Although California discrimination laws ban harassment and discrimination in the workplace based on sexual orientation, the sad fact is the illegal practice continues to flourish across the state. If you have experienced discrimination based on sexual orientation in the workplace, learning how California employment laws protect your rights goes a long way towards preventing the unlawful behavior.
Defining Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation in California
Under the language written into the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), employers operating in the state cannot discriminate based on an employee’s sexual orientation. Written into law in 1959, the FEHA also prohibits California employers from judging an employee based on the employer’s perception of the employee’s sexual orientation. Any negative decision an employer makes regarding sexual orientation is considered to be an unlawful act under California law.
The FEHA also prohibits employers from retaliating against employees that initiate the following actions:
- Complain about sexual orientation discrimination to one or more members of management
- Complain about sexual orientation discrimination to the DFEH
- File a civil lawsuit in good faith that complains of discrimination based on sexual orientation
- Participate in an investigation or litigation based on sexual orientation discrimination in the workplace
Filing a Lawsuit for Sexual Orientation Discrimination
California employment law grants employees the right to file a lawsuit against their employers for engaging in discrimination based on sexual orientation. State law requires employees to first file a complaint with the California DFEH before allowing them to file a civil lawsuit.
The lawsuit process starts when an employee acquires a “right to sue” notice before taking a discrimination complaint to court. Workers in California can receive a “right to sue” notice before the DFEH completes a thorough investigation into a complaint of discrimination in the workplace based on sexual orientation. If you decide to receive a “right to sue” notice before the DFEH conducts an investigation into your complaint, state law prevents you from asking the DFEH to investigate your allegations.
According to the DFEH website, going directly to court without first allowing the DFEH to conduct an investigation into your complaint is not recommended unless you have hired a California employment lawyer. Your attorney can acquire a “right to sue” notice and then file your complaint with the California Superior Court in the same county where the discriminatory acts based on sexual orientation happened.
Possible Damages Awarded in Sexual Orientation Discrimination Cases
The amount of monetary damages awarded in California employment discrimination cases depends on the type of discrimination and the harm caused by discriminatory acts.
For discrimination in the workplace based on sexual orientation, a California worker has the right to request the following types of monetary damages:
- Back pay
- Emotional distress
- Pain and suffering
Although monetary damages for benefits and back pay are easy to calculate, the same cannot be said for emotional distress, as well as for pain and suffering. A California employment attorney can help you place a reasonable price tag on the monetary damages associated with emotional distress and pain and suffering.
You also might qualify for punitive damages, which is a type of monetary award that punishes a California employer for engaging in discriminatory acts in the workplace based on sexual orientation. The awarding of punitive damages also acts as a deterrent for the same employer to continue sexual orientation discrimination.
If you have experienced discrimination based on sexual orientation, schedule a free case evaluation with an attorney from the PLBSH Law Firm. You can contact us at 714-760-4088.