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How Do I File A California Workplace Discrimination Lawsuit?

Updated: Jun 14

Learn About Workplace Discrimination in California and Know The Top 10 Questions On Filing A Lawsuit Against Your Employer


It is against labor laws for an employer in California to discriminate against a protected class of workers or applicants in California. It involves bias based on

  • race,

  • religion,

  • pregnancy,

  • gender, or

  • medical conditions.

Employees who are discriminated against will file a workplace discrimination claim seeking damages against the employer.


So, let's talk about relevant FAQs on discrimination, as often explained by the best discrimination lawyers in California.




Below, the following commonly asked questions about filing a workplace discrimination case in California are covered by our California workplace lawyers:


1. How do I file a California job discrimination lawsuit?


You usually have to first file your complaint with the Department of Equal Employment and Housing (DFEH) before you can file a case against an employer for employment discrimination in California. Normally, an employee or applicant is expected to first exhaust all administrative remedies. This could mean that before they can file a lawsuit, the employee needs to go through the DFEH complaint process.


Without needing to go through a thorough DFEH or EEOC investigation, you may request an automatic right to sue notification. However, if you request prompt notice of the right to sue, DFEH will not investigate your case. Alternatively, before bringing your case to court, you can also wait until the DFEH dismisses your case or finds no infringement.


According to the DFEH, it is only advisable to move directly to court without the DFEH 's inquiry if you have an attorney. Your California Employment Lawyer will have the right to contact your lawyer and file your complaint in the Superior Court of California, the county where the discrimination occurred, or another appropriate county.


The "complaint" will be to your employer and everyone else identified as a defendant in the case until you file the case. The defendants in the complaint will respond to the complaint by responding to the allegations in a formal response, and the case can continue via litigation.


It can take a long time for a federal employment discrimination case to find its way through the courts, and it could take years. However, the case is more likely to settle out of court as the case gets closer and closer to trial. The employer and employee may settle before the conclusion of a trial before the court decides on the case.


It can go to trial and be heard by a jury in a jury trial or in front of a judge if the case is not resolved. The judge and jury will listen to the evidence and the claims from each side. In each lawsuit, the judge or jury will then make a finding for or against the plaintiff and decide what damages each party will be awarded.


california workplace discrimination lawyer

2. How do I determine if I've been discriminated against at work?


Most prejudice at work is subtle. Employers are aware that discrimination may lead to a complaint and take precautions to make sure that the employer or applicant does not put anything in writing or say anything obvious. Signs of discrimination can, however, occur.


The treatment of some groups of workers distinct from other workers could include signs of employment discrimination. When an employer realizes that an employee is part of a protected category, it may also include unexpected employee attitude changes. Such signs of potential discrimination can include:

  • Sudden shifts in reviews of work results.

  • Exclusion from activities and meetings.

  • A shift in work responsibilities or workload rises.

  • Hours reduced or salary reduced.

  • A different application of laws affecting employees of diverse backgrounds.

  • Management's inability to bring an end to racist or sexist jokes in the workplace.

  • Making fun of the accent or sexual orientation of a person.

  • The lack of consideration of applicants with ethnic-sounding names.

Employers that are in the same protected class may also discriminate against workers. An African-American supervisor, for instance, may discriminate against an African-American worker or applicant. Because of her gender, a female employer may discriminate against a female applicant.


3. In California, am I in a safe class?


It is illegal for an employer in California to discriminate against an employee under the California Equal Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) on the grounds of:

  • Race

  • Religious creed

  • Color

  • National Origin

  • Ancestry

  • Physical Disability

  • Mental Disability

  • Medical Condition

  • Genetic Information

  • Marital Status

  • Sex

  • Gender

  • Gender Identity

  • Gender Expression

  • Age

  • Sexual Orientation

  • Military and Veteran status

Workplace discrimination can affect everyone. Minorities are not limited to prejudice. Discrimination against someone in California based on any of the definitions above is illegal in the workplace. Many forms of discrimination in jobs are also prohibited by federal law.


If an employer in California discriminates against an employee based on an individual's perceived race, sexual orientation, disability, or another protected group, it is therefore unconstitutional. This means that even if the employer is mistaken about the employee's status, they will still be in breach of the discrimination rule.


For example, because of how the candidate dresses or behaves during a job interview, an employer believes an applicant is gay. The employer does not want gay workers to be employed. For discrimination based on sexual identity, the employee files a lawsuit against the employer. The employer is also violating California regulations for discrimination based on presumed sexual orientation if the applicant was not married.


It is an unlawful work practice under the FEHA for an employer to discriminate against an individual in any aspect of employment. It involves:

  • Refusing to recruit or hire

  • Refusing to pick a person for a training program

  • Employee aiming, bearing, or discharging.

  • Discrimination against a person in terms of wages or work opportunities, opportunities, or privileges.

In any field of jobs or hiring, employment discrimination is forbidden, including:

  • Refusing to provide a reasonable accommodation

  • Refusing to engage in a timely, good-faith interactive process with employees in need of a reasonable accommodation

  • Refusing to hire

  • Refusing to select a training program

  • Demotion

  • Reduced pay

  • Deny a promotion

  • Deny reinstatement

  • Deny benefits

  • Forcing an employee to quit

  • Harassment

  • Assign different duties

  • Discrimination in any way

Anti-employment discrimination laws are not confined to employers. Unions and labor unions that are forbidden from excluding, expelling, or limiting membership based on discriminatory groups are also subject to workplace discrimination laws.6 Discrimination restrictions also extend to apprenticeship training programs and employment agencies.


4. Is it prejudice if I've never been recruited?


Before an employee is ever employed, workplace discrimination laws often refer to work applications, job candidates, and interview circumstances.


An indication of possible employment discrimination violations could be incorrect work application forms or questions during an interview. When asking questions about an employee, an employer can violate employment laws:

  • Nationality

  • Ancestry

  • Race

  • Religion

  • Sexual orientation

  • Maiden name

  • Birthplace

  • Marital status

  • Requiring a photograph

  • Mental or physical disability

  • Arrest record

If other prospective workers are still not expected to take such tests, or if the test is not work-related and compliant with business requirements, employers can not ask the applicant to take a medical or psychological test. However, an employer can ask job applicants whether they can perform the essential tasks of the job and how they will perform the tasks.


Once a job is offered to an applicant, the employer will only condition the job on the applicant passing a medical examination or answering medical questions if all new workers in a similar job role have to answer these questions or take a medical examination.


5. Do I need to first file a complaint with HR?


If an employer has declined to hire an applicant for racial purposes or an employer discriminates against an employee, prior to filing a discrimination complaint, there might be no need to go to human resources. However, it may be appropriate or advised to guide a complaint to a supervisor or human resources office before filing a lawsuit, depending on the form of discrimination or abuse involved.


If a co-worker or other non-supervisor is involved in workplace abuse, the employer can only be responsible if the employer was incompetent. This implies the employer needs to:

  • Know that abuse was taking place or should have known; and

  • The employer did not take prompt and adequate remedial measures.

  • The employee's discrimination case would depend on whether the employer took reasonable steps to discourage workplace harassment and how the employer responded to complaints or signs of harassment at the workplace.

Employers must have "fair accommodation" for candidates and workers who, because of a medical condition, impairment, or pregnancy, cannot perform the basic functions of the work.


Employers must also communicate with workers in need of fair accommodation in a timely, interactive process of good faith. This is to decide whether a suitable accommodation will allow the applicant or employee to perform the job to fulfill the required functions.