What is Considered Discrimination in the Workplace?

Discrimination and Harassment January 26th, 2024
workplace discrimination workplace discrimination

Do you feel like something is wrong at your job, but you are not sure if it is workplace discrimination? We understand – it can take many years of legal training and experience to identify what legally constitutes discrimination. When in doubt, you should contact an experienced employment attorney.

Workplace Discrimination in California

Sometimes discrimination is clear according to California’s employment laws. The Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) protects California workers from discrimination based on certain protected basis like race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, disability, and veteran status. FEHA also protects employees over the age of 40 from age discrimination. The act applies to public and private employers, employment agencies, and labor organizations. FEHA protects employees, applicants, unpaid volunteers and interns.

California Law Prohibits Specific Forms of Workplace Discrimination

California law prohibits employers from discriminating against workers for being in a protected category, such as:

  • Race
  • National origin or ancestry
  • Religion
  • Age, specifically ages 40 and older
  • Disability, mental and physical
  • Gender; covers including pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding or other medical conditions related to gender
  • Marital status
  • Sexual orientation, gender expression, gender identity,
  • Medical condition
  • Genetic information
  • Military or veteran status

When Workplace Discrimination is Not So Clear

Discrimination can take on many forms, though, which can sometimes make it hard to determine if someone is discriminating against you in the eyes of the law. 

     Discrimination in the workplace may include:

  • Refusing to hire or promote, demote, or fire workers because the employee belongs to a protected group of people, such as being a minority or female
  • Adopting a company-wide policy that disproportionately affects those who have a protected characteristic, such as a company policy that prohibits certain hairstyles popular among people of color
  • Failure to accommodate a disability – duty arises as soon as the employer becomes aware of the disability; does not apply if the accommodation causes the employer undue hardship (Examples of accommodation include rearranging the workspace and giving the employee time off to see a doctor)
  • Failure to accommodate a bona fide religious preference, such as forcing a Jewish person to work on the Sabbath
  • Immigration-based discrimination – it is illegal for employers to discriminate against a worker based on the employee’s national origin; employers cannot report or threaten to report an employee’s immigration status or citizenship in retaliation when the worker exercises an employment-related right
  • Language discrimination – unlawful to prohibit or limit the use of a language; limits include a business necessity that justifies a language restriction and there are no alternatives that would accomplish the business purpose equally as well; boss must notify workers when the language restriction is in place and what the consequences would be
  • Political discrimination – California law prohibits employers from controlling the political activities of their workers; activities include being members of a specific party, going to political rallies, or becoming candidates for political office. Employers cannot try to influence or coerce their workers into political action, and they are prohibited from retaliating against workers who oppose such practices.
  • Failure to prevent discrimination – employers who are aware of discrimination have a duty to stop it
  • Harassment of workers – employers who are aware of harassment have a responsibility to end it

Discrimination laws affect most businesses

Discrimination laws affect a wide variety of business practices, such as:

  • Job postings, applications, screening, interviews and hiring for job openings
  • Transfers, promotions, and terminations
  • Working conditions, including compensation
  • A worker’s participation in a training or apprenticeship program, employee organization or union

Discriminated Against at Your Job? Contact Your Employment Attorney at D.Law

If you feel you have been discriminated against at your workplace, consult with D.Law. Our employment law firm helps people just like you fight workplace discrimination in the Bay Area, San Diego, Fresno, LA, and other California cities.


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