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Workplace Discrimination Laws in California

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Workers in California are protected by both federal and state employment laws that prohibit discrimination in the workplace. Labor laws are taken very seriously in the courts, and when employees’ rights are violated, there is often a legal recourse they can pursue with the help of an employment law attorney. If you think you have been the victim of this kind of discrimination at work, consult with an attorney in San Jose, CA , to see what your rights are. Keep reading to take a closer look at discrimination laws in California. workplace - laws

Protected Characteristics

Both federal and state employment law in California protect employees from discrimination based on protected characteristics. In California, these characteristics are sex (including pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding or related medical conditions), race, religion (including religious dress and grooming practices), color, gender (including gender identity and gender expression), national origin (including language use restrictions and possession of a driver’s license issued under Vehicle Code section 12801.9), ancestry, physical or mental disability, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, registered domestic partner status, age, sexual orientation, military and veteran status or any other basis protected by federal, state or local law or ordinance or regulation race, religion, color, national origin, ancestry, physical or mental disability, medical condition, marital status, sex, age, or sexual orientation. California employment laws are some of the most pro-worker laws in the nation, and the courts enforce these protections vigorously.

Disparate Treatment and Disparate Impact

Disparate treatment and disparate impact are two common types of workplace discrimination. Disparate treatment occurs when an employer takes actions singularly against employees who have a particular protected characteristic. For instance, if a company goes through layoffs and only lay off workers over 40, they could be committing age discrimination through disparate treatment. Disparate impact is when a company enacts a policy or procedure that disproportionately affects one group. For example, a policy in which taking leaves of absences means that you will not be considered for promotion may be considered to be discriminatory against women, who have to take leaves for pregnancy.


Harassment is another form of workplace discrimination. It encompasses a broad range of behaviors, from touching and unwanted advances to slurs and intimidation. In some cases, severe harassment is said to have created a hostile work environment—a legal distinction that indicates that the harassment was particularly abusive. Some cases of harassment in the workplace, particularly sexual harassment, is referred to as quid pro quo harassment, in which an employee is pressured to submit to sexual advances in exchange for promotions, salary increases, or other benefits.