Facing Discrimination at Work?
Let our Los Angeles Discrimination Lawyers Help
The workplace provides an amazing potpourri, converging people from diverse cultures, gender, race, age group and nationality under a single roof. Apart from the fact that the employees are working for the same organization, their disparities and differences are more striking. Workers may vary in their efficiency levels and some might be at the pinnacle of their capabilities while some others prove to be a debacle. This at times breeds favoritism and prejudice in the employers resulting in illegal dismissals and discriminations. Apart from this, workers may single out their co-workers on the grounds of religion, race, or sex. Discrimination takes manifold ramifications and anything like ancestry, physical disability, mental disability, medical condition, marital status, or sex can be a ground for differential treatment. Employees are entitled to a dignified exit in the event of firing and an equitable treatment while being part of the organization. California laws are well equipped to handle these workplace inequities, including age discrimination, disability discrimination, national origin discrimination, pregnancy discrimination, racial discrimination, sex and gender discrimination, and sexual orientation discrimination.
The Legal Scenario
California laws protect employees from discrimination because of their race, color, national origin, religion, age, disability, pregnancy, sex and sexual orientation. In addition, employers cannot terminate employees for certain public policy reasons. Discrimination takes manifold forms like disparate treatment and disparate impact. The former means discrimination against a person differently because of a protected class, like sex or race. Slurs, offensive “jokes” and comments, or other actions against people in protected classes would constitute unlawful discrimination if such conduct creates an intimidating or offensive working environment, affects the performance levels. “Disparate impact is where a company policy excludes certain individuals from the job or from promotions”. The anti-discrimination law also protects whistle blowers also and an employer cannot dismiss or demote an employee for whistle blowing.
FEHA Prohibitions and Remedies
California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) prohibit employers from discriminating. To be stopped from discrimination, a private employer needs to have at least five employees and a public employer needs to have only one employee. Non-profit corporations and associations also come under FEHA prohibitions as long as they employ people. Employees who are subject to unlawful termination and harassment may be able to recover past lost wages and other benefits, future lost wages and benefits, general damages which include emotional distress and pain and suffering, punitive damages and attorney’s fees.
Dumping the Worn-outs
Both the federal law as well as the FEHA prohibits age discrimination in the workplace. FEHA makes it illegal for employers to refuse to hire or employ, or to discharge, dismiss, reduce, suspend, or demote, any individual who is at least 40 years old because of age or to harass an employee or applicant for employment because of age. People under forty years old are not protected.
Employers are always cautious of the purse strings. If a relatively junior employee is capable of providing the same quality work done by a highly paid senior employee, the employer might replace the senior with the employee with less experience. However, if wage considerations are not the real motivator and the employer wants to dump a veteran employee under the garb of such replacement, it would be illegal under California law. It is not illegal to replace people who are making high wages with people who will make less because they have less seniority. Here, the employee must prove that it is the age, not the wages, which is motivating the employer to fire the older workers. Thus, it is illegal to replace a person over 40 with a person under 40, if age is the reason.
However, this practice has to be distinguished from the layoffs as part of downsizing. The employees who agree to take early retirement are offered special packages and are called “golden handshakes”. Though this is no age discrimination per se, if it is intended to get rid of older workers just because of their age, it is illegal.
Of late, individual identities and sexual orientations are becoming a subject matter of workplace rights. The reluctance of the society to absorb people with a different sexual orientation was reflected in the employment sector also and the violation of the rights of gay and lesbian employees received a cold response, as there was little in the law to safeguard their interests. Winds of change have swept over these prejudices and currently thirteen states including California have laws prohibiting sexual orientation discrimination in both private and public jobs. The other states are Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Wisconsin. Seven states have laws prohibiting sexual orientation discrimination in public employment only: Illinois, Indiana, Montana, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Washington. An executive order specifically outlaws discrimination based on sexual orientation in the federal government. There is no federal law that prohibits this type of discrimination in private employment. However, a private employer cannot evade responsibility citing the absence of federal regulation. The employer has to follow the law prohibiting sexual orientation discrimination in the state where his/her business operations are based. A prudent employer needs to be cautious even if there is no express prohibition under the state law. The employee can bring a suit for discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation under myriad theories like intentional or negligent infliction of emotional distress, harassment, assault, battery, invasion of privacy, defamation, interference with employment contract, and termination in violation of public policy.
Employers in California have a duty to prevent racial discrimination in the workplace, and to protect employees from retaliation if they complain about racial harassment or discrimination. If an employer does retaliate, an employee has grounds for a lawsuit. Employees who are subject to racial discrimination may be entitled to remedies like past lost wages and other benefits, future lost wages and benefits, general damages including emotional distress and pain and suffering, punitive damages and attorney’s fees.
A segregating workplace environment mars the productivity of the employees and the employer should take the proactive measures to assure equity by all means. To prevent disparities from widening is crucial for the smooth functioning of the organization and a congenial and cordial working ambiance will enhance productivity. If you have faced discrimination, please contact a Los Angeles discrimination attorney at our law firm today.