San Francisco Workplace Discrimination Lawyers
Types of Workplace Discrimination
Both California and federal law prohibit discrimination in the workplace on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age, and disability. California law also prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, or medical condition (i.e., cancer or genetic characteristics). Local laws in California may provide even further protection; for example, San Francisco prohibits discrimination against or harassment of an employee because of his or her height or weight.
At Rukin Hyland, our attorneys represent employees who have suffered unlawful discrimination at work, including for the following types of claims:
Sex and Gender Discrimination
The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) and Title VII prohibit discrimination or unfair treatment on the basis of an employee’s sex. The federal Equal Pay Act and California’s recently passed Fair Pay Act both prohibit employers from paying employees of one sex less than employees of another sex. Specifically, California’s Fair Pay Act prohibits disparities in pay for “substantially similar” work. For more details on California’s Fair Pay Act and equal pay protections, see our recent blog post.
See also: Types of Gender Discrimination
Sexual Orientation Discrimination
There are currently no federal laws protecting LGBTQ individuals from discrimination in the workplace based on their sexual orientation. However, the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) prohibits employment discrimination because of sexual orientation. In California, it is also illegal for an employer to discriminate against an employee because of assumptions about sexual orientation. For example, it would be illegal for an employer to fire an employee because the employer believes that the employee is gay, regardless of whether that belief is correct.
It is unlawful under both California and federal laws to fire or discriminate against a woman because of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. Discriminatory actions taken because of pregnancy or childbirth can include treating pregnancy-related disability differently than other types of disability.
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and FEHA, it is illegal to discriminate against a worker because of his or her physical or mental disability, or because he or she is perceived to have a disability. Employers must provide a reasonable accommodation to qualified employees with disabilities so long as the accommodation does not cause an “undue hardship” for the employer. Employers and employees must also participate in a good faith, interactive process to determine a reasonable accommodation, which may require employers to provide disabled employees with a medical leave of absence above and beyond the leave provided by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and California Family Rights Act (CFRA). Find out more on disability discrimination and how our attorneys can help.
Under both California and federal law, it is unlawful to discriminate against an employee because of his or her religion or religious practices, including religious dress. Title VII even requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for their employees to participate in his or her religious practices.
Race and National Origin Discrimination
Under both California and federal law, it is unlawful for an employer to discriminate against an employee because of the employee’s race, color, ancestry, or national origin. National origin means the country an employee was born or whether his or her ancestor came from.
Under FEHA and the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), it is illegal for an employer to discriminate against an employee based on age. To qualify for the protections of this law, the employee must be 40 years of age or older.
What Actions Qualify as Illegal Employment Discrimination?
To prevail in a discrimination case, the employee must show that the employer took an “adverse employment action” against the employee, and that the adverse employment action was motivated by discrimination. Examples of adverse employment actions include:
- Termination or firing
- Constructive discharge (i.e. where the working environment became so intolerable the employee feels he or she must resign)
- Demotion, transfer, or unfavorable job assignment
- Reduction in pay (more wage and hour information here)
- Failure to interview or hire
- Denying promotion or advancement
- Any other employment decision that materially affects the terms and conditions of employment
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 other employees who engaged in the same misconduct.
Keep in mind that there are strict deadlines on pursuing discrimination claims. In California, employees have one year from the discriminatory act to file a charge with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH), a necessary prerequisite to filing a lawsuit.