San Francisco Discrimination Lawyers
Have you been discriminated against while working in San Francisco? Through a combination of federal, state, and local laws, discrimination based on protected categories such as gender, race, religion, age, disability, sexual orientation in the workplace is illegal. Through the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), California has some of the most comprehensive anti-discrimination laws in the country and local city laws may provide even further protection; San Francisco, for example, has a law which prohibits discrimination of an employee because of his or her height or weight.
At Rukin Hyland in San Francisco, our attorneys represent those who have suffered the following types of discrimination at work:
- Age Discrimination
- Disability Discrimination
- National Origin Discrimination
- Pregnancy Discrimination
- Race Discrimination
- Religious Discrimination
- Sex and Gender Discrimination
- Sexual Orientation Discrimination
DISCRIMINATION CHARGE STATISTICS IN CA (2009-2016)
What Workers are Protected by Anti-Discrimination Laws?
- Employees. Anyone who was hired by the employer and works under their direction.
- Job Applicants. If someone has applied for work or expresses interest in applying for a position, they have rights under California Law.
- Temporary Employees. In most cases, temps are protected under California Law and can hold both the temp agency and business they were employed by accountable for discrimination.
- Unpaid Interns. Although generally not considered employees, they are protected from discrimination under California Law.
Workers not Protected
- Independent Contractors. Unless they have been misclassified, contractors are not employees and therefore not protected against discrimination.
- Volunteers. Without the expectation of pay, volunteers are not protected from discrimination.
Starting a Discrimination Case in San Francisco
It is unlawful to treat an employee differently on account of their protected status in recruitment, hiring, promotion, work assignments, wages, benefits, leave, discipline, and termination. To prove a discrimination claim, one generally must show that:
- He or she was an employee, job applicant, temp, or unpaid intern of the employer
- The company employs five or more individuals
- There was an adverse employment action—for example, he or she was unlawfully fired, demoted, or lost pay
- That his or her protected status was the substantial motivating factor
As stated above, an employee must do more than show that an employer’s decision is unfair or wrong — employees must have evidence that the action was motivated by discriminatory bias. For example, when an employer’s stated reason for firing an employee is workplace misconduct, an employee may prove discrimination in part by showing that the employer did not fire others who engaged in the same misconduct.
The following types of conduct could be considered discriminatory:
- Using certain recruitment practices, such as relying on word-of-mouth advertising or sending job postings for the purpose of excluding people
- Requesting that an employment agency refer only applicants who are of a particular status
Hiring and Promotion
- Using selection criteria in the hiring process that have a significant discriminatory effect without being able to prove that the criteria are job-related
- Relying on the discriminatory preferences of coworkers, customers or clients as the basis for an decision on employing an individual
- Requiring a specific “corporate look” or “image” policy as a proxy for discriminatory preferences or prejudices in hiring and promotion decisions
- Assigning or refusing to assign individuals to certain positions, facilities, or locations; denying promotions; physically isolating employees or otherwise segregating workers into jobs
Discipline, Demotion, and Discharge
- Discharging employees based on illegal reasons instead of nondiscriminatory reasons, such as their quality or quantity of work
- Using customers’ or clients’ prejudices or preferences to justify discipline, demotion, or discharge decisions
- Harassing behaviors from supervisors, employees, customers, or commercial contacts that are (1) unwelcome and (2) so severe and pervasive that they “alter the conditions of the individual’s employment” by creating a hostile or abusive work environment
- Factors to consider include whether the conduct was hostile and/or offensive, whether the individual was physically threatened or intimidated, how frequently the misconduct was repeated, and the context in which the harassment occurred.
Can A Supervisor’s Comments Provide Evidence of Discriminatory Intent?
It is sometimes challenging to prove discriminatory intent. Evidence is required, obviously, but what kind? Courts have often talked about two kinds of evidence: direct and indirect.
- Direct evidence “typically consists of clearly sexist, racist, or similarly discriminatory statements or actions by the employer,” which proves an employer’s bias without any further inferences. Dominguez-Curry v. Nevada Transp. Dep’t, 424 F.3d 1027, 1038 (9th Cir. 2005) (citing Coghlan v. Am. Seafoods Co., 413 F.3d 1090, 1095 (9th Cir. 2005)).
- Indirect or “circumstantial” evidence usually involves showing that the employer’s articulated reason for the adverse employment decision is not credible. Id. at 1043. For example, in a race discrimination claim brought by an Asian worker supposedly fired for failing to submit an expense report, evidence that similarly situated non-Asian employees were not fired for the same supposed offense may constitute some indirect evidence of discriminatory bias.
Of course, a supervisor’s discriminatory comments may provide strong direct evidence of discrimination. When a supervisor exhibits discriminatory bias, it may be reasonable to conclude that the employment decision was motivated by unlawful bias. Id. at 1039-40 (citing Mondero v. Salt River Project, 400 F.3d 1207, 1213 (9th Cir. 2005). In fact, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has held that even “a single discriminatory comment by a plaintiff’s supervisor or decision maker is sufficient to preclude summary judgment for the employer.” Id. at 1039.
Statute of Limitations
Under both California and federal law, an employee who believes that he or she experienced discrimination first must file with the state or federal administrative agency before filing a lawsuit in court, pursuant to the FEHA’s statutory requirements. In California, employees have one year from discriminatory act to file with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). Alternatively, an employee may file a claim with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) within 300 days of the discriminatory act if the charge also is covered by a state or local anti-discrimination law. Anyone who is considering filing a discrimination claim should speak with an attorney to determine whether or not their employer has engaged in possible employment discrimination and what legal options they may have.
Damages in Discrimination Cases
An employee who wins a discrimination case can receive the following civil damages:
- Compensation for any unfair employment practices and money lost by those practices
- Attorneys fees and other litigation related expenses
- Future earnings or reinstatement of the employee’s position
- Emotional pain and suffering
- Punitive damages for gross cases of discrimination
Contact Our San Francisco Attorneys Today
Anti-discrimination laws exist to ensure that workers are treated fairly by their employers. If you believe you have been discriminated by a company or business in San Francisco, remember that there are strict deadlines on pursuing claims. Contact Rukin Hyland today to discuss the specifics of your case and let us help you fight for your rights.
“The expertise of Peter Rukin specifically, complemented by that of the firm, was extremely valuable in providing me with the tools required to successfully navigate the situation. Their professionalism with respect to each nuance of the situation, including the time-sensitive nature of it, is very appreciated.” – Adam