Racial discrimination laws in California prohibits employers from discriminating against any employee because of the employee’s race or ethnicity. An employee who experienced race or ethnicity discrimination may file a lawsuit against the employer for money damages. Our California employment law attorneys are available for free legal advice. Further, please contact our race discrimination lawyers today.
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1:10 Federal and California Laws for Racial Discrimination
The California statute prohibiting race discrimination is the Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”). Cal. Gov’t Code §12940 et seq. Its federal counterpart is Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (42 U.S.C. §2000e et seq.). Because the two statutes have the same objectives and serve the same public policy purposes, California courts rely on federal decisions to interpret analogous parts of the FEHA. See University of Southern California v. Superior Court, 222 Cal. App. 3d 1028, 1035-36. A race discrimination lawyer will help you understand the complexity between California employment laws and federal laws.
1:20 LEGAL ELEMENTS FOR RACIAL DISCRIMINATION
Persons of all races are protected from discrimination under the law. Regents of Univ. of California v. Bakke, 438 U.S. 265 (1978).
Freedom from job discrimination on specified grounds, including race, is a civil right. Government Code Sec. 12921. Grant v. Comp USA, 2003 Cal. App. Lexis 1099 (July 7, 2003).
An employer includes any person or entity regularly employing five or more persons. Cal. Gov’t Code §12926(d).
In determining disparate treatment, the court will consider the employer’s actions “in compensation or in terms, conditions, or privileges of employment.” Cal. Gov’t Code §12940; Ibarbia v. Regents of Univ. of California, 191 Cal. App. 3d 1318, 1327.
An employer’s duty to prevent harassment and discrimination is affirmative and mandatory. Prompt investigation of a discrimination or harassment claim is a necessary step by which an employer meets its obligation to ensure a discrimination-free work environment. Northrop Grumman v. W.C.A.B., 103 Cal.App.4th 1021 (2002).
1:24 Discriminatory Intent
A plaintiff need not prove racial animus was the sole reason behind the challenged action, but must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that there was a “causal connection” between race and the adverse employment action. Mixon v. Fair Employment and Housing Comm’n, 192 Cal. App. 3d 1306, 1319. Often, race discrimination lawyers will look for evidence of intent from employer’s conduct.
1:25 Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies
Before filing a statutory race discrimination claim, the employee must exhaust available administrative remedies by filing a charge of race discrimination with the California Department of Fair Employment & Housing (“DFEH”). Cal. Gov’t Code §12960; Martin v. Lockheed Missiles & Space Co., 29 Cal. App. 4th 1718, 1728-30.
An employee’s right to sue arises by operation of law when the Department of Fair Employment and Housing fails to resolve the matter within one year from the time the employee first filed an administrative complaint for discrimination. The employee’s failure to obtain a second right to sue letter does not preclude a finding that the employee exhausted all required administrative remedies. Grant v. Comp USA, 2003 Cal. App. Lexis 1099 (July 7, 2003). Employment lawyers often request a right to sue from DFEH then file a complaint in court.
1:30 Statutes and Case Laws
An employer cannot discriminate against an individual because of that individual’s association with members of a particular race. Cal. Code Regs. tit. 2, §§7287.1-9.
A white person may sue for race discrimination under racial discrimination laws in California. Regents of the Univ. of California v. Bakke, 438 U.S. 265 (1978) (white male claimed admissions process of U.C. medical school discriminated against him by using quota system that set aside a certain number of seats for minorities).
The state, the cities, and any political or civil division of the state are covered employers. Cal. Gov’t Code §12926(d).
Nonprofit religious associations and corporations are not employers for purposes of racial discrimination laws in California. Cal. Gov’t Code §12926(d)(1).
A labor organization, like an employer, cannot discriminate on the basis of an individual’s religious creed. Cal. Gov’t Code §12940(a). A “labor organization” includes any organization that exists and is constituted for the purpose, in whole or in part, of collective bargaining or of dealing with employers concerning grievances, or terms or conditions of employment. Cal. Gov’t Code §12926(g).
Individual employees and supervisors are not liable for discrimination under Title VII or FEHA of racial discrimination laws in California that,. Reno v. Baird, 18 Cal. 4th 640, 76 Cal. Rptr. 2d 499 (1998); Greenlaw v. Garrett, 59 F.3d 994, 1001 (9th Cir. 1995). However, employment lawyers will argue that the employer is responsible for the employees unlawful conduct.
