When at work, you expect that you’ll be able to do your job and be treated fairly. However, that’s not always the case as some employees can become the target of discrimination. Thankfully, there are rules and regulations in place so that employees can feel comfort in knowing their voice is being heard about the injustice.
Knowing If You Have Grounds For a Claim
The first step in filing a job discrimination lawsuit is knowing if you have an actual claim. Discrimination is defined as someone being targeted based upon their:
- Religion (includes religious dress and grooming practices)
- Sex/gender (includes pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, and/or related medical conditions)
- Gender identity, gender expression
- Sexual orientation
- Marital status
- Medical Condition (genetic characteristics, cancer, or a record or history of cancer)
- Military or veteran status
- National origin (includes language use and possession of a driver’s license issued to persons unable to provide their presence in the United States is authorized under federal law)
- Disability (mental and physical including HIV/AIDS, cancer, and genetic characteristics)
- Genetic information
- Request for family care leave
- Request for leave for an employee’s own serious health condition
- Request for Pregnancy Disability Leave
- Retaliation for reporting patient abuse in tax-supported institutions
- Age (over 40)
In California, these discrimination categories are applied to workplaces that have at least five employees.
Certain cities in California also have their own additional anti-discrimination policies. San Francisco, for example, has rules that employers cannot discriminate against a person based upon their height or weight.
These state laws barring discrimination apply to all business practices, including the following:
- Applications, screening, and interviews
- Hiring, transferring, promoting, terminating, or separating employees
- Working conditions, including compensation
- Participation in a training or apprenticeship program, employee organization, or union
Before Filing a Discrimination Claim
If you feel you have grounds for a discrimination claim, you may be able to talk to your supervisor (or their supervisor if your supervisor is the one committing the discrimination) or the human resources department for your organization. Avoiding a lawsuit for discrimination can be the best route, so if you can resolve the issue internally to your satisfaction, obviously that may be preferable. You may want to hire a lawyer at this phase of your discrimination claim, at least for guidance as to what to do.
Strauss & Strauss, APC has represented many individuals who resolved their discrimination claims internally and while still employed. Give us a call at if that is something you would like to do as well.
But you may not be able to resolve a discrimination claim internally. This may be because the organization is permeated with discrimination or because the person discriminating against you or others is the person to whom you would have to report your concerns. This is, again, when you should consider hiring a law firm that handles discrimination claims. The lawyer can help guide you through the process of ensuring there is a sufficient paper trail or how or when to resign. A resignation in the face of an unacceptable level of workplace discrimination or harassment can be deemed a termination for the purposes of California wrongful termination law and for unemployment.
Filing an Administrative Charge
Any discrimination claim is also required to be brought to the attention of the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) or the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). If you file a lawsuit and do not complete this step, your lawsuit will be dismissed. See more from the EEOC about which agency to file the charge with and what federal employees need to know if they need to file a complaint. The DFEH has its information about filing a complaint of discrimination on its website as well.
There are two types of complaints you can file with the DFEH or EEOC. One is a discrimination claim requesting an investigation. The other is a request for an immediate right to sue.
If an employee files a discrimination claim requesting an investigation, the DFEH or EEOC will investigate the claim. If the agency determines that there is evidence of discrimination, it will have you file an official complaint against the employer. DFEH or EEOC lawyers will then try to settle your case in mediation. If the case doesn’t settle, they may represent you in a lawsuit against the employer. If, as is most common, the DFEH or EEOC does not get the evidence it needs to pursue your case to a lawsuit, the agency will drop your case, close the investigation, and issue you the right to sue your employer in civil court.
The other complaint you can file with the DFEH or EEOC is to request an immediate right to sue. This tells the agency that you want to skip the investigation stage and sue the employer on your own.
Either way, before you file a discrimination claim in court, you must have filed one of these two types of complaints with the DFEH and received the right to sue your employer for discrimination in court.
Filing a Lawsuit
If you are given the right to sue then you will need to determine where and when to file your lawsuit should you continue pursuing the claim. These are all critical decisions that you shouldn’t make by yourself.
Many attorneys, like at Strauss & Strauss, APC, offer a free case evaluation to ensure you have a reasonable claim and have taken the necessary steps to make your voice heard to your employer. When talking with an attorney, they can tell you what additional steps you may need to take or what they feel would be the next best step for you.
If you are considering filing a discrimination claim, don’t feel like you have to do it alone. At Strauss & Strauss, APC our team is here to help you every step of the way. We have recovered more than $100 million in damages and judgments for our clients all over California. Reach out today by using our online contact form or call us at (805) 303-8115.