Discrimination Laws in California (2024)

discrimination laws in californiaBoth Federal and California laws prohibit discrimination in the workplace based on an employee’s “protected characteristics”. Under California’s broad, pro-employee laws (perhaps the best in the US), “protected characteristics” mean: “race, religious creed, color, national origin, ancestry, physical disability, mental disability, medical condition, marital status,
sex, age, or sexual orientation”.

Types of Discrimination

Discrimination comes in many flavors. There is “disparate treatment” and “disparate impact” discrimination – meaning an employee is treated differently because they are a member of a protected class.

“Disparate treatment” involves employer actions, e.g., promotion and termination, that single an employee because of a protected characteristic, e.g., only older workers are laid off or only males are promoted.

“Disparate impact” involves employer policies that have a disproportionate adverse effect on a protected characteristic group, e.g., a company policy of counting all absences and leaves against seniority that has a disproportionate adverse impact on women who have to take time off for pregnancy.

Then there is “harassment”, meaning harassing conduct such as slurs, touching, unwanted advances, intimidation, etc., because of the employee’s protected characteristic.

Harassment can be “hostile work environment” harassment, meaning harassing conduct that is so severe or pervasive that it creates a work environment that is hostile or abusive.

And in the case of sexual harassment, harassment can be “quid pro quo” (Latin for “this in exchange for that”), which refers to a situation where the employee’s supervisor has conditioned job benefits, such as a promotion or continuation of employment, on the employee’s accepting the supervisor’s sexual advances or conduct, e.g., a supervisor forcing a subordinate to sleep with him to keep her job or get a promotion.

If the harasser is the employee’s supervisor, the employer will be held strictly liable for the supervisor’s misconduct. If the harasser is the employee’s co-worker, however, the employer will be held liable only if a supervisor knew or should have known of the harassment and failed to take immediate and appropriate corrective action.

Federal versus State laws

Federal law, which includes the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, Equal Pay Act of 1963, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Americans with Disabilities Act, is generally less favorable to employees than California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act, which doesn’t have damage caps, limited attorney fee provisions, restrictive legal burdens of proof or special employer defenses.

Also, federal law typically requires the employee to file an administrative charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) within a mere 180 days from the date of the discriminatory violation whereas California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act gives the employee 1 year to file such a charge with the California Department of Fair Employment & Housing (DFEH).

Damage Awards

An employee who wins a discrimination lawsuit is entitled to recover several types of compensation, such as lost wages, emotional distress, litigation costs and statutory attorney fees. An employee could also recover punitive damages which are designed not to compensate the employee but to deter and punish the employer.


Discrimination laws, especially in California, offer powerful and effective protections for employees. However, discrimination laws are changing constantly, sometimes day-by-day, and can be difficult to navigate. If you think you have a discrimination case, do not wait. Strict time limits may apply. Contact a lawyer right away to help you with filing a discrimination complaint.


  1. Faviola on February 5, 2024 at 3:54 pm

    Es ilegal todos los trabajadores tenemos la misma asignacion de trabajo, pero el jefe le dice por un mensage a una persona que a ella no se le asignara pero que sea anonimo para que los demas no noten la movera a asignaciones mas leves
    Pero esa regla la esta quebrantando el manager

  2. Jennifer Marie Pillow-Taylor on May 2, 2020 at 8:44 am

    My boss threatened to fire me because I had an appointment and I was not dressed/did not have time to clean up a spill. The still was left overnight and I was the morning cleaning person. a) I did not agree to clean up more than I usually did when I did not have time b) I was not paid for excess work c) I was told it was cruel to expect anyone else to do anything about it (including report it or put up a warning sign because of liability) d) I was threatened with termination because I stood my ground on what I agreed to do and extra cleaning had always been unpaid volunteer work AND I asked why he, the manager, hadn’t managed a contingency plan for when I had appointments or was sick.

    He has also falsely told OSHA there were not body fluids in the trash he made me wade through when I reported several times there were (twice including feces), and he refused to give me extra protection (among other safety violations. Is there anythign you can do to help?