The FEHA prohibits discrimination on the basis of hiring, termination, failure to promote, or denial of employment terms and conditions. Cal. Gov’t Code §12940(a); Mixon v. Fair Employment and Housing Comm’n, 192 Cal. App. 3d 1306, 1316. A race discrimination lawyer will look at a company’s demographic compare to the industry.
Forcing a plaintiff to undergo discriminatory tests and other selection procedures, publishing items or making non-related job inquiries that express discrimination, and/or failing to receive merit increases or accurate performance appraisals, constitute discriminatory denial of terms and conditions under the FEHA and is a racial discrimination laws in California. Cal. Code Regs. tit. 2, §§7287.1-9; Heard v. Lockheed Missiles & Space Co., 44 Cal. App. 4th 1735, 1747.
To prove that treatment was different or disparate, it is not always necessary to produce evidence regarding the treatment of “similarly situated” employees outside the protected class. Heard v. Lockheed Missiles & Space Co., 44 Cal. App. 4th 1735, 1755.
1:34 Discriminatory Intent
A plaintiff may prove intentional discrimination by using either direct or circumstantial evidence. McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792 (1973); Mixon v. Fair Employment and Housing Comm’n, 192 Cal. App. 3d 1306, 1319. A race discrimination lawyer will look to the employer’s conduct to prove discriminatory intent.
When there is direct evidence of discriminatory intent (e.g., racial epithets by a decision-maker), a plaintiff may establish discrimination by a preponderance of the evidence. Direct evidence may include derogatory racial remarks or a pervasive attitude of racial bias. Los Angeles County Dep’tof Parks & Recreation v. Civil Service Comm’n, 8 Cal. App. 4th 273, 283. Discriminatory intent is difficult to show under racial discrimination laws in California. A race discrimination lawyer often will not find direct evidence of discriminatory intent.
In disparate treatment cases, the employee must prove the ultimate fact that the defendant engaged in intentional discrimination. St. Mary’s Honor Center v. Hicks, 509 U.S. 502 (1993). The racial discrimination laws in CA makes disparate treatment a big factor in determining an employer’s liability.
In most cases, a plaintiff will not have direct evidence of the employer’s discriminatory intent. Consequently, a three-part analysis for cases based on indirect or circumstantial evidence has been established:
- The employee must establish a prima facie case of discrimination;
- The employee must offer a legitimate reason for its actions; and
- The employee must prove that this reason was a pretext to mask an illegal motive. Mixon v. Fair Employment and Housing Comm’n, 192 Cal. App. 3d 1306, 1317-18.
To establish a prima facie case of discrimination a plaintiff must show that:
- The employee belongs to a protected class;
- The employee’s job performance was satisfactory;
- The employee was discharged (or suffered some other adverse employment action); and
- Other workers not in the protected class were retained in similar jobs and/or the job was filled by an individual of comparable qualifications not in the protected class. Mixon v. Fair Employment and Housing Comm’n, 192 Cal. App. 3d 1306, 1316-17. But see Heard v. Lockheed Missiles & Space Co., Inc., 44 Cal. App. 4th 1735, 1755, (may be unnecessary to produce evidence regarding “similarly situated” employees outside protected class).
The amount of evidence that must be produced to create a prima facie case of discrimination is “very little.” Caldwell v. Paramount Unified School Dist., 41 Cal. App. 4th 189. In most cases, employment lawyers will need moderate evidence to continue investigation on discrimination.
In a wrongful discharge case, a plaintiff usually establishes a prima facie case in one of two ways: either he was replaced by a non-minority member no more qualified than he, or he was fired when minority co-workers similarly situated were not fired. Mixon v. Fair Employment and Housing Comm’n, 192 Cal. App. 3d 1306, 1316-17.
Once a prima facie case is established, the burden of production shifts to the defendant to articulate a legitimate, nondiscriminatory business reason for the adverse action. Martin v. Lockheed Missiles & Space Co., 29 Cal. App. 4th 1718, 1730.
In defending lawsuits, race discrimination lawyers help the employer come up with creative explanations for the adverse actions.
