Workplace Discrimination comes in many forms, but all claims share certain common elements. For example, all claims of discrimination include an “adverse employment action.” The most commonly recognized adverse employment action is termination, but a discrimination claim may also be based on a demotion, a failure to promote or a failure to hire.
In addition to an adverse employment action, a valid claim of discrimination must also identify the reason the adverse action was taken. California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) has establish certain protected status classifications that identify a number of illegal reasons that an employer may not use as a basis of an adverse employment decision.
Because California is what’s known as an “at will” state, an employer can generally fire someone for good reason or bad reason or no reason at all, EXCEPT, an employer cannot fire someone for an illegal reason. FEHA’s protected status categories are a small number of such illegal reasons.
So, for example, an employer may terminate an employee for stealing, or habitual tardiness (a good reason or for cause), or because an employee wears red socks (an arbitrary or bad reason). An employer may not, however, terminate an employee because she’s a woman (sex/gender), or Black (race/color), or Muslim (religious creed), or any of the protected status categories. A list of protected status categories under FEHA follows.
Protected Status Categories
The FEHA protected status categories include:
- Religious Creed
- National Origin/Ancestry
- Disability (Physical or Mental)
- Medical Condition (Cancer)
- Genetic Information
- Marital Status
- Sexual Orientation
- Gender / Gender Identity / Gender Expression
- Age (over 40)
- Military/Veteran Status
If you believe you were fired or demoted or suffered any similar adverse employment action because of any of the above protected status categories, you should contact an attorney to discuss your rights.
Please note that all legal actions are subject to time limits (deadlines), sometimes called statutes of limitation, which require potential parties to file their claims by specific dates. If those deadlines are missed, all related claims may be barred forever. Accordingly, if you want to preserve any legal rights you might have, you should contact an attorney as soon as possible. If you believe you have been the victim of illegal workplace discrimination we will be happy to discuss your circumstances to evaluate your potential claims.