  3. Rolando on June 28, 2018 at 4:04 pm

    The situation I am asking about is regarding not being hired due to a false accusation of sexual harassment. I was a field generalforman working for company A and a journey woman that I laid off for leaving the job site at break to get Starbucks had been warned and continue to do so. She was caught by my superintendent and he instructed me to lay this person off. The journey woman was union member and with the help of. union rep filed charges for sexual harassment. This case was taken to arbitration and at the time of the hearing the union changed the charge to unjustified layoff. There never was an investigation into the allegations nor was I given a chance to defend myself against the charges. My reputation has been effected by these allegations and years later when I tried to go back to company A I was denied employment due to the incident even though I was never found guilty of the allegations. I have never been accused of any inappropriate behavior my whole career and this situation has effected my reputation and employment. I feel that this unjustified denial of employment action is discriminatory.

  4. DEAN on March 3, 2018 at 9:51 pm

    Was Denied employement at an all asian restaurant. They only hire asians and will not hire anything else. I was only called to the interview to check out my ethnicity i feel.

    When i asked for an application manager ignored my question and made a face like psssht yea right. I went ahead and asked an employee and received the application. This location only hires asian and nothing else.

  5. Paula Shaw on February 4, 2018 at 6:18 pm

    I have been at a 500 plus employees job was out on disability for 6 months and came back and was sent to a satellite location and must drive 50 miles a day …I have told my boss that it is a hardship I’m a single mom and am on section 8 housing in which I cannot afford to drive that far never had a write up I have all this in text messages now my car has problems and I live less than a mile from original company ….he just keeps giving me the run around ……I have lots of information about him all on text messages. I think that’s why he doesn’t want me there

  6. Juan on August 8, 2017 at 10:29 pm

    I’ve been with the company for over 10 years I worked under a really good boss he trained me well well when he was retired he supposed I should take over cause I was a candidate over 6 years experience well they brought in a guys from outta state which he is white and I’m Hispanic with a Mexican name I’ve been called Mexican , spic others comments that are very shamfulll in front of members I’ve been passed for other opportunities point is the company has no Mexican / Hispanic managers and I don’t. Think they want it … ive contacted layers but have no luck is there a case here? Thanks

  7. What Are Workplace Discrimination and Harassment, and What Can Employees Do About Them? - Aiman-Smith & Marcy on June 2, 2017 at 1:50 am

    […] laws specifically prohibit discrimination and harassment in the workplace. For example, under California law, employers cannot discriminate against workers on the basis of several protected categories, […]

  8. katie k. on May 17, 2017 at 7:21 pm

    Discrimination is real and it hurts. It is difficult because its illegal to get recordings of the proof. It is also difficult because the lawsuits forms are somewhat complex.

  9. Retheda V Hale on April 13, 2017 at 3:56 am

    I have been a longterm employee at a major hospital forthe past 10years in may, and have currently transferred to another location. I have been at the new location for about 3 months. Long story short i hug another employee whom is a lesbian women once i hugged her she started saying infront of 5 other co workers that ” old boobs hugged me an that she no longer like girls that she officially like boys” she continues to say that ” i dont want old boobs i have young boobs at home i was extremely uncomfortable at this point so i made a call to my manager and told him the situation and that i felt that i was in a hotile work environment and that the employee was using explicit words to describe me and my personal appearance now that i have reported this person she has now said that i sexually assaulted her and has said that im a lesbian and thats all talk about in the department which untrue im a 38year old heterosexual women and mother to a handsome 11year young boy and his father and i are still together. Now there is other facilities calling rhe department asking about the new gay girl im just really uncomfortable,embarrassed and down while im at work. Help. What should i do?

    • katie k. on May 17, 2017 at 7:07 pm

      I can’t give legal advice but this lady is being mean and abusive to you. It seems she is uncomfortable with the hug affection. Could you not apologize that you made her feel uncomfortable and ask her to stop making fun of you. It is immature and abusive. By the way 38 is still young and don’t let abusers ruin your self esteem. She is just really immature. Next time ask before you hug a co-worker. Hope that helps.

