California and federal laws, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (42 U.S.C. § 2000 et seq.) and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”) (Cal. Gov. Code § 12940 et seq.), make it illegal for employers to treat their employees worse on the basis of certain protected characteristics. Specifically, the law prohibits harassment and discrimination in the workplace on the basis of the following characteristics that are protected under the law:
- Age (40 and above)
- National Origin
- Gender and Gender Expression
- Sexual Orientation
- Marital Status
- Disability (physical and mental)
- Medical Condition
Discrimination can present itself in different forms. It could be that you are denied pay raises or promotions, passed over for certain job opportunities, given more thorough background searches, given unfavorable work assignments, transferred to a different job location, or demoted or terminated, because you fall under a protected class.
Harassment may be more obvious than discrimination in that it usually involves conduct that results in a hostile work environment. For instance, racial harassment could involve racial slurs or epithets directed against or about individuals in the workplace. Sexual harassment often involves unwanted sexual comments and physical touching, but it can also be more subtle. The law protects also against quid pro quo sexual harassment, which could involve a supervisor conditioning various aspects of employment based on sexual favors.