Discrimination Laws in the Los Angeles Workplace
Discrimination is an unfortunate reality in many workplaces in Los Angeles and throughout California. California state and federal laws provide protections against workplace discrimination. Discrimination can take many forms, including, but not limited to, age, race, gender, religion, disability, sexual orientation, and veteran status. Top Los Angeles employment lawyers can help you understand your legal rights and options if you have been the victim of discrimination in the workplace.
California’s Legal Framework
Workplace discrimination is prohibited by various state and federal laws in California. These laws aim to promote equal opportunities and prohibit employers from making employment decisions based on discriminatory factors. Federal laws apply to employers with 15 or more employees, while California’s anti-discrimination laws apply to employers with five or more employees.
Purpose of Workplace Anti-Discrimination Laws
Anti-discrimination laws were created to ensure that individuals have equal opportunities in the workplace. The laws prohibit employers from discriminating against employees based on certain factors, including race, gender, age, religion, and disability.
California’s Law Protecting Against Discrimination
California’s primary anti-discrimination law is the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). FEHA prohibits discrimination in employment based on several factors, including veteran status, age (for employees over 40 years), sexual orientation, disability, gender, and religion, including race. FEHA protects employees from discrimination in all aspects of employment, including hiring, firing, promotions, and working conditions.
The Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) enforces FEHA’s protections, and it has the power to investigate and prosecute claims of discrimination. All employers in California with five or more employees must comply with FEHA.
Federal Laws Protecting Against Discrimination
Several federal laws also protect employees from discrimination in the workplace, including:
- The Genetic Information Non-discrimination Act of 2008.
- The Age Discrimination Act.
- The Equal Pay Act of 1963.
- The Americans with Disabilities Act.
- The Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces these laws and has the power to investigate and prosecute claims of discrimination.
Determining Which One Applies
When bringing a claim in court, consider several factors, including the location of the workplace, the size of the employer, and the type of discrimination involved. In some cases, both state and federal laws may apply, which can make it challenging to determine which laws to pursue.
The Two Main Types of Discrimination Cases
There are two primary categories of discrimination claims, including:
- Disparate Treatment Discrimination
Disparate treatment discrimination occurs when an employer treats an employee differently because of their membership in a protected class, such as their race, gender, or religion. The key elements of a disparate treatment claim include the following:
- The employee belongs to a protected class.
- The employee was qualified for the job or position.
- The employee was subject to an adverse employment action such as termination, demotion, or failure to hire.
Similarly, situated employees who are not members of the protected class were treated more favorably.
- Disparate Impact Discrimination
Disparate impact discrimination occurs when an employer engages in a policy or practice that harms members of a protected class, even if the policy or practice appears neutral on its face.
A typical example of disparate impact discrimination is a company’s requirement for a certain level of education or experience that disproportionately affects members of a particular race. Your discrimination attorney in Los Angeles must prove the following beyond a reasonable doubt:
- Your employer engaged in a policy or practice that harmed a protected class.
- The policy or practice was not job-related or necessary for business purposes.
- There were alternatives to the policy or practice that would have had less of an adverse impact.
The Employers that Can Be Held Liable
California’s anti-discrimination laws apply to employers who regularly employ five or more people. This includes both public and private employers, as well as employment agencies and labor organizations. However, certain religious nonprofit associations and corporations may be exempt from the law, but only if they do not have a subdivision that is for-profit.
Supervisors are usually not held personally liable for discriminatory practices under California law, and agents of covered employers are also considered employers. In contrast, a franchisor is typically not considered an employer or agent under California law. Still, a franchisor can be held liable for unlawful activities if they exercise control over the day-to-day operations of the franchised location.
Employers with Five or More People
California’s anti-discrimination laws do not apply to very small employers who do not regularly employ five or more people. Under California law, “employer” means any person who employs five or more people or who receives the services of five or more people under a contract of employment.
Regular employment means that the person works for the employer for each working day in each of twenty or more calendar weeks in the current or preceding calendar year.
Certain religious nonprofit associations and corporations may be exempt from California’s anti-discrimination laws, but only if they do not have a subdivision that is for-profit. This exception does not apply to non-religious entities, even if they are nonprofit.
If the religious organization has a for-profit subdivision, that subdivision would not be exempt from California’s anti-discrimination laws.
Agents of Covered Employers
Agents of covered employers are also considered employers under California’s anti-discrimination laws. This includes managers, supervisors, and other employees who are authorized to act on behalf of the employer.
Supervisors are Usually Not Personally Liable
Supervisors are typically not held personally liable for discriminatory practices under California law. Instead, the employer is generally held liable for any discriminatory practices that occur within the workplace. However, if a supervisor engages in discriminatory behavior, they may be subject to disciplinary action by their employer.
State and Local Governments
State and local governments are subject to California’s anti-discrimination laws, just like private employers. However, there are some exceptions to this rule. For example, the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) does not apply to elected officials or their staff.
California’s anti-discrimination laws only apply to employers, not coworkers. However, if a coworker is engaging in discriminatory behavior and the employer fails to take appropriate action, the employer could be held liable for the co-worker’s actions.
As an employee in California, it is essential to understand your rights under the state’s anti-discrimination laws. If you believe that you have been the victim of discrimination in the workplace, contact an employment lawyer to help you understand your legal rights and options. Remember, knowledge is power, and being aware of your rights and the law can help you protect yourself from discriminatory practices in the workplace.