combating Discrimination and Harassment

Employees play a crucial role in preventing and addressing any type of discrimination in the workplace. This includes being aware of their rights under the law, recognizing potential instances of discrimination, and taking appropriate actions if they believe they have been the victims of unfair and unlawful treatment.

File a Complaint: Report and Prove Discrimination

Employees who believe they are victims of workplace discrimination in California can file a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) or the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).


They can also consult with an employment lawyer to discuss their options in filing a claim or a discrimination lawsuit.

Documenting Unfair Employment Practices

Keeping a record of discriminatory actions is important for any potential claims. Documentation may include emails, letters, or contemporaneous notes detailing the nature of the discrimination, the parties involved, and any witnesses.

Steps to File a Discrimination Lawsuit

  • Consult with an employment law attorney.
  • File a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH).
  • Obtain a “Right to Sue” notice from DFEH once the investigation is complete.
  • File a lawsuit in the appropriate California Superior Court.
  • Serve the complaint on the defendant(s).
  • Engage in pre-trial processes, including discovery and mediation.
  • Go to trial if the case is not settled during earlier stages.

Are You Being Treated Unfairly at Work? File a Discrimination Claim With the Help of a Skilled Employment Lawyer in California.

Workplace discrimination is a serious issue that can have lasting effects on individuals and businesses. By understanding what constitutes discrimination and the mechanisms in place to address it, employers and employees in California can work together to create a more equitable and just workplace.


If you’re in California and believe you have experienced discriminatory treatment during your job search or actual employment, contact an experienced labor law attorney. For California employers, engaging with legal counsel to develop non-discriminatory policies and handle complaints can help protect and improve your business reputation.


RTM Law Firm specializes in employment law and personal injury in California, and we are ready to assist employees or employers with discrimination claims.


Your fair and inclusive workplace is our priority. Get the right advice – contact RTM Law Firm’s discrimination attorneys today. Free and confidential. Call (855) 786-9467.




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