Employers have fairly broad discretion to establish hiring practices and standards as well as over the decision-making within their companies. However, there are certain laws that they must follow which do affect some of their decision-making and the rules that they establish. Any employer who has five or more employees cannot discriminate against their employees, which means they cannot base their decisions on the employee being in a protected class.
Actions that could be considered discrimination
Employers cannot discriminate against their employees by making decisions based on the employees’ ages, race, gender and gender identity, national origin, religion, disability and other protected classes. These laws also govern many aspects of the business including how they advertise, their hiring process, promotions, working conditions, pay, terminations, discipline, training and other aspects of the business.
These laws also extend to how employers treat people with health issues. People are entitled to take medical leave for their own health issues as well as to care for family members with serious health issues. Women can also take up to four months off for disabilities associated with pregnancies and childbirth.
In addition to the prohibition against discrimination, employers also cannot retaliate against employees who participate in protected activities. This includes either making discrimination claims or participating in investigations of discrimination against other employees.
If employers do discriminate against employees in the protected classes by making decisions that adversely affect them or retaliate against them, they could be liable for paying damages to the employee whom they discriminated against. The damages can include back pay, which may include lost benefits as well, future pay if the employee is unable to find a job or one that pays as well as the previous one, emotional distress depending on the circumstances and potentially other damages as well.
Employees may be very concerned about initiating a discrimination complaint against their employer fearing the fallout of their decision. However, employees in California have rights and those rights need to be protected. Employees who have been discriminated against deserve compensation and to hold their employers accountable for their actions. Experienced attorneys understand employees’ rights and may be able to help protect them.