Illegal discrimination in the work place takes many forms, including payment of lower wages, failure to promote to a higher position, failure to hire, and wrongful termination. In California it is illegal for an employer of five or more employees to discriminate against an employee based on any of the following protected criteria. Harassment (or hostile work environment) based on these criteria is illegal for an employer of even one employee. These are frequently referred to as “protected classes”:

Race, color, national origin, ancestry, sex (gender), sexual orientation, marital status, pregnancy, physical and mental disability, age (40 and above), and religion.

Moreover, California law also prohibits against discrimination based on the perception that an employee falls into one of these categories. For instance, if an employee were not promoted to a better paying position because an employer believed that an employee was a member of a particular religion (or other protected class), the fact that the employee was not actually a part of that religion or class will not be a viable defense for the employer.

The greatest challenge with discrimination claims is often proving the discrimination. Some discrimination takes a subtle form, and may be difficult to establish. However, it is helpful to look at things such as hiring and promotion trends within the company, to compare compensation between employees, or to compare disciplinary treatment between employees. Some of the strongest evidence can come from the testimony of fellow or former employees who can attest to discriminatory conduct or policy. In addition, it is important to keep a journal of all of the discriminatory conduct you experience.

Employees that are the victim of illegal discrimination can recover damages for lost wages (both past and future), as well as affirmative relief such as promotion or reinstatement, and court orders to abolish discriminatory practices. In addition, California law allows for unlimited compensatory, emotional distress, and punitive damages, and for recovery of attorneys’ fees. A one year statute of limitations typically applies in discrimination cases.

Provisions against wrongful termination in the context of retaliation are discussed on the Retaliation Page of this website.

Mr. Velarde may be able to handle your discrimination claim on a contingency fee basis, meaning that we receive no attorneys’ fees unless we are successful in recovering compensation for you.