  10. Suz on January 16, 2017 at 4:30 pm

    I was just wondering people’s opinion on this situation. I am a female working in a male dominated industry, and I was told by the manager that I don’t belong in the industry. When I discussed my issue with his superior. I was told that his comments were made during a “passionate” argument and I shouldn’t be alarmed. I was upset by the comment and the answer I got from his superior as well…

  11. CCarr on November 29, 2016 at 6:06 pm

    I belong to the CSEA union. I was under the 6 month probation period and one day 3 weeks ago I was handed a letter that today was my last day of work because I didn’t meet the probation period for that position. I had no warning and they said they didn’t have to give me a reason because it was “at will” employment. This happened 2 days after the election and also I think I may have been discriminated against because of my age (late 50’s). While I was cleaning out my desk I kept asking what the reason was and the woman from HR just said ‘the administration and the district didn’t think it was a fit. I had worked 32 hrs of overtime the month before. The person that hired me left for another site 3 days after I started. I had a new boss who never even bothered to understand what I did at my desk.

  12. k on November 28, 2016 at 9:09 am

    Is this a law keeping soneone from church and bible study making them work. Schedule them to work on the time you go.

  13. Shannon on August 12, 2016 at 4:53 pm

    Question, Do you think I have a “Discrimination” case?. I worked for a small company of about 20 employees. I would say 2-3 are white. I am one of them. My manager has shown up to work intoxicated with 3 small children and was allowed to finish her shift. (Sat.). She has done this more then once. She has never been suspended., The same with another manager, never suspended. Me on the other hand, I get suspended for missing work due to my daughter almost getting raped in a park. She was 13 years old. I got suspended for not giving them “Any advanced notice”. That was the first time. Second was due to incident during christmas. My employer promised that if we met a quota amt. $20,000. (example) with a week we would get our check BEFORE christmas. I am a single mom, I worked my ass off. Well it didnt happen. He flat out denied it. I was pissed off. I had nothing now for my daughter on christmas morning.So I ranted a little, said this is “Bullshit” in front of maybe 5 employees. I get suspended for 1 week. OK,. not 1 week later my manager gets into an argument with another manager and Im not kidding, she is yelling throughout the office. FU and F this job and F to the Boss, shes yelling throwing things and so on. People had to hold her back from fighting. NEVER GOT SUSPENDED!. Man i could go on. It’s sad because I really enjoyed working there, and I wasn’t raised to be racist. I believe people are all the same, no matter what color!. This is the owners fault, I think?. Ive had to keep notes because Ive felt I was treated differently. Even lunches, they would all go without even asking me. Shit like that.?? What is it?? signed ??n

  14. Kelly on March 18, 2016 at 10:17 am

    I was passed over for a promotion that was given to a 24-year old with retail counter experience only and no esthetician license. Is this discrimination? I am a hard-working 63-year old.

  15. Scott on March 18, 2016 at 8:45 am

    If I am declined employment which I am qualified for based on a survey or test do I have the right to the results of that survey or test and the criteria used to make the determination?

    • Anonymous on April 27, 2017 at 6:32 pm

      Age discrimination sucks.

      • Short woman on December 13, 2017 at 5:12 am

        It goes both ways. If you are perceived as being younger (due to height) even though you are older and more experienced you get passed up for promotions. I have been told by my union that height discrimination is ok because it is not a protected attribute.

  16. Rogelio Gloria on February 3, 2016 at 11:51 am

    I was wondering if they discriminate if your a Republican in a Democrat state.

  17. troy on December 10, 2015 at 8:00 am

    place salt outside a doorway during the December holidays as a religious tradition and have do so at m work for the last 18 years. now after a long list of hostile work harassment I am suspended without pay or any documentation, just on a phone call. what can I do?

  18. troy on December 10, 2015 at 7:54 am

    can i be suspended for a religious tradition I have been doing at this job for 18 years?

  19. Rachel on October 25, 2015 at 6:46 pm

    Co workers are fat shaming me. They Also make rude comments about heavy set people. I’ve talked to my supervisor about the situation, but it continues. I don’t feel comfortable at work, and it has taken a hit on my self esteem.
    What should I do.

