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Many office environments provide a friendly, collaborative workplace for employees. Unfortunately, not all workplaces are equal, and employees may face discrimination from their coworkers or employers. So can you sue for discrimination in California?

Discrimination against employees is illegal under both state and federal laws. If you’ve witnessed or experienced discrimination at work, you may be able to file a discrimination lawsuit. The discrimination attorneys at the Farzam Law Firm can advise you of your options after learning more about the details of your case.

Suing for Discrimination in California

Employees anywhere in the United States can sue for discrimination. Both state and federal laws prohibit employers from discriminating against an employee based on the employee’s “protected status.” Accordingly, you can file a discrimination lawsuit only if you suffer discrimination based on your protected status.

Although not always a discrimination claim, employees who receive poor treatment may still claim a hostile work environment.

Protected Status in California

Both state and federal anti-discrimination laws define several characteristics that count as a “protected status.” Specifically, California’s anti-discrimination laws protect employees from discrimination based on their

  • Race,
  • Color,
  • Religion,
  • Sex,
  • Gender identity or expression,
  • Sexual orientation,
  • Marital status,
  • Genetic characteristics,
  • Military status,
  • Ancestry or national origin, or
  • Disability.

In California, “sex” includes discrimination based on someone’s biological sex as well as certain related conditions, such as pregnancy. As a result, if an employer fires a woman because of her pregnancy, she may file a discrimination lawsuit against the employer.  

Types of Employment Discrimination

Employment discrimination comes in many forms. While discrimination ultimately depends on many different factors, which differ from case to case, some common forms of employment discrimination include:

  • Discrimination based on physical, mental, or cognitive disability;
  • Discrimination based on age, race, or any other protected status;
  • Denial of earned pay (including overtime);
  • Language discrimination (“Speak English Only” policies); and
  • Reduction in benefits.

Even with an understanding of California’s protected classes, employment discrimination is not always obvious. Accordingly, it is important to consult with discrimination attorneys even if you aren’t sure. They will be familiar with patterns of discrimination and can advise you about your situation.

How to Sue for Discrimination in California

Before you can sue your employer directly, you must first exhaust the other remedies available to you. As a result, the first step in a discrimination lawsuit is obtaining a “right-to-sue” notice from the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). In most cases, you will receive this notice after DFEH investigates on your behalf; however, you may also request a right-to-sue notice directly without an investigation. Keep in mind that because the DFEH investigation may help your case, skipping that process may not be the best choice.

Alternatively, you may be able to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC is the federal agency responsible for enforcing federal employment anti-discrimination laws, like the Civil Rights Act. If you’re unsure which agency to file a complaint with, or even if you’re unsure whether you’ve experienced discrimination at all, speaking with our EEOC attorneys is a good idea.

What Can I Get If I Sue for Discrimination?

Like with other types of lawsuits, you may be able to claim damages in a discrimination lawsuit. The exact damages discrimination attorneys would demand depend on the facts of each case. In general, however, you may get

  • Back pay that is equal to your lost earnings caused by discrimination;
  • Front pay equal to future wage loss caused by the discrimination (usually the difference between your wages at your new job and your old one if you were fired);
  • Lost wages while searching for a new job;
  • Lost benefits;
  • Attorneys fees; and
  • Damages for emotional distress.

You may be able to recover punitive damages as well. Punitive damages are designed to punish wrongful conduct and may be appropriate if the discrimination you faced was particularly severe.

Speak with Our California Discrimination Attorneys

For more than 20 years, the Farzam Law Firm has served members of the Los Angeles community, representing clients in various employment law cases. From discrimination to harassment to worker’s compensation, our experienced trial attorneys have the skills necessary to get the compensation you deserve.

To see how we can help you, contact us today online or by phone at 310-226-6890 to schedule a free consultation.

Author Photo

Joseph Farzam

Mr. Farzam attended Santa Monica high school and worked at McDonald’s and local coffee shops to support himself. Although he worked 2 or 3 jobs, he valued education greatly and earned a bachelor’s degree from California State University, Northridge in biology, and attended the prestigious Pepperdine University School of Law. He graduated with high marks and passed the California bar exam on the first try. Mr. Farzam has received the coveted titles of Super Lawyer, Los Angeles Magazine’s Top Lawyers, and has received The Litigator Awards.  He is a proud member of the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles (CAALA) and California Employment Lawyers Association (CELA).

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