Discharging an employee for economic reasons (i.e., as part of a reduction-in-force) may be sufficient justification as a matter of law. Clutterham v. Coachmen Indus., Inc., 169 Cal. App. 3d 1223, 1227.
Terminating an employee based on a good faith belief that an employee engaged in misconduct is a legitimate business reason. Cotran v. Rollins Hudig Hall Int’l, Inc., 17 Cal. 4th 93.
If the employer meets its burden of production, the plaintiff may still prevail by showing by a preponderance of evidence that the discriminatory reason more likely than not motivated the employer or that the employer’s proffered reason is a pretext for discrimination and is unworthy of credence. Mixon v. Fair Employment and Housing Comm’n, 192 Cal. App. 3d 1306, 1316-1317. In many employment lawsuits, employment lawyers often find evidence leading up adverse action against the employee.
Establishing the falsity of an employer’s reasons for discharging him or her does not compel a judgment in the plaintiff’s favor. St. Mary’s Honor Center v. Hicks, 509 U.S. 502 (1993).
1:35 Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies
A plaintiff must file a discrimination charge with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (“DFEH”) within one year from the date of the most recent act of discrimination. Cal. Gov’t Code §12960. This period may be extended for up to 90 days if the plaintiff did not learn of the discrimination within a year of its last occurrence. Cal. Gov’t Code §12940. It is very important for the employee to contact an employment lawyer immediately to protect against the 90 days deadline.
The one-year limitations period for filing an administrative charge of discrimination with the DFEH begins to run from the time the adverse action actually takes place, not the earlier date of notification of the adverse action. Romano v. Rockwell Int’l, 14 Cal. 4th 479.
Employees may assert discrimination claims based on adverse actions outside of the one-year limitations period under the “continuing violation” doctrine. To invoke the doctrine, the employee must show that the adverse action is part of a long-standing practice of discrimination or harassment that continued into the limitations period. See Accardi v. City of Simi Valley, 17 Cal. App. 4th 321, 349-51. An employee should contact an employment lawyer as earliest as possible to protect against the statute of limitation.
Failure to file with the DFEH will bar a claim under the FEHA. Filing with the EEOC does not satisfy the requirement and does not enable the plaintiff to file a civil suit under the FEHA. Martin v. Lockheed Missiles & Space Co., 29 Cal. App. 4th 1718, 1728-30.
Failure to include a claim (such as retaliation) in a DFEH charge bars the claim in a civil action. Okoli v. Lockheed Technical Operations Co., 36 Cal. App. 4th 1607, 1612, 1617.
The employee must specify each separate and distinct act of discrimination (e.g., unlawful demotion and unlawful discharge) in the administrative complaint. Martin v. Lockheed Missiles & Space Co., 29 Cal. App. 4th 1718, 1724-30.
- Compensatory Damages (Commodore Home Sys., Inc. v. Superior Court, 32 Cal. 3d 211, 185 Cal. Rptr. 270 (1982)).
- Punitive Damages (Monge v. Superior Court, 176 Cal. App. 3d 503, 509.
- Back Pay (Northern Inyo Hospital v. Fair Employment Practice Comm’n, 38 Cal. App. 3d 14, 112 Cal. Rtpr. 872 (1974)).
- Front Pay (Ackerman v. Western Electric Co., 643 F. Supp. 836, 856 (N.D. Cal. 1986), aff’d, 860 F.2d 1514, 1519 (9th Cir. 1988)).
- Injunctive Relief (International Union of Operating Engineers v. Fair Employment Practice Com., 276 Cal. App. 2d 504 (e.g., hiring, promotion, reinstatement orders)).
- Prejudgment Interest (County of Alameda v. Fair Employment and Housing Comm’n, 153 Cal. App. 3d 499.
- Attorneys’ Fees and Costs (Cal. Gov’t Code §12965(b); Cummings v. Benco Building Services, 11 Cal. App. 4th 1383.
1:50 STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS
The employee must file a civil lawsuit within one year from the date that the DFEH issues a “right-to-sue” notice to the employee. Cal. Gov’t Code §12965(b).
1:60 AFFIRMATIVE DEFENSES
- Statute of Limitations (see above).
- Failure to Exhaust Administrative Remedies (Cal. Gov’t Code §§12960, 12965(b)).