California has powerful protections for employees to prevent discrimination in the workplace. There are certain characteristics (discussed below) that do not legally justify discrimination. Unfortunately, some employers still engage in discriminatory practices. Some may even fire an employee because of certain characteristics protected under the law. Some employees may quit because of the discrimination they experience in their workplace.
Those fired from their job are generally eligible for unemployment benefits, while those who quit are not. But there may be exceptions where an employee who quits is still eligible for unemployment benefits if she quit due to discrimination at work. If you lost your job because of your race, sexual orientation, or other characteristic protected by anti-discrimination laws, consult an employment attorney about enforcing your rights.
Unlawful Discrimination in the Workplace
California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) prohibits harassment and discrimination in the workplace. This law provides protection from harassment or discrimination in employment on the basis of the following characteristics.
- Age (specifically for those age 40 and over)
- Religious creed, including religious dress, hairstyle, objects carried and grooming practices
- Denial of Family and Medical Care leave
- Mental and physical disability, including HIV/AIDS
- Marital status
- Medical condition, e.g., cancer and genetic characteristics
- Genetic information
- Military and veteran status
- National origin, including language use restrictions
- Gender (This protected category includes pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding and medical conditions related to pregnancy)
- Gender identity and gender expression
- Sexual orientation
The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) explains that, amongst other provisions, the FEHA “prohibits discrimination against any job applicant or employee in hiring, promotions, assignments, termination, or any term, condition, or privilege of employment.”
What to Do if You’ve Been Discriminated Against
If you feel you’ve been subjected to discrimination in the workplace, there are several things you can do. First, if you are still employed at the company, you should inform a superior of the questionable behavior. If it was low- or mid-management that acted wrongfully, you can inform higher management.
You also can file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) as well as the DFEH. There is a specific time limit on when you can file your complaint with the DFEH. You have one year from the last act of discrimination to file your charge, so get started right away.
Finally, you can speak to a labor and employment attorney about legal options that are available to you. If you quit because the discrimination made your workplace unbearable (called constructive wrongful termination), then you may still qualify for unemployment benefits. California has protections for employees who are victim of this form of wrongful termination.
So if your employer is arguing that you quit or are otherwise unqualified for unemployment benefits, consult a lawyer about the circumstances of your case and how it affects your eligibility.
Consult an Employment Attorney in California
If you are the victim of workplace discrimination in California and are struggling to recover the unemployment benefits to which you are entitled, we encourage you to contact our attorneys for counsel. We can help you take the legal action necessary to hold the employer accountable and appeal any denials of unemployment benefits so you get your benefits. Contact Hiden, Rott, & Oertle today at 619-296-5884 to set up a free consultation.
This post is also available in: Spanish