    • Donna Hebert on December 5, 2016 at 10:41 pm

      Lose weight

      • DonnaHater on August 8, 2017 at 1:26 pm

        You’re very rude Donna. SMH!

    • katie k. on May 17, 2017 at 7:12 pm

      I am sorry they are shaming you. You are more then your appearance which is shallow. However maybe they actually care about you and don’t want you to die from an early heart attack… They are immature. Simply ask them to stop making fun of you as it is abusive and explain when you can get a fit partner you will start exercising more. Best of luck. This is not legal advice and should not be taken as much. Talk to a lawyer if you want.

  20. Gloria Molano on October 13, 2015 at 8:52 am

    I suffer from migrane headaches..i get them to where i have tunnel vision,i see aeras,and i vomit for hours at a time.i have went home on very bad episodes and now my job has written me up..Can this be a type of discrimination against my medical condition?i suffer from chronic migrane…

  21. Louis on August 23, 2015 at 7:38 am

    I just got suspended for a week for being at the office for 2 hours but someone else does the same thing on a daily basis which I brought up to the supervisor, well now they told that person that I informed them of what he was doing and now he’s upset with me. Is that a form of causing a hostile work environment between employees? Is there a law that protects a supervisor and employee’s conversation? Like a confidentiality law?

  22. Kris on June 8, 2015 at 4:20 pm

    I went for a interview and at the end of interview I ask about dress code because I am Apostolic Pentecostal and I have been wearing skirts for years. He said he would get back to me. I went for finger prints and he called said I can’t wear a skirt and that he would get back to me about job. What can I do?? this had happened before!

    • katie k. on May 17, 2017 at 7:14 pm

      consult a lawyer?

  23. Ella C on May 19, 2015 at 12:05 pm

    I was hired to work at a major restaurant food chain. I was told I had to wear a black shirt, black pants and black shoes, no facial jewelry or earrings (I have none anyways). I attended my orientation. I was told to come in for my first work day at 9:00am. I arrived and was told by the mgr on duty to come back at 10:30am and that I was not on schedule he was not expecting me and no one would be there to train me until then. I called the manager that hired me to verify and left after 20 min when I did not hear back. She did not get back to me for over an hour and said I was now late, missed most of my training and we would talk later but to get there asap. So I did within minutes. I walked in and now A 3RD manager says I cannot work because my shirt is not BLACK enough and when I come back to work to be sure I have a new one. So I left defeated, but I thought he meant to leave for the day get a new shirt for my next day which was the very next day. Apparently he was expecting me back (for the rest of my 90 min shift) So, I wrote a letter stating what all had happened as I do not think the 3 managers even talked. The manager that hired me said, “ok, I understand and come in tomorrow as scheduled”. That next day the manager that told me to leave to get a different shirt, called and said, “I cannot offer you a job since you walked out, nothing personal”. Do I have any rights here? This company does not pay for or provide comp for clothing, it is my understanding that if they say “dark” clothing it is on me…but “Black, collared etc” then they must provide or pay for and have same expectations for all employees. My shirt was I guess dark Charcoal color. But I can walk in there any day and they have plenty of staff with nose rings, earrings, unhemmed pants frayed at bottom. This feels discriminatory. If I misinterpreted leaving to get a new shirt as come back tomorrow, I had an overwhelming day of nothing but, “I dont know you, your not on schedule, youre late, your in trouble and you are dressed wrong”…seems harsh and if the shirt had never been a pint of contention I would be working there.

    • Eugene Lee on May 30, 2015 at 12:42 am

      Maybe you’re better off not working there, sounds like it’s being poorly managed. But putting that aside, first, it sounds like you are owed wages for the time you waited starting at 9 am. You may even be owed a reporting time penalty for having shown up for an agreed shift but then being told to go home early. As for the uniform, if you are able to wear it outside of work or working for another employer, you probably wouldn’t be entitled to any reimbursement for it. In short, you should look into filing a labor board wage violation claim.

