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Lancaster, CA Workplace Lawyers: Discrimination and Harassment

You have the right to fair and safe working conditions on the job. If you feel that your employer is engaging in discrimination, harassment, retaliation, wrongful termination, or failing to accommodate your protected needs in the workplace, contact PARRIS’ Lancaster workplace lawyers for a free work case consultation.

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PARRIS Law FirmPractice AreasEmployment law

Hostile Work Environment? Call Our Lancaster Workplace Lawyers

You have the right to fair and safe working conditions on the job. Several federal and California labor laws have been enacted to prevent your employer from failing to accommodate your protected needs or engaging in discrimination, harassment, retaliation, or wrongful termination.

Your rights deserve to be protected. Below is an in-depth look at some of California’s labor laws that protect employees.

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If you suspect that your employment rights have been violated, contact an employment lawyer right away. PARRIS Law Firm offers free case consultations for those who may need an employment lawyer. Schedule your meeting with our team today.

Workplace Discrimination

In the eyes of federal and California law, “workplace discrimination” occurs when a person is mistreated at work, through policy or behavior, on the basis of one or more characteristics that are protected by the law. Under federal law, these characteristics include, but are not limited to:

  • Race
  • Color
  • Religion
  • Sex, including pregnancy, sexual orientation, and gender identity
  • National origin
  • Age, if 40 or older
  • Disability
  • Veteran status
  • Genetic information
  • Citizenship status

California law adds several protected traits to this list, including:

  • Marital status
  • AIDS/HIV-positive status
  • Medical conditions
  • Political beliefs
  • Status as a victim of domestic violence, assault, or stalking

Discrimination claims may be brought on the basis of disparate treatment or disparate impact.

Disparate Treatment

Disparate treatment is intentional discrimination—a person is deliberately treated differently because of a protected characteristic. To prove disparate treatment, the employee must demonstrate that they suffered because of the discriminatory negative actions by the employer.

Here is an example: Kevin grew up in China and moved to the United States after college to work at an accounting firm. After working at the firm for many years, he was demoted—not because he performed poorly at his job, but because the firm no longer wanted a person with a Mandarin accent working directly with clients. In this case, Kevin may have a claim for disparate treatment based on national origin.

Disparate Impact

Disparate impact is usually unintentional discrimination that occurs when a policy or procedure has a disproportionately negative impact on members of a protected class.

For example: say an employer at a grocery store issues a United States history test as part of the hiring process, which disparately impacts potential candidates not raised in the United States. Since U.S. history knowledge is not necessary for work at the store, then potential employees who fail the test may have a disparate impact workplace discrimination case against the store.

Notably, employers accused of disparate impact discrimination may show that there was a legitimate business reason for the policy that had a disparate impact. For example, the aforementioned history test might be considered a legitimate business practice for a school looking to hire a U.S. history teacher.

Suppose the employer prevails in arguing for the business practice. In that case, you would have to prove that there was another way for the employer to achieve the same business goal without discriminating against your protected class.

Workplace Harassment & Hostile Work Environment

A person experiences “workplace harassment” when a person at work mistreats them on the basis of one or more protected characteristics. This is distinct from workplace discrimination—workplace discrimination occurs as part of the wrongdoer’s job duties, while harassment occurs through interpersonal relationships on the job (which aren’t required as a condition of employment).

California law divides illegal workplace harassment cases into two common types:

  • “Quid pro quo” harassment, in which a supervisor asks for sexual favors in exchange for positive work outcomes, and
  • Hostile work environment harassment, which includes any unwelcome behavior (sexual or non-sexual) made on the basis of a protected trait that is pervasive or severe enough to change the conditions of employment.

Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment

Quid pro quo harassment (Latin for “this for that”) occurs when a worker with authority asks a subordinate to perform a sexual service in exchange for a positive work outcome, such as a raise or promotion.

The supervisor does not have to explicitly state that the sexual favor will result in a positive outcome. However, if the quit pro quo nature is implied, the victim must show (a) there were repercussions for refusing the offer, and (b) the refusal caused the repercussions.

Hostile Work Environment Harassment

Hostile work environment harassment is defined by the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) as unwelcome, hurtful behavior at work that:

  • Takes place due to a protected characteristic, and
  • Is pervasive (occurs repeatedly) or severe (threatens the employee’s safety or well-being).

