Workplace discrimination is absolutely unacceptable under all circumstances. If you have been fired from your job, laid off, been passed over for promotions or other opportunities based on your age, race, gender or any such personal characteristics, which are protected under state and federal laws, it is important that you speak with an experienced Los Angeles employment attorney about asserting your employee rights.
California and federal laws give workers the right to apply for jobs and to continue to do their job without the fear that they will be judged on personal characteristics rather than their professional qualifications and abilities. Every worker has the right to equal treatment in the workplace.
Employees have the right not to be fired or laid off because of who they are. Any violation of these rights amounts to workplace discrimination. If you have been discriminated against in the workplace, you can seek legal remedies under state or federal law.
Types of Workplace Discrimination
Discrimination refers to prejudicial treatment based on an employee's personal characteristics such as race, age, gender, religion, national origin, sexual orientation or disabilities, which might affect job decisions such as hiring, firing, layoffs, promotions, salary, job assignments, training or benefits.
State and federal discrimination laws protect both current workers and job applicants. Any employee who believes they have been discriminated against in the workplace can file a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and can even potentially file a workplace discrimination lawsuit against the employer.
Here are some of the most common types of discrimination in the workplace:
Age: The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) makes it a violation to discriminate against any current employee or job applicant over the age of 40. It is illegal to fire, lay off, demote or take any such adverse employment action against an employee because of his or her age.
Age discrimination can take many forms including an employer refusing to hire older workers in the first place or firing/laying off employees once they reach a certain age. Employers may also discriminate against existing employees by denying them promotions, training opportunities or other job-related perks.
Sex: Federal and state laws prohibit discrimination in the workplace that is based on an employee's gender or sexual orientation. Discrimination against an individual because of gender identity, including transgender status, or because of sexual orientation is discrimination because of sex in violation of Title VII.
Here are a few common examples of gender discrimination:
- Being held to different, often higher, standard because of your sex or because you don't adhere to common stereotypes assigned to your gender.
- Being paid less than a person of a different sex who is similarly or less qualified than you, or who has similar or fewer job duties than you.
- Not being hired or being given a lower-paying job because of your gender. This is often true at workplaces where women are only hired for certain jobs or are not given certain responsibilities because of their gender.
- Being denied a promotion, raise or training opportunity because of your gender.
- Being rejected for a job, forced out on leave or forced to quit because of your gender.
Race, religion and national origin: The Civil Rights Act of 1964 states that employers shall not discriminate against workers based on race or religion. The same law also requires employers to make reasonable accommodation for religious practices unless it presents an undue burden to the employer.
Employers are also prohibited under federal law from discriminating against employees or job applicants based on their national origin or perceived ethnic background. It is also a violation of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 to discriminate against a worker or applicant based on his or her citizenship or immigration status.
Disability: The Americans with Disability Act and the Rehabilitation Act require that employers cannot discriminate against current or prospective employees based on any type of physical or mental disability, or even a medical condition such as cancer. The employer is also required to make reasonable accommodations for disabled persons in the workplace such as constructing wheelchair ramps, providing ergonomic furniture, etc.
Under the law, pregnancy is considered a disability as well. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act prohibits employers from discriminating against women in the workplace due to pregnancy. The employer is required to provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant women when necessary.
Proving Discrimination in the Workplace
In order to prove discrimination in the workplace, there are several elements that must be proved:
Protected characteristics: Employees must show evidence that they have been treated unfairly or have been discriminated against because of "protected characteristics" such as age, race, gender, disability, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, etc. For example, an employer cannot discriminate against an employee based on the color of his or skin. An employee, for example, cannot be passed up for promotion or be deprived of training opportunities or opportunities for advancement because he or she is African-American. The law clearly states that people in these protected classes should not be treated differently than someone who is not a member of the class. You are legally protected from discrimination solely based on who you are.
Ability and qualifications: You must prove that you have the necessary qualifications to do your job and that you performed your job competently and with integrity. As Los Angeles employment attorneys, we often note that employers are quick to criticize employees' performance when the issue of discrimination is raised. In other words, they try to point a finger at the employee who is alleging discrimination to discredit him or her and to save their reputation.
But, if you can show that you have a track record of being an employee who persevered and performed well, your case will be strong. Some pieces of evidence you can present to prove your abilities include copies of performance appraisals showing how your supervisors rated you.
It would also be helpful to obtain letters of commendations from peers, clients or customers, which sheds light on your job performance.
Eyewitness testimony: If your employer has made any disparaging or discriminatory comments about you, talk to colleagues who may have overheard those comments or seek out others in your workplace who may have also been discriminated against for the same or different reason. Eyewitness testimony can be extremely valuable in California discrimination cases.