  24. Crystal Ramirez on February 16, 2015 at 4:30 pm

    Thank you for displaying the difference between federal and state laws.
    Overall, they are extremely different and this information was very valuable
    to know. Additionally, it was nice to see the different degrees of sexual
    harassment that exist and how they are defined. When somebody is experiencing this type of issue at work it can become overwhelming. If the harassed resides in California they should consider a harassment lawyer in Los Angeles.

  25. Ann D on February 13, 2015 at 10:29 am

    Im an assistant manager at a big company a woman’s clothing store. When I found out I was pregnant the harassment of another assistant manager started. he started searching for reasons that I was doing my job wrong he would call me names and talk about me to other associates. he would give me other work when I needed to take a break. he would check on me when i was on my break…it goes on…I talked to the store manager and on to the district manager she offered a transfer for me if i was interested, she also said she would take it up to HR, as weeks go by she sits me down and tells me HR decided there was nothing they can do but talk to him and transferring was not an option for either person. HR never bothered to contact me prior to this conversation. basically I needed to brush it off regardless of the stress and being uncomfortable working around this person. A couple months later when I found out I was pregnant another assistant manager also got pregnant and she too became a victim same exact situation. What can I do? What should I do? Theses people are protecting each other and it doesn’t matter who gets hurt.

  26. Kristi A on February 12, 2015 at 5:26 pm

    I am a woman – mid 50’s, considered a professional, executive in my field, with over 20 years experience. I agreed to “mentor” a younger, mid 20’s male, who also happened to be a family member of the CEO. I am now discovering he is receiving a major raise in compensation, bringing him to at least $30 – $50k more per year than I am paid. Is this actionable?

  27. Jack on October 23, 2014 at 5:29 pm

    I have been at my part-time (3 days per week) job in a golf shop for over 10 years. 2 years ago the company brought in a new manager. He has let go all of the employees with any experience and were full time. I worked with him by taking on more days and hours. He has hired all new part-timers and now has cut me to 1 day a week. He has foolishly let it be known that he’s trying to get the “old” guys to retire — he has no intention of paying unemployment.
    Is this age discrimination?

  28. joe on September 14, 2014 at 12:32 am

    My boss is an old school European male..I’m his first female he hired to lead his crew in 3 years. He went through 5 leaders before me…he favors my assistant because he’s a male..he gives me a hard time, says certain things unnecessary, very rudely, uncalled for, gives compliments to my assistant, etc. All my colleagues knows he’s treating me differently, and my assistant knows he’s a sexist. I feel disgusted. What can I do without him going crazy on me since he has a temper for no reason?

  29. Melissa on August 28, 2014 at 7:40 pm

    My job laid me off because of my pregnancy and I wanted to know what im entitled to for them doing so?

    • Eugene Lee on September 1, 2014 at 5:49 am

      If your employer has 5 or more employees (and if you can prove that you were laid off because of your pregnancy), then that is illegal and you can file a lawsuit for pregnancy discrimination.

  30. Jeff Tee on August 15, 2014 at 9:18 am

    I’m a male and I went and got my manicure license last year. I worked a couple of jobs and am looking for a new job. I’m finding that many nail salons say they don’t hire men at all, and some won’t let men do pedicures (which is the most lucrative part of the business). Is this legal? What can I do about it if it’s not?

    • Baolien Dang on April 10, 2018 at 9:55 pm

      I was also manicurist license female. The reason the salon owners reluctant to hire male because too many problems between female and male techs, the office romance happens even at a nail salon, too much trouble. And the reason some shop won’t let men do the pedicure just because they don’t want to get into trouble with the customers if they claim the male manicurist sexual harassment them while touching their legs..etcc. I would suggest male should do the hands only!

  31. Dani ankrum on June 28, 2014 at 5:23 pm

    My boss is cutting hours down to 2 days a week for all employees who have a second job and telling us we can never request a day off. I work at a pizza delivery company that has always been based on working around jobs and school schedules, how can they legally do this?

  32. John Howard on May 19, 2014 at 9:57 am

    Thanks for all of the great information about employment discrimination. I took a human resources class last semester and we talked about employment discrimination. It would be really interesting to deal with this issue on a daily bases. http://www.behrend-ernsberger.com/Employment_Law.html

  33. Guest on February 7, 2014 at 5:48 pm

    Let’s be honest. We would all grab that ass if we could.

