Workplace discrimination is, unfortunately, very common. Employment discrimination takes many forms and can look different from case to case. Due to a number of reasons, including the lack of access to the necessary information, many employees who are subject to workplace discrimination simply take it – they allow themselves to be mistreated and do nothing to change their situation. Besides the lack of information, the fear of being fired or reprimanded in other ways is enough for some employees to keep putting up with the poor treatment.
Are you subject to discrimination in your place of work? If so, you might be dealing with a number of emotions – including desperation and frustration. However, it is important to remain calm and gather the necessary information to take action against your employer. Depending on the details surrounding your situation, you might have grounds to take legal action against your employer.
You are Protected by Anti-Discrimination Laws
It is important for all employees to be aware that there are a number of employment laws that protect them from discrimination in the workplace. In California, for example, the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) offers such protections. FEHA is enforced by the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). The DFEH is the employment agency responsible for enforcing employment laws and handling employment claims when they arise on the state level.
FEHA applies to public as well as private employers (with five or more employees); the act also applies to labor organizations and employment agencies. Based on FEHA, it is illegal for employers to discriminate against their employees based on any protected personal characteristic (or protected categories). Under FEHA, it is also illegal for employers to retaliate against their employees simply for asserting their employment rights. It is important to note that these protections also cover job applicants.
To understand to whom these anti-discrimination laws apply, we must understand the different protected categories as defined by the DFEH and FEHA. So, what are these protected personal characteristics or categories covered by FEHA?
The protected categories include the following:
- Color and race
- National origin and ancestry
- Creed and religion
- Age (only when over 40)
- Mental and physical disability
- Sexual orientation
- Gender expression and gender identity
- Sex or gender (which includes pregnancy, child labor, breastfeeding, and relevant medical conditions)
- Genetic information
- Medical condition
- Marital status
- Military status and veteran status
As previously mentioned, the protections offered by FEHA only apply to employers with five or more employees, public/private employers, apprentice training programs, labor organizations, and employment agencies.
What Should You Do?
If you were subject to discrimination in the workplace based on any protected personal characteristic, your employer violated your rights and should be held accountable. You can file a complaint with the DFEH as soon as possible. After filing a complaint with the DFEH, the employment agency will conduct an investigation. The investigation process consists of gathering evidence from both the sides. The investigation process typically includes thorough interviews with the parties directly involved with the complaint as well as any witnesses who are indirectly involved. The purpose of the investigation is to determine if the employer has violated FEHA. If the investigation concludes that the employer violated state employment laws, the DFEH can take legal action against the employer.
All employment claims in California must go through the DFEH. However, employers can file civil lawsuits directly against their employers. Before pursuing legal action, employers must be granted the right to sue from the DFEH. After receiving the right to sue, victimized employees can seek legal assistance from experts on workplace discrimination like the lawyers at Eldessouky Law.
You Could Be Compensated
If your claim against your employer is successful, remedies might be available. You could recover monetary compensation for lost wages (back pay and front pay), mental/emotional distress, legal fees, lost benefits (health insurance, retirement plans, etc.), and out-of-pocket costs. You could also potentially be awarded punitive damages.
In many cases, non-monetary remedies are also available. For instance, you might be hired or reinstated; you might also be promoted (if you were discriminatively denied a promotion, for example). If disabled, you might also be granted the reasonable accommodations necessary to help you perform your job. Policy changes as well as updated training methods might also result from a successful employment discrimination claim.
If you need one take away from this article-you should never be afraid to exercise your employment rights. For more information on filing an employment discrimination claim, contact our firm today.