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California Discrimination Employment Law Information

By .   Updated July 22, 2015

California employees are protected from discrimination by both federal and California laws. These laws protect employees from discrimination based on protected characteristics, including race, religion, age, sex, marital status, disability, pregnancy and sexual orientation.

There are various forms that discrimination can take. In some cases, discrimination takes the form of disparate treatment, in which an employer's actions such as promotions or terminations single out an employee due to a protected characteristic. An example of disparate treatment is firing an employee for being too old.

Disparate impact occurs when an employer has a policy that has a negative affect on a group with a protected characteristic. An example of disparate impact includes counting leaves against seniority, which would lessen the seniority of women who take time off for pregnancy.

Harassment (Fair Employment and Housing Act—FEHA)

Another form of discrimination takes the form of harassment. Harassment involves unwanted or negative conduct because of an employee's protected characteristic. Protected characteristics include age, ancestry, color, religion, disability, medical condition, race, gender, or sexual orientation. Using racial slurs, behaving abusively to employees or making unwanted advances counts as harassment.

Some harassment falls under "hostile work environment," which occurs when the conduct is so severe that it creates a negative work environment. Sexual harassment may also involve "quid pro quo" harassment, in which the victim's job or continuation of employment is based on accepting the sexual advances of a superior.

Right to Wear Pants

It is illegal for employer in California to refuse to allow employees to wear pants on the basis of sex unless the employer has received a good cause exemption through the Fair Employment and Housing Commission that is, the employer has been given the authority to not allow certain individuals to wear pants or the clothing is part of a uniform or costume.

Employers generally have the right to enforce a dress code, so long as the dress code does not put more of a burden on one gender than the other and as long as the standards are reasonable given the employment context.

California State Discrimination Law and Federal Laws

Various laws protect employees from discrimination. Among the laws protecting employees are federal laws including the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Equal Pay Act of 1963, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

State laws protecting employees include California's Fair Employment and Housing Act. The Fair Employment and Housing Act does not have a limit on damages an employee can receive if he or she is successful in a discrimination lawsuit.


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