  34. dablueslover on March 8, 2013 at 10:32 am

    Disabled Vet. hurt on the job, resulting in injuries so severe to his spine, left 100% disabled. Living in an RV Park in a 5th wheel trailer, only rental the former Studio Transportation Driver( Teamsters local 399) could afford. Was evicted without due process, rent paid 4/2/12, due 4/6/12, on 4/16/12 he was taken to a hospital, and his wife(Thai) was told to be out by 10 am the next morning. Employees of the RV Park removed all of possessions, to storage, or threw away things that could not go to storage. This man was waiting for authorization for surgery by workers comp. but all they did is deny, deny, deny. His back condition is so severe he had surgery at C-4 thru T-1, needs surgery at T-10, T-11 with end plate damage, disk problems, also needs surgery from L-3 thru L-5,S-1, 2 levels have no disks, L-5,S-1 failed fusion from 2004, and is living with unremitting pain since atleast 2007. What is someone like this to do, besides jump off a bridge? He has tried to obtain an attorney but because his 2,4,5,6,11,14 constitutional amendments were violated it’s too complicated for anyone to bother with.

  35. Jordan West on December 4, 2012 at 10:12 am

    This is a great post, thanks for sharing. I think this is a big problem
    in a lot of companies. I worked in california seo and didn’t have any
    problems. Do you think males cause more problems than females?

    • surferpl on December 10, 2014 at 11:51 am

      (I think cold-hearted morons cause more problems than decent people.)

  36. lupita on August 26, 2012 at 4:39 pm

    my hours have been cut for an entire month, because of a non-smoking policy with my employer. My manager saw me smoking a cigarrette as i walked to my car at the end of my shift on my way home. What labor code can i refer to?

  37. Hr Solutions on April 22, 2012 at 8:51 pm

    whenever you feel any kind of discrimination or harassment in your workplace you should definitely take initiative to resolve this..  

  38. lulu on March 31, 2012 at 8:30 am

    It is against my religion to work on sundays. My boss says that I am required to work at lest one sunday a month. Is this legal?

  39. Summerhathway on November 8, 2011 at 1:03 am

    In this post law is so discriminated law..

  40. Kimi on April 2, 2011 at 1:38 pm

    Employment Discrimination occurs if administration abnormally individual out advisers or applicants on the base of age, race, gender, sex, animal orientation, civic origin, disability, religion, or assorted added reasons. Federal and accompaniment statutes accomplish up a lot of of the application bigotry laws. Prohibited abominable practices cover bent in hiring and firing; compensation, assignment, or allocation of employees; transfer, promotion, layoff, or recall; job advertisements; recruitment; testing; use of aggregation facilities; training and apprenticeship programs; binding benefits; pay, retirement plans, and affliction leave; retaliation; and assorted types of harassment.
    Orange County Dangerous Products Lawyer

    • Admin on April 17, 2011 at 5:25 pm

      If an employer in California sells only items for females and they want to only hire females, and we say we are only looking for females is this discrimination?

      Also if we specifically look for females that speak Spanish and English, are we discriminating?

      I see a company only hires Asians and its obvious, how can such a company exist?

  41. Martin Dack on January 17, 2011 at 2:30 am

    You have provided some very good point regarding Discrimination and related facts and the associated legal action.

  42. Ramirez323 on November 9, 2010 at 11:21 pm

    I received a call from my employer today, asking me to go work at a nother location that is 40 miles away from home. They didnt give me a reason on why or for for how long I would be at this location. If I didnt asept the assingment, I would be fired. Does this qualify as discrimination harassment?

  43. Lawsuit Loans on January 14, 2010 at 8:25 am

    Good advice, the picture almost makes me feel violated. Hopefully the stock photo company wasn’t sued for discrimination

  44. Legal Aid on January 11, 2010 at 11:31 pm

    If you think you are being discriminated against, it is best to consult a discrimination lawyer. Victims are protected by laws against discriminatory acts of employers.

Leave a Comment