According to California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”), it is illegal for an employer who has five or more employees to discriminate against prospective job candidates or current employees because of a protected trait. It is also illegal to retaliate against them if they attempt to exercise their rights under the law. The Act applies to all types of employers, including both public and private sector employers, employment agencies, and labor organizations.
The Act also makes it illegal to harass an employee, intern, applicant, volunteer, or independent contractor due to a protected trait. It prohibits any form of harassment in all work environments, even those that employ less than five workers.
Although there are some other state and federal laws that provide definitions and guidelines for what qualifies as employment discrimination in California, FEHA is the primary source of law that governs employment discrimination cases.
One final important detail to note about employment discrimination in California is that FEHA, along with many other civil rights laws, are mainly enforced by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (“DFEH”). Thus, if you need to file a claim regarding employment discrimination or harassment, the DFEH is the first government agency you should visit to initiate the complaint process.
How Do California Employment Laws Define Multiple Factor Employment Discrimination?
In most employment law cases that concern employment discrimination, the case will only center around a single characteristic of the employee who is being discriminated against. For example, in a typical employment law matter, a worker may be discriminated against based on their age, race, sex, gender, or national origin, but usually not because of every characteristic that receives legal protection.
In a case involving multiple factor employment discrimination, however, an employer may discriminate against a worker due to one or more of these legally protected traits. Specifically, in the state of California, an employer may be sued for multiple factor employment discrimination if they make decisions about hiring, firing, or promoting a worker because of certain characteristics.
Under California employment law, the traits or characteristics that are shielded by anti-discrimination regulations include ancestry, color, national origin, race, age, religion, physical and mental disabilities, genetic information, medical conditions, sex, gender, marital status, pregnancy, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, military or veteran status, and/or criminal conviction history.
There are also certain acts that are prohibited by California’s labor laws and may qualify as unlawful discrimination. Such acts may include:
- Failing to make reasonable accommodations for a worker who has a disability;
- Failing to accommodate a worker’s religious preferences;
- Failing to accommodate a lactation break for a worker who is nursing;
- Discriminating against a worker based on a language barrier or immigration status;
- Discriminating against a worker because of their political preferences or activities;
- Failing to prevent discrimination from occurring in the workplace, and/or
- Harassing a worker or creating a hostile work environment.
So, for example, if an employee could prove that their employer terminated them strictly based on their political preferences, veteran status, and sexual orientation, then the employee would most likely be able to sue their employer for multiple factor employment discrimination.
An employer may also be sued for employment discrimination if they have certain policies or practices that discriminate against a legally protected group of persons.
What are Some California Laws Against Employment or Job Discrimination?
Aside from the FEHA, another important employment discrimination law in California is known as the Unruh Civil Rights Act (“Unruh Act”). Specifically, the Unruh Act prevents certain business establishments (e.g., hotels) from discriminating against protected persons.
Since its passing, the Unruh Act has increased the number of protected traits that are legally protected by law and has also banned businesses from engaging in sexual harassment or retaliatory acts towards individuals.
Another major anti-discrimination law is the California Family Rights Act (“CFRA”). This law requires employees that have five or more employees to allow those who are eligible to take family or medical leave for up to four months if they need to care for a sick or disabled family member, have to manage a personal health issue, and/or have recently given birth to or adopted a child.
Additionally, there are also many federal laws and state statutes that may apply in an employment or job discrimination case. Some other California laws that protect against employment or job discrimination include:
- Civil Code 51.9 (i.e., a statute on sexual harassment in professional relationships);
- The Ralph Civil Rights Act;
- The Disabled Persons Act; and
- The California Trafficking Victims Protection Act.
What are Common Examples of Workplace Discrimination?
As discussed above, workplace discrimination can occur when an employer fails to hire, fire, or promote a worker for a reason that is related to a protected trait. For example, if an employer refuses to hire a prospective job candidate only because of their religious and political preferences, then the job candidate may be able to sue them for employment discrimination.
Another common example of workplace discrimination may occur when an employer does not promote an employee because of their race or gender, and then awards it to an employee who is less qualified, but is of a different race or gender. For instance, if an employee only promotes male workers because they do not like females, then this would likely constitute an act of discrimination.
One final example of when an employee may find that an employer has discriminated against them is if they fail to reasonably accommodate a worker’s physical disability or for a nursing employee’s lactation break. For example, California employers must permit nursing employees to not only take lactation breaks, but also must provide an area that is specifically used for such purposes and is separate from a restroom.
What are the Remedies for Multiple Factor Job Discrimination in California?
There are a number of different remedies that may be available to a California employee who has been the victim of multiple factor job discrimination in the workplace. Some of the most common types of legal remedies that a prevailing plaintiff to an employment discrimination lawsuit may be able to recover include:
- Being hired or reinstated to their initial position;
- Getting a promotion or a raise;
- Receiving back pay (i.e., past lost earnings) or front pay (i.e., future lost earnings);
- Obtaining various monetary damages awards (e.g., compensatory, punitive, general, etc.);
- Having their attorneys’ fees and/or court costs paid by the losing party;
- Requiring an employer to make changes to their company policies; and
- Receiving the necessary training or previously requested reasonable accommodations to perform the main functions of a job properly.
Should I Hire a California Lawyer for My Multiple Factor Employment Discrimination Case?
Multiple factor employment discrimination cases tend to involve very complex issues. Such cases are heavily dependent on facts, may involve several parties, and will most likely require in-depth knowledge of various areas of employment law. Thus, if you believe you have been subjected to multiple factor employment discrimination or harassment, then you should strongly consider hiring a California employment lawyer for further legal guidance.
A lawyer who has experience in handling California employment discrimination cases can walk you through the process of submitting a discrimination claim. They can also make sure that you file it with the appropriate government agency, and can confirm that you have exhausted all administrative remedies before filing a lawsuit in civil court.
If you have already exhausted all administrative remedies, then your lawyer can review the facts of your case and can determine whether you have a viable claim. If they decide you have a strong enough case, then your lawyer can assist you in preparing and filing a lawsuit against your employer as well.
Your lawyer can also discuss other possible options for legal recourse, can explain what rights you have under California employment laws, and can help ensure that those rights are protected. Additionally, your lawyer can provide representation in court, before an administrative law judge, and/or at a settlement conference.
Lastly, regardless of which method you choose to resolve your issue, your lawyer can aid you in recovering any potential damages or legal remedies that you might be owed.