What are the Laws Governing Employment Discrimination?

The federal law governing employment discrimination is called Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  In California, employment discrimination is covered under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). 

Who Can Bring a Discrimination Claim?

In California, the Fair Employment and Housing Act prohibits discriminatory employment practices toward, in most cases, “any person.”  Therefore, in California, it does not usually matter if the person who was discriminated against is an employee, intern, volunteer, applicant, or former employee.  Under federal law, compensation is an essential condition of the employer-employee relationship.  As such, under federal law, only employees and applicants can bring a claim under Title VII. 

What is Discrimination?

The Fair Employment and Housing Act, which is the law in California, prohibits an employer from taking any adverse action against a protected individual based on his or her:

  • Race
  • Religious creed (including religious dress and grooming practices)
  • Color
  • National origin
  • Ancestry
  • Physical or mental disability
  • Medical condition
  • Genetic information
  • Marital status
  • Sex
  • Gender
  • Gender identity
  • Gender expression
  • Sexual orientation
  • Military and veteran status
  • Age (if 40 or over)
  • Pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding or related medical conditions of any female employee

The California Fair Employment and Housing Act prohibits these unlawful employment practices by:

  • Employers
  • Labor organizations
  • Employment agencies
  • Apprenticeship programs or other training programs leading to employment or an unpaid internship

The federal law, Title VII, prohibits certain employers from discriminating against a protected individual because of his or her:

  • Race
  • Color
  • Religion
  • Sex
  • National Origin

The following conduct relating to terms and conditions of employment is unlawful:

  • Failing or refusing to hire
  • Failing or refusing to refer for employment
  • Discharging
  • Otherwise discriminating with respect to compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment

Should I Make a State or Federal Claim?

A person making an employment discrimination claim usually has the choice of suing under either Title VII or the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA).  However, the FEHA usually offers employees greater protection and relief.  In a FEHA claim, unlimited compensatory and punitive damages may be awarded.  In a Title VII claim, only limited damages are recoverable. 

Additionally, FEHA claims have other advantages.  For example, in federal court, the person making a claim (the Plaintiff) must win a unanimous jury verdict (i.e. each and every juror must vote in favor of the Plaintiff for the Plaintiff to win).  In a FEHA claim, the Plaintiff wins with 9 out of 12 jurors voting for him/her.

Therefore, it is often better for the person bringing the claim to proceed under the Fair Employment and Housing Act in California state court.

How Do I Prove I Was Discriminated Against?

Employers almost never admit that they engaged in discriminatory practices.  Therefore, you need an attorney with savvy investigative skills to ask the right questions and gather the essential evidence.  For example, your attorney should immediately begin taking depositions of other employees to see if they are aware of discriminatory practices by the employer/company.  Also, your attorney will need to examine other hiring and firing done by the employer just before and after you were discriminated against.  If the employer says they didn’t hire you because they actually didn’t need anyone else in that division, but it turns out that they hired someone for that same exact job a few weeks later, this can be circumstantial evidence that the employer was not truthful about why they didn’t hire you.

Additionally, your attorney should look to see if the employer/company has engaged in a pattern of discrimination.  For example, did the employer/company interview and reject three applicants in a row that were the same race or gender?  If so, the employer/company’s motives need to be investigated further.

Contact a Los Angeles Employment Discrimination Attorney

If you believe that you’ve been discriminated against, please contact our office so that we can give you a FREE, confidential, no obligation consultation.  We will gladly assist you in evaluating whether or not you have a valid claim, free of charge.  Further, if you suspect that your employer is engaging in unfair or discriminatory practices against you or your fellow employees, please give us a call for a FREE consultation to see if you have a case.

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