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No one should be denied opportunities or treated adversely as a result of a protected characteristic of their identity. Unfortunately, discrimination remains pervasive both in the workplace and during hiring and recruitment processes.
The state of California enforces comprehensive anti-discrimination laws. Our Walnut Creek discrimination lawyers can help you enforce your rights and fight for justice when you have been subject to a hostile work environment. Our litigators at Ratner Molineaux have been involved in hundreds of jury trials and are not afraid to go to court. We are compassionate to the difficulties you are experiencing and can provide the aggressive representation you deserve.
What Characteristics of My Identity Are Protected in California?
Federal law protects several types of classes and characteristics from discriminatory harassment. California expands these protections and maintains what are arguably some of the most pro-employee laws in the United States.
In California, your employer cannot discriminate against you as a result of your:
- National Origin
- Sexual Orientation
- Gender Identity
- Gender Expression
- Pregnancy Status
- Marital Status
- Military or Veteran Status
- Physical or Mental Disability
- Medical Condition
- Genetic Information
- Age (if over 40)
Recognizing Signs of Discrimination during the Hiring Process
California employers are not permitted to discriminate on protected grounds during any hiring process. This means that they cannot choose to hire or not hire someone as a result of a protected characteristic of their identity.
Discrimination still routinely occurs during some hiring processes, and misconduct can often be challenging to prove. Many recruiters, hiring managers, and companies will use intentionally vague language when justifying their decisions to conceal their discriminatory behavior.
In California, discrimination in a hiring process can occur when:
- Job postings exclude protected classes or show preference to certain protected classes. An employer cannot refuse to accept applications from members of a protected class. A job posting’s language also cannot specify that only people with certain types of protected characteristics can apply. For example, an employer cannot post a job advertisement that only calls for young, male applicants.
- An employer refuses to provide reasonable accommodations. If an applicant has a disability that requires an accommodation in order to apply for a job, the prospective employer must provide the accommodation unless doing so somehow constitutes an undue burden.
- An employer makes a hiring decision based on a protected characteristic of an applicant’s identity. You may instinctively suspect something is amiss if your interviewer or recruiter frequently mentions some protected element of your identity. For example, there may be cause for concern if an interviewer alludes to racial stereotypes in their line of questioning. Some questions are more subtly discriminatory and may be intended to assess elements of your identity that may not be immediately apparent. An interviewer may ask if you have a family or whether you hope to have kids any time soon, for example.
Not getting a job you are objectively qualified for can be frustrating on its own, but it can be especially upsetting to lose out on an opportunity if you believe you were ruled out for discriminatory reasons. Our Walnut Creek discrimination attorneys are familiar with how to detect discriminatory behavior in these scenarios and can advise whether you have a case.
Discrimination in the Workplace
Discriminatory behavior will in many cases be obvious. In other situations, perpetrators will go to great lengths to conceal their discriminatory intentions. It is important that you document all suspected instances of workplace discrimination when they occur.
Common examples of workplace discrimination include:
- Hostile work environments. Your coworkers and supervisors should not be making inappropriate comments or unwanted jokes about any protected elements of your identity. Aggressive behavior and bullying that targets any protected characteristic can also contribute to a hostile work environment. Intentionally isolating an employee can also be a form of discrimination if a manager deliberately excludes them from meetings or company functions as a result of some prejudice. Sexual harassment is considered a form of discriminatory behavior and includes unwanted comments, touching, and quid pro quos.
- Unequal compensation for the same work. Contrary to what your boss may claim, you and your coworkers are legally permitted to discuss your rates of pay. Your employer cannot deliberately choose to pay someone less than a coworker performing largely the same job responsibilities as a result of a protected characteristic of their identity. For example, say you are a woman and live with a disability. If your male, able-bodied colleague has the same title and the same level of experience as you, your employer cannot pay you less because you happen to be a woman or are disabled.
- Denial of advancement opportunities. Most employers will insist advancement opportunities are awarded strictly on the basis of merit, but you may notice that certain types of employees are more likely to receive promotions – even if they have not necessarily earned them. Though this can be extremely difficult to prove, an employer cannot refuse to promote someone on discriminatory grounds. Requesting and documenting formal performance reviews can sometimes help you determine whether you are unfairly being denied advancement.
- Failure to provide reasonable accommodations. If you have religious beliefs or a disability (including a pregnancy-related disability) that necessitate a reasonable accommodation, you have the right to request that accommodation from your employer. Your employer may be discriminating against you if they appear to be arbitrarily rejecting your request. In California, employers must provide reasonable accommodations so long as they do not represent an undue burden to the business.
- Retaliation on discriminatory grounds. In some cases, an employee may be the subject of adverse actions due to a protected characteristic of their identity. A manager may retaliate against someone after publicly disclosing their gender identity, for example. Forms of retaliation include demotions, reductions of pay, defamation, abusively unfavorable work assignments, unfavorable relocations, and wrongful termination.
- Wrongful termination on discriminatory grounds. Some employers will go so far as to fire or intentionally lay off employees with certain protected characteristics. They will almost never disclose the true reasons for the dismissals, which is why you must remain vigilant when unexpected firings and layoffs occur. If you are over the age of 40 and notice only older employees seem to be routinely dismissed, for example, there may be evidence that your employer is wrongfully terminating its employees on the discriminatory basis of age.
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You cannot immediately file a workplace discrimination lawsuit against your employer. First, you must file a claim with either California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) or the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The deadline for filing a complaint will depend on the type of discriminatory behavior that took place and the law or laws it violated. In many cases, you will have up to 300 days from the date of the most recent incident to file a complaint with the EEOC and up to one year to file with DFEH.
Typically, filing a complaint with EEOC or DFEH will trigger an investigation. The government may elect to file a lawsuit on your behalf, or the applicable agency could serve you with a Notice of Right to Sue. Upon receiving this notice, you will generally only have 90 days to initiate your own lawsuit if you filed with EEOC or up to one year if you filed with DFEH. You may also be able to request an immediate Notice of Right to Sue when you initially file your complaint with EEOC or DFEH.
Our Walnut Creek discrimination lawyers are prepared to help you navigate the claims process and pursue the appropriate legal action. Our team at Ratner Molineaux will fight to hold your employer accountable for their misconduct and secure the maximum compensation available to you. Depending on your circumstances, you may be able to recover damages for lost earnings, lost benefits, back pay, emotional distress, and more.
Get the aggressive legal advocate you deserve when faced with workplace discrimination. Call (925) 332-1444 or contact us online today.