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FAQs - Employment Law

FAQs – Employment Law

Am I being discriminated against at work? 

The Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”) protects California employees from discrimination based on many different characteristics, which include: (1) age (40 and over); (2) ancestry; (3) color; (4) religious creed; (5) denial of family and medical care leave; (6) disability (mental and physical), including HIV and AIDS; (7) marital status; (8) medical condition (cancer and genetic characteristics); (9) military and veteran status; (10) genetic information; (11) national origin; (12) race; (13) religion; (14) sex and gender (includes pregnancy, childbirth, and medical conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth, breastfeeding or medical conditions related to breastfeeding); (15) gender, gender identity and gender expression; and (16) sexual orientation.

An employee or job applicable who receives less favorable treatment (for example: failure to hire or promote, refusing religious or disability related needs and accommodations) or suffers an adverse employment action (for example: a termination, demotion, change in pay, or reprimand) because of any of the above characteristics may be a victim of discrimination.

The following are examples of questions individuals may have as to whether they have been discriminated. Please note that FEHA's anti-discrimination laws only apply to employers with five or more employees. The below questions refer to California employers with five or more employees.

Pregnancy Discrimination and Harassment.

  • I am eight months pregnant but would like to work until I give birth because I need the money. My employer told me I have to start my unpaid leave now because I am too big to work and he doesn't want my water to break at work. 
    • Unless an employee asked to take leave, employers cannot make a pregnant employee take a leave of absence. Employees must be allowed to work if they are able.
  • I am pregnant and work for a large parcel service company delivering large items all day. My doctor said I have to stop lifting heavy boxes because of complications with my pregnancy. I told my supervisor and he put me on a leave of absence. I am afraid I will be fired.
    • Once an employer becomes aware of an employee's restrictions or need for accommodation, the employer is required to engage the employee in an interactive process to see if they can accommodate those restrictions (such as putting the employee in a different available position and limiting work to smaller packages). If the is terminated because of the pregnancy, medical condition or disability, the employer may have violated California's anti-discrimination laws.
  • I am pregnant and my employer won't let me take time off to go to my medical appointments.
    • Employers have a duty to engage and reasonably accommodate employees who require time-off for medical reasons, including pregnancy-related conditions. In addition, an employer treating you different from other employees, because the employee is pregnant, may also be in violation of California's anti-discrimination laws.
  • I am pregnant – how much time off am I entitled to?
    • Employers are required to provide pregnant employees up to four months of unpaid, job-protected leave. In addition, any policy providing paid leave to other temporarily disabled employees must be available to pregnant employees.
  • What are examples of pregnancy harassment?
    • Pregnancy harassment is often seen in the form of a hostile workplace environment. When an employee is the target of offensive conduct regarding her pregnancy, anticipated leave, or related-medical conditions, the employer may be liable for harassment. Employers are strictly liable for harassing conduct by a supervisor and when they are aware or should have known of harassing conduct by a coworker or third party. Some examples include:

Age Discrimination and Harassment.

  • I applied for a job but was told they are only considering younger employees who demand less pay. Is this legal?
    • California employees who are at least 40 years of age are protected from being discriminated against with respect to employment, including hiring, firing, and other job decisions. For example, it is generally illegal for an employer to fire an older employee in favor of a younger employee who demands a lesser wage.
  • My Company had a reduction in force but the only older persons were fired. I was told it was because the Company wanted to save money and the younger employees were paid less. Is this legal?
    • This is a similar scenario to the earlier question. Just as it is generally illegal to limit jobs to younger employees, it is similarly unlawful to target older employees for layoff.
  • I've been working for my employer for 20 years but they just promoted someone who has been there for 6 months instead of me. Is this discrimination?
    • An “adverse employment action” is required before discrimination can be actionable under the law. The most common “adverse employment action” is termination. However, Courts have also found that demotions, changes in pay, denials of promotion, and reprimands. Thus, one of the first questions to ask include how old you and the employee promoted are and the difference in qualifications. Assuming the other employee is less qualified, is under 40, and you are over 40, the decision to promote the younger and lesser qualified employee becomes increasingly suspect and could be a result of age discrimination.
  • My supervisors keep asking when I am going to retire and make jokes about how I am slow, tired, and not in tune with the times. I am a hard worker and am good at my job. Is this legal?
    • California law protects against age harassment and discrimination. Harassment is generally unwelcome conduct that is severe or pervasive enough to create a hostile work environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile, or abusive. While there are several factors to consider, repeated comments targeting an employee's age may rise to the level of harassment under California law.

Sexual Harassment.

  • I work as an extern and am being trained by a supervisor who is constantly leering at me, asking me about my sex life, and discussing his sex life. He has even touched my chest a couple of times. Is there anything I can do to stop this?
    • The California Fair and Employment Housing Act (“FEHA”) protects employees, as well as interns, externs and other unpaid volunteers against harassment and discrimination. Under California law, sex harassment includes unwanted sexual advances, or visual, verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. Some typical conduct we see in employment situations that may qualify as harassment include leering, making sexual gestures, displaying sexually suggestive objects or pictures, cartoons or posters, and making or using derogatory comments, epithets, slurs and jokes. Touching and assault are usually strong indicators of sex harassment. If you feel you are being subjected to unlawful harassment, you should contact an attorney immediately.
  • My boss keeps asking me to go on a date with him. I am not interested, but he repeatedly asks and has indicated I need to say yes if I want to climb the ladder. I'm worried what will happen to my job if I keep saying no.
    • It is unlawful to threaten or offer to exchange employment benefits for sexual favors (i.e. “I will promote you if you go on a date with me”). This is called quid pro quo

LEGAL DISCLAIMER. The information on this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should formally consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation. We invite you to contact us and welcome your calls, letters and electronic mail. Please be advised, however, contacting us, submitting a case to us, and/or discussing your case with us does NOT create an attorney-client relationship. Please do not send any confidential information to us until such time as an attorney-client relationship has been established.


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