Whether you apply for a job or already have one, your employer must provide you with an application process and work environment free from discrimination. Here in California, the Fair Employment and Housing Act enforces those protections.
FEHA applies to employment agencies, private and public employers with more than five employees, and labor organizations. If you suspect your employer, or a prospective employer, of discrimination, you may benefit from understanding your rights and legal options.
Who does California law protect?
FEHA prohibits a prospective or current employer from discriminating against you based on the following:
- Genetic information
- National origin
- Sexual orientation
- Medical condition
- Marital status
- Physical or mental disability
- Gender identity
- Military or veteran status
- Gender expression
If you fall into one of these categories and the evidence shows that your employer discriminated against you as a result, you may be able to file a complaint. The law further prohibits your employer from retaliating against you for filing such a complaint, which includes firing you.
When does California law prohibit discrimination?
FEHA prohibits employers from discriminating against current or prospective employees during any of the following:
- Work conditions
- Separating employees
Employers may not discriminate against anyone when it comes to internship programs, apprenticeships, unions or employee organizations.
What legal remedies does California law provide?
Upon proving a discrimination claim, the law allows you to pursue the following legal remedies:
- Past lost earnings
- Future lost earnings
- Reasonable accommodations
- Out-of-pocket expenses
- Policy changes
- Punitive damages
- Damages for emotional distress
- Attorney’s fees and costs
Depending on your case, you may receive one or more of these remedies. Of course, you must prove your claim before the court will consider awarding you any damages. This often requires a thorough investigation into your claim. Gathering written or electronic communications, talking to potential witnesses such as co-workers, and a review of your employer’s policies and procedures is often a good place to start.
Even though you are filing a claim in connection with your own experiences, you may discover that the discrimination your employer subjected you to also extended to other employees or applicants. If so, you may help make positive changes for others who suffered as you did by pursuing your claim.