Employment discrimination and harassment can make for long, gruesome days at work. In a professional environment, employers are expected to uphold a workplace marked by respect and free of discrimination. Unfortunately, discrimination in the workplace is commonplace and occurs in nearly every industry. Discrimination can significantly impact the careers of employees and can be based on their age, sex, race, religion and many other factors. Let us help you get back on track if you’ve experienced employment discrimination in San Diego.
No one expects to have to deal with discrimination or harassment, but unfortunately some employers and co-workers choose to break the law. When you have experienced discriminatory or harassing treatment in the workplace, it can severely impair your ability to lead a normal life. Fortunately, the experienced attorneys at Walker Law are here to help if you live in the San Diego area.
If you have been discriminated against in the workplace, you need an experienced attorney on your side.
At Walker Law Firm, we can help. We work to empower employees to feel confident that they ask their employers to treat them decently and fairly and to hold them accountable if they do not. Contact our San Diego discrimination attorneys today for your free consultation.
Discrimination and harassment occurs when an employee, applicant, or individual has experienced unfair or unsavory treatment in the workplace because based on the following:
Sometimes the workplace discrimination or harassment happens covertly through unfair treatment. In other instances, the discrimination or harassment happens openly, even in front of witnesses. If the discrimination or harassment was perpetrated by a co-worker, the employer can be held liable if the employee notified the employer.
The United States Congress has passed numerous laws protecting employees from discrimination. Important laws to know include:
The majority of federal discrimination laws are enforced by the U.S. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the United States Justice Department (DOJ). Requirements for each law will differ depending. The Equal Pay Act, for example, is broad and applies to nearly all employers. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is more specific and applies to local governments, employment agencies, labor unions, and private employers with 15 or more employees.
What all of these laws share is the idea of protecting employees from discrimination based on specific characteristics. In fact, all of these characteristics are listed in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, and the subsequent laws have just afforded more specific protections to people with these characteristics. These characteristics are commonly referred to as “classes”.
As mentioned, not every unfair action an employer takes is against the law. Title VII protects employees from discrimination based on their membership in a protected class. Unlawful discrimination occurs when an employee faces unequal or unfair treatment because of their protected characteristics. Title VII specifically states that the following classes are protected:
California is one of the most progressive states in protecting employees. Under the California Fair Employment Housing Act (FEHA) (Section 12940 of the California Government Code), employers cannot refuse to hire or employ a person, refuse to select a person for a training program, discharge a person from employment or a training program, or discriminate against a person in determining compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment.
Employers with at least 5 employees are subject to FEHA. The Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) enforces state law and handles complaints.
California has some of the country’s most stringent labor laws. California state laws supplement the protections afforded the federal protections of Title VII. The Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) adds the following protected classes to the list:
Unlawful discrimination may be direct, indirect, intentional, or unintentional.
Direct discrimination occurs when your employer specifically targets you because of your protected characteristic. Typical examples include:
In the case of indirect discrimination, a company policy does not specifically target any group but has the effect of disadvantaging someone because of their protected class. Examples include:
To establish indirect discrimination, an employee must demonstrate not only that the employee is a member of a group affected by the policy, but also that the policy disadvantages the employee. As expected, direct discrimination is easier to prove than indirect discrimination. Employers will try to claim that the policy was objectively justified by a genuine business need or demonstrating that the policy was reasonable to achieve the business’s goals.
Damages in discrimination cases exist to put the employee back in the position that they would have been in had they not been discriminated against. An employer could potentially be held liable for back and front pay, lost benefits, pension, reinstatement, and compensatory and punitive damages. While reinstatement of the employee in his or her original job is often difficult due to tarnished relations, attorney and filing fees are also a potential recoverable cost.
In cases where a person’s damages are severe enough, pain and suffering could potentially be claimed. Additionally, punitive damages may be sought if an employee can demonstrate that the defendant’s actions amounted to oppression, fraud, or malice. Employers could also be required to pay damages as a result of illegal actions such as terminating an employee or failing to pay an employee fairly
At Walker Law, we can help with many types of employment discrimination claims in the San Diego area.
If you believe that you or a family member has experienced these or similar events in the workplace, it is essential that you obtain solid legal representation from the specialist discrimination and harassment attorneys at Walker Law. Contact us today to discuss your workplace discrimination and harassment case during a free consultation.
Employment discrimination in San Diego can occur without your knowledge. To help you better understand it, we’ve put together a list of questions to get you started.
Discrimination is where an individual is treated differently or unequally as compared to others due to one or more protected characteristics.
Employment discrimination can be experienced during hiring, promotion, training, job assignment, termination, or compensation, or can be in retaliation or in relation to wages, benefits or various types of harassment.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the body responsible for enforcing federal laws that protect individuals against discrimination in the workplace.
While federal laws state that all U.S. employers of 15 or more employees must adhere to EEOC laws, in California this law is more stringent, applying anti-discrimination laws to all employers with 5 or more employees. This is with the following three exceptions:
Some examples of workplace discrimination include:
In all 50 U.S. states, Employment Discrimination laws protect employees from discrimination based on an individual’s:
In addition to the grounds above, California state law also prohibits discrimination based on:
In addition to it being illegal to discriminate on the grounds of one of the characteristics listed above, it is also illegal to discriminate against an individual because they have:
First, let us define what direct evidence and circumstantial evidence is.
Direct evidence can include statements by either managers or supervisors that directly link to the action taken according to the protected class.
An example would be where an employee is fired due to being over 40, with the manager stating that the company wants a younger brand image. In this instance, the evidence might be in the form of verbal statements, or in written documents (a memo, for example).
In the majority of cases employees have little chance of having direct evidence against an employer, so it usually falls to circumstantial evidence to prove a case.
The following examples may be cases where there is sufficient circumstantial evidence to bring a case:
If your case reaches court, rather than being settled beforehand, it is to be expected that your employer will deny discriminating against you. In court, your employer has the right to provide a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for the action taken against you. If their reason is deemed illegitimate you will have proven discrimination.
However, an employer, in most instances, will provide a legitimate reason. Should this happen, the burden is on you to offer additional evidence.
If your employer provides a reason for the action taken, you will then be required to prove that it is either pretext or a cover up. This could be demonstrated by showing:
Proving that you’ve been the victim of discrimination in the workplace requires approximately the same amount of evidence regardless as to what characteristics the employer is alleged to have discriminated against.
Step 1: Stating the employee’s position
First, the employee must demonstrate:
Step 2: The employer’s response – their position
In response, the employer is required to provide a legitimate reason as to why the adverse employment action took place. Let’s take an example…
A black male employee states that he was dismissed due to his race. In return, the employer states that they were restructuring due to strained financial circumstances. This would be considered a legitimate reason.
Step 3: Proving pretext
During the third stage the employee must then demonstrate that the employer’s reason is not legitimate, and that their response is “pretext”.
Continuing with our example, the employee may demonstrate that his job role wasn’t eliminated by proving that on the same day or shortly after, the employer undertook interviews for the same position.
Step 4: Proving discrimination
In the past, the example above would have been sufficient to prove discrimination. However, following a number of court cases the law now dictates that the employee must provide demonstrable proof as to the discrimination in the workplace – thus, simply proving that the given reason is not legitimate is no longer enough.
A note on pretext
In the case of Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Products Inc., the plaintiff’s burden of proving discrimination was alleviated. Previous to this, if the employee proved discrimination, the employer could then demonstrate a legitimate non-discriminatory reason for the action. Following this, the employee would then have to prove pretext that the genuine reason behind the action was discriminatory.
This test case simplified the process for the plaintiff. Now, they simply need to prove the employer’s explanation was pretext.