Sometimes it’s subtle, but where it exists, workplace discrimination always has a corrosive effect and can be devastating for the victim. Thankfully, California and federal laws protect employees from discrimination. These laws prohibit employers from taking actions that disadvantage employees because of certain characteristics an employee may have. These include race, religion, disability, sex, and sexual orientation, among other protected categories.
Orange County has some of the toughest anti-discrimination laws in the country. Orange County employees who are victims of discrimination can recover lost wages and benefits, compensation for mental and psychological pain and suffering, attorney fees, court costs and in some cases, punitive damages. If punitive damages are awarded, the amount of compensation you are awarded could far exceed your compensatory damages.
The attorneys at the Law Offices of Corbett H. Williams have substantial professional experience in workplace discrimination lawsuits. We understand the distress, isolation, and uncertainty that follow incidents of discrimination in California workplaces and strive to provide reassurance and guidance to every client we represent. If you have been subjected to any type of workplace discrimination, you can rely on our team to help you determine your best available legal options for addressing the situation.
California’s anti-discrimination law, the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (the FEHA), makes it illegal for employers to take any action against an employee because of a number of personal characteristics. Federal laws, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, also prohibit discrimination on the basis of many of the same characteristics. Other federal and state laws also protect employees from discrimination.
Under the FEHA, it is illegal in Orange County for an employer to discriminate against an employee on the basis of any of the following characteristics:
Federal law also applies most of these protected categories to prohibit employment discrimination. In addition, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) of the United States enforces various regulations to preserve the civil rights of American employees in all workplaces. Therefore, if you believe your employer has unlawfully discriminated against you based on your protected status, you will need to file an EEOC complaint to obtain your Right to Sue and file a lawsuit against your employer.
An experienced Orange County workplace discrimination attorney can help you determine the best approach to this situation. We know that employers almost always attempt to mask discriminatory actions against employees using legal loopholes and the relatively flexible employment laws in place in California. For example, an employer may fire an employee based on their race but cite poor work performance as the justification for the firing. The employee may then gather evidence that proves their work performance was more than satisfactory. They may even be able to uncover proof of their employer’s negative attitude toward their protected personal qualities.
To prove discrimination, the employee must show that the employer took an “adverse employment action” against the employee (i.e., some action that disadvantages the employee in some way) and that the action was motivated by discrimination. Adverse employment actions take different forms and include:
Making any type of employment-related decisions for an employee based on the employee’s personal qualities is workplace discrimination. This may seem difficult to prove in some situations, but an experienced Orange County workplace discrimination attorney can help their client determine what evidence they will require to substantiate a claim of workplace discrimination.
The Enforcement Process
There are two ways to begin a claim over employment discrimination. At the state level, you can file a written complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) within a year of the most recent incident of employment discrimination. The DFEH will decide whether to act on your complaint itself, or to issue you a “right to sue” letter. If it issues a right to sue letter (as it usually does), you will need to handle the lawsuit yourself without help from the DFEH.
If you choose to file a complaint at the federal level, your complaint will go to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EOCC). The deadline is 300 days after the most recent act of discrimination, and the EEOC will decide whether to issue a right to sue letter or act on its own. Depending on the nature of the claim, the EEOC may leave legal action up to the claimant and their attorney or launch a more detailed investigation of the employer. This is likely to happen if the EEOC receives multiple similar complaints regarding the same employer, and such actions typically lead to more substantial penalties for the employer.
A special procedure exists for federal government employees alleging employment discrimination.
How Do I Sue My Employer for Discrimination?
Once you obtain a Right to Sue Notice from the EEOC or the California DFEH, you are authorized to file a lawsuit to pursue your discrimination claim. However, simply obtaining this Right to Sue Notice is not enough to guarantee success with your discrimination claim. You will need an Orange County workplace discrimination attorney to assist you with the actual filing of your claim. Your attorney will assist you in gathering the evidence you need to prove that discrimination occurred, such as statements from your coworkers, communication records from work, and any other materials that help you substantiate your claim.
You must also identify your damages to succeed with your lawsuit. Ultimately, a good attorney can potentially help you secure much more compensation than you originally anticipated. For example, an experienced Orange County workplace discrimination lawyer may help secure compensation for lost wages if the discrimination forced you out of your job, compensation for the emotional distress you experienced, and repayment of your legal fees. Additionally, a court may also award you punitive damages depending on the nature and the severity of the discrimination you experienced.
State vs. Federal Action
The decision on whether to file at the state or federal level may rest on legal considerations such as:
All other factors being equal, it is generally better to file a state complaint than to file a federal complaint. You can ask the state or federal agency, however, to forward your complaint to the other agency so that both agencies can consider your complaint at the same time.
Employment Discrimination Claims Can Get Complex
To win an employment discrimination claim, you must first file a well-drafted complaint to the appropriate agency, and you must wait for the agency to respond. You will probably be issued a right to sue letter, at which point you will need to navigate the complex rules of evidence and civil procedure needed to win your claim in a state or federal court.
Wading into this bureaucratic maze all by yourself is like attempting to perform surgery on yourself for a medical condition. Retaining an experienced employment attorney to represent you is one of the most effective ways to maximize your chances of eventually walking away with significant compensation in your bank account.
How Hard Is It to Win a Discrimination Lawsuit?
Facing workplace discrimination can be an extremely challenging experience in many ways. If you were forced out of your job or wrongfully terminated, this could create a severe financial strain for you and your family, and it’s easy to feel lost in this situation when you are unsure how to prove your employer unlawfully discriminated against you. It can also be daunting to realize that most employers use deceptive tactics to obfuscate their discriminatory practices. You may wonder how you would gather evidence to make your case or whether such evidence exists.
Succeeding with your discrimination claim will be much easier when you work with an Orange County workplace discrimination lawyer. The team at the Law Offices of Corbett H. Williams has the resources and experience you need to approach your case with greater confidence. We will help you navigate the California DFEH, and EEOC claims processes, secure your Right to Sue, and help you calculate the full scope of your claimable damages. We will then provide detail-oriented legal counsel through the full scope of the legal proceedings ahead of you as you work toward holding your employer accountable for the discrimination you experienced.
If You Believe You Are the Victim of Unlawful Discrimination, You Must Act Quickly
It takes time to prepare a strong employment discrimination complaint, and it takes even more time to prosecute a successful lawsuit against your employer. Missing a deadline, either for filing an administrative complaint or initiating a lawsuit, will probably kill your claim. If you suspect that you have been victimized by employment discrimination, now is the time to act. See additional important steps to take if you are being discriminated against at work.
My Other Areas of Practice
In addition to employment discrimination cases, I also handle the following types of claims:
In some cases, an employment discrimination claim will involve similar offenses such as sexual harassment, unpaid wages or pregnancy leave.