In California, state employment laws are generally stronger than federal laws and the vast majority of other states’ employment laws. Employees are strongly protected in California, because key California lawmakers, judges, attorneys, and voters see the importance of the work and support employees provide to all businesses and to our economy. In short, you are valued here, and your experience at work should be positive and healthy.
Unfortunately, despite these long-time protective laws, employees still constantly face discrimination, harassment, retaliation and more on the basis of a protected class. Employers engaging in such behavior will overwhelmingly only respond to legal action. We advise our clients to take all steps possible to resolve a situation prior to bringing a lawsuit. If that fails, we step in and aggressively defend your rights in the workplace.
Below are a list and short description of protected classes that should never be a factor affecting one’s environment or growth at work. Each of the following warrant legal action:
- Age: Individuals over 40 years old are protected under California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) and by federal law under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.
- Disability: A disability can be based on physical and/or mental impairment, and is protected at the workplace under the FEHA and the federal American with Disabilities Act (ADA.)
- Gender/Sex: Gender and sexual orientation cannot legally be factors when it comes to promotions, training, hiring, and firing. This includes being paid equally.
- Pregnancy: This is a form of gender discrimination. The law prohibits discrimination based on pregnancy, childbirth and related medical conditions under FEHA and the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA). Employers are also required to provide a place in the workplace for a breastfeeding mother to pump breastmilk (it cannot be a bathroom).
- Race/National Origin: Being discriminated against in the workplace because of your race, ethnicity, or national origin – even when simply perceived to be a certain race or ethnic group or associated with one – is unlawful.
- Religion: The law requires an employer to reasonably accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs and practice.
- Sexual Harassment: Any harassment directed at an employee based on gender, sexual orientation or gender expression is illegal. This can be outright unwanted sexual advances, comments, or interactions, or harassment that is not necessarily sexual but based on the fact that a co-worker or manager does not like you because of your gender, sexual orientation, or gender expression.
- Genetic Information: Biases toward a medical condition or disease that you can show are genetic (through medical/genetic records) occur often in employment – especially when they drive up the costs of employer insurance, or the genetically related disability requires the employer to provide accommodations.
- Retaliation: It is illegal for an employer to retaliate against employees who report problems (internally or to outside agencies), “whistleblow,” refuse to participate in what they reasonably believe to be illegal activity, and/or make complaints. The public policy behind this is that employees who do the right thing should be encouraged, not punished behind the scenes. California has multiple laws which offer protection and compensation to those brave enough to bring such things to light.
If you are facing any type of illegal activity in the workplace, the law is on your side. Please contact Potter Handy, Employment Rights Law Firm right away to assess your situation. We are here to help.