No employee should be subjected to harassment or discrimination in the workplace. An employer that condones this unlawful conduct is civilly liable to the affected employee. While the unlawful conduct may be carried out by the employee’s supervisor directly, employers are often liable for failing to prevent, deter, or rectify a situation in which a coworker is harassing or discriminating against the employee. Failure to properly train employees regarding discrimination can give rise to civil liability as well. Discrimination or harassment is unlawful if based on race, national origin, gender, age, pregnancy, disability, or medical condition. In California, the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) regulates instances of workplace discrimination.
Harassment based on race or gender is another common problem for which an employer may be liable, defined as unwelcome verbal or physical conduct creating a hostile work environment. Especially egregious are situations of quid pro quo harassment, where an employee’s term of employment is condition upon unwelcome sexual advances. Employers are also prohibited from discriminating against female employees based on a pregnancy. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires employers to permit up to twelve workweeks of unpaid leave during any twelve-month period. While many employees rely on the FMLA to care for newborn children, this law also applies to other important medical events, such as the care of an elderly parent suffering from a debilitating illness.
To bring a workplace discrimination claim against an employer, the employee will typically need to establish the following facts:
- The employee belongs to a protected class (race, national origin, etc.);
- The employee was subjected to an adverse employment decision by the employer (demotion, termination, etc.);
- The employee was treated differently that similarly situated employees not in a protected class; and
- There existed a sufficient causal connection between the employer’s adverse treatment and the employee’s protected status.
Generally, the employee must first use the employer’s internal grievance procedure prior to filing a lawsuit so the employer has an opportunity to correct the discriminatory conduct.
If you’re ready to speak to a qualified attorney about your employment law claims, we encourage you to contact our team for guidance.
Contact us today for a free initial consultation to determine your legal rights and potential remedies — in this consultation, one of our experienced attorneys will attend to your matter personally. It’s important to note that we routinely take on complex cases on a contingency basis, and have the resources to finance litigation costs. As such, no legal fees are charged to the client until a successful recovery has been achieved.