Hostile work environment harassment can be sexual or non-sexual in nature.

Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment can create an illegal hostile work environment when the following conditions are met:

  • The employee experienced unwanted physical contact, inappropriate behaviors, or crude speech from a person at work,
  • The inappropriate behavior was related to their sex, and
  • The behavior was severe or pervasive enough to alter the work environment.

Notably, sexual harassment in this form can come from a supervisor, coworker, customer, third-party vendor, or independent contractor.

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Hostile work environment harassment can also take place for non-sexual reasons. Those who are mistreated based on any of the following protected classes may have a claim against their employer in California:

  • Race
  • Color
  • Religion
  • Sex, including pregnancy, sexual orientation, and gender identity
  • National origin
  • Age, if 40 or older
  • Disability
  • Veteran or military status
  • Genetic information
  • Medical condition
  • Citizenship status
  • Marital status

Notably, California workplace harassment laws protect employees, job applicants, volunteers, unpaid interns, and independent contractors. This ensures that all of California’s workers are protected from workplace harassment based on race, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, and more.

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California workplace laws don’t just protect workers from discrimination and harassment; they also ensure that employees have the proper accommodations to care for their families.

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The federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) allow certain employees to take a 12-week leave of absence from work for any of the following reasons:

  • To care for a newborn child
  • To care for a newly adopted child or a child in foster care newly placed in the employee’s home
  • To care for the employee’s immediate family member with a serious health condition
  • Any serious health condition that prevents the employee from doing their job
  • Any situation that arises from an immediate family member’s “covered active duty” in the military

If your employer takes adverse employment action against you for taking a protected leave of absence, you may be entitled to compensation for the damages resulting from that action.

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If you are pregnant, your employer is required to reasonably accommodate you if necessary (as they would someone with a physical disability) by adjusting your work duties or schedule.

Upon a mother’s return to work, if she is expressing breast milk for her child, the employer must provide a reasonable amount of lactation break time to accommodate the employee in doing so. The employer must also make reasonable efforts to provide the use of a room or other location for the employee to express milk in private, other than a toilet stall.

If an employer fails to provide a place for employees to express breast milk, the employee who was denied the accommodation may be able to collect compensation from their employer, in the form of one hour’s pay for each violation.

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Workplace retaliation occurs when an employer demotes, suspends, fires, or otherwise punishes an employee for engaging in a “protected activity.”

Some of these protected activities include:

  • Filing a wage claim,
  • Taking time off to serve on a jury,
  • Refusing to perform unsafe work, or
  • Reporting health and safety hazards at work.

If adverse action is taken against you by your employer immediately after you make a work complaint or engage in any of these activities, you may have suffered workplace retaliation. Victims of workplace retaliation may be able to recover compensation, including rehiring/promotion/reinstatement, back pay, or punitive damages against the employer.

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The State of California supports “at-will” employment, which means an employee can be fired by their employer for any reason and without warning.

However, wrongful termination occurs when an employee is fired for reasons that violate state or federal law. These scenarios can include:

  • Firing for refusing to participate in illegal activities at the employer’s request
  • Firing for reporting harassment or criminal activity to appropriate supervisors or governing bodies
  • Firing in violation of an implied contract, including employee handbooks and spoken agreements
  • Firing for joining a union or engaging in political activities
  • Firing or laying off an employee in violation of California’s WARN act, which lays out instructions for mass layoffs

Employers who illegally fire or lay off employees may be held liable for your lost wages, emotional distress, and (in rare cases) punitive damages.

If you believe you have been wrongfully terminated, an employment attorney will be able to investigate your case, walk you through your recovery options, and restore justice.

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If you believe that your rights are being violated at work, contact PARRIS work lawyers for a free case evaluation today.

PARRIS’ Lancaster workplace lawyers have decades of working with victims of harassment, retaliation, hostile work environments, and discrimination. Ask us about our experience litigating employment law cases, securing millions for clients like you. When you speak to a PARRIS employment lawyer, we will investigate your case and help you determine the next steps in your path to justice.

Contact us today for a free case review.

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Employment law encompasses various legal matters related to the rights and obligations of employees and employers in the workplace. It encompasses a wide range of cases concerning employment relationships.

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