Impact of discrimination: It also helps to show evidence that the discrimination had a negative impact on your job and career. Examples of adverse employment decisions triggered by discrimination may include an employee being terminated or demoted; getting a poor performance review despite competent job performance; not getting raises or bonuses; and not receiving training opportunities. These negative actions are relatively easier to prove.
Lack of objectivity: Most companies have employee manuals clearly detailing how employees are evaluated on the job. Using these criteria, you can show how the discriminatory acts against you were not consistent with the principles and rules set forth in the company's employee manual. We often see that companies use subjective criteria such as an employee not "having the right attitude" or not "being a team player." However, criteria for making work-related determinations should be objective and quantifiable.
Pointing out inconsistencies in supervisors' statements can be helpful in discrimination cases. For example, have supervisors criticized you for not being a team player when you've received an award or commendation for having team spirit?
If you were lauded in the past for possessing a skill or carrying out a job and later criticized for not doing so, you may be able to show that your supervisors are making contradictory statements.
Pattern of Mistreatment: When you compare your treatment to that of those outside your protected class, do you see a significant difference? If that is the case, you may be able to show a pattern of unfair or discriminatory treatment at your place of work. You may be able to show that colleagues with similar qualifications and experience have been given better opportunities and projects that are more favorable.
For example, if you are a woman experiencing gender discrimination at work, you may be able to show that male workers with the same skills and experience are offered better training opportunities and promotions compared to female workers. You may also detect other patterns. For example, if your employer fired or laid off all workers over 50 years of age and brought in a new crop of younger workers who don't have to be paid as much as the senior employees, you may be able to prove that your employer discriminated based on your age.
Discrimination and retaliation: It is important for you to get it on the record that you don't appreciate being discriminated against. If your supervisor is retaliating against you by further mistreating you at work, it is important that you document such retaliation and report that as well. File a complaint with your human resources department and report your employer to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Contact an experienced Los Angeles workplace discrimination lawyer who will fight to protect your rights every step of the way.
What Steps Can You Take?
If you have been discriminated against or mistreated in the workplace, it is important that you protect your rights by taking the following steps:
Be objective when it comes to the evidence. In order to be successful with a discrimination claim, it is important to focus on the facts and details of the case, as opposed to emotion. While being discriminated against is a traumatic event, when it comes to your claim, what will be scrutinized is the evidence. For example, it will not suffice to say that your supervisor doesn't like you. In order to prove discrimination, you must be able to provide concrete facts and evidence such as emails, internal memos or other communication that are discriminatory in nature.
Maintain a record. It is important that you compile all evidence by date. Keep a journal of your employer's discriminatory behavior. Your notes should include the time, date, location and the names of the individuals who witnessed the incident as well as a detailed description of what happened.
Report the incidents. Make sure you report the incident to your human resources department. If that doesn't stop the discrimination, report it to an agency such as the EEOC that can investigate it further and contact an experienced employment attorney who can help you pursue your legal rights.
Don't accept retaliation. A number of employers tend to retaliate against employees who file discrimination complaints. It is against the law to retaliate against employees in this manner. Contact an experienced Los Angeles employment lawyer who can help protect your rights every step of the way.
How much money can you get in a discrimination lawsuit? It depends upon the extent of your damages.
Seeking Damages in Discrimination Cases
Employees who have been victims of discrimination can seek compensation for damages and losses they have suffered as a result of the discriminatory acts and behavior such as:
Back pay: Employees who have been subject to discrimination can claim compensation for lost pay because they were fired illegally (due to discrimination) or because they were forced to quit their jobs due to a hostile work environment. Back pay in such cases could include lost wages, benefits such as medical insurance, pension accounts, stock options, bonuses, tips, etc.
Compensatory damages: This might include out-of-pocket expenses caused by the discrimination such as costs associated with a job search or medical expenses. Compensatory damages could also include mental anguish and loss of life's enjoyment.
Punitive damages: In some cases, where the discrimination was particularly egregious, courts may award punitive damages to make an example of the employer and to deter others from engaging in similar behavior.
Attorneys' fees: In addition to these other damages, a plaintiff in a workplace discrimination fees may also be able to receive compensation for attorneys' fees and court costs associated with the case.
How long does it take to settle a discrimination lawsuit? Depends on the facts and circumstances surrounding each individual case. Contacting an experienced lawyer will help you to obtain answers to personal legal questions.
Contacting an Experienced Discrimination Lawyer
If you have been discriminated against at work, our Los Angeles discrimination lawyers at Kingsley & Kingsley can help you better understand your legal rights and options. We are passionate in our pursuit of justice for our clients and will fight for your rights every step of the way. Call us at 888-500-8469 for a free consultation and comprehensive case evaluation.