Almost everyone agrees that discrimination is wrong, even people who actively engage in it. If you point this out to them, they will probably tell you that what they did was not discrimination because their motivations for doing it were not what you think they were. Some people might even tell you, “I discriminate against everyone equally.” Unfortunately, employment discrimination is widespread, but fortunately, employment laws are not the comments section of a YouTube video where a YouTuber reacts to someone’s tweet about an episode of a television show, nor are they the parking lot of a bar at 2:00 in the morning. The law includes specific criteria for whether an action or pattern of behavior legally counts as employment discrimination. The San Francisco discrimination lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys, LLP can help you document incidents of discrimination in your workplace and file a complaint within your organization or in court.
The Manifestations of Employment Discrimination in San Francisco
The legal definition of employment discrimination is an employer taking one or more adverse actions against an employee or job candidate because of a protected characteristic of the employee or job candidate. The following are some examples of adverse actions in the workplace:
- Refusal to hire
- Excessive scrutiny of an employee’s work
- Unfairly negative performance reviews
- Changing the employee’s schedule, work location, or duties when the employee does not request this
- Hostile work environment
- Denial of promotions or raises for which the employee is eligible
- Reduction of pay or work hours
- Termination of employment
In some contexts, adverse actions are justified, such as when an employee repeatedly performs poorly at their work tasks or violates company policies. Employment discrimination is when your employer takes adverse actions against you because of who you are, not because of how you do your job.
In employment discrimination cases, adverse actions usually do not occur in isolation. The hostile work environment, in which your work supervisors harass you or are generally unpleasant to you, usually starts soon after you are hired or soon after they become aware of a protected characteristic of yours, such as if you request a day off of work to observe a religious holiday, or if you get married. Termination of employment is usually only the last incident in an ongoing pattern of discriminatory behavior.
Furthermore, an employer’s actions only qualify as discrimination if it is clear that the employer is singling out one employee because of a protected characteristic or is mistreating a group of employees who share the same protected characteristic. The workforce is full of low-responsibility, high-control managers who are so busy nitpicking about everything their employees do that they forget all about important deadlines that they were supposed to tell their employees about, so in a panic, they quickly reassign everyone to tasks they do not normally perform, under threat of termination of employment. While it is certainly unpleasant to work for such people, their actions do not fit the definition of employment discrimination because the employees’ protected characteristics are not the reason that the boss singled them out for stress and micromanagement.
What is a Protected Characteristic in San Francisco?
Employment laws define protected characteristics as personal characteristics or aspects of the employee’s family background or personal history, which are not acceptable reasons for an employer to take adverse action against an employee. Laws that treat the subject of personal characteristics and which sorts of treatment people are protected from receiving based on them include the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, among others. The following are examples of protected characteristics:
- Race, ethnicity, country of origin, or skin color
- Sex or gender presentation (perceived masculine or feminine appearance or behavior)
- Religion, sect, or lack of religious affiliation
- Age, if the employee is at least 40 years old (it is legal for employers to give priority to employees and job candidates with more work experiences, even though this puts younger workers at a disadvantage)
- Marital status, sexual orientation, pregnancy, or whether or not you have children
- Disability, whether or not the employee has formally disclosed a disability
- Country of citizenship (with the exception of certain public sector jobs which are open only to United States citizens, but except for the office of President of the United States, these jobs are open to naturalized citizens as well as those born in the U.S.)
In some cases, employers target the same employee for discrimination because of multiple protected characteristics. For example, the courts have ruled on lawsuits where an employee claimed that her employer discriminated against her because of her race, gender, country of origin, and family status.
How Do You Prove That You Were a Target of Workplace Discrimination in San Francisco?
Complaining about discrimination in your workplace is a legal right. Filing a discrimination complaint is a legally protected activity, which means that it is illegal for your employer to take an adverse action against you in retaliation for filing the complaint. You should first address the matter with your direct supervisor, your supervisor’s supervisor, or the human resources office in your organization if your organization has one. If you are worried about retaliation, you should consult an employment discrimination lawyer before you address the matter with your company’s administration or human resources department. You should write a detailed bullet point list of all the discriminatory incidents you wish to address.
If talking to the H.R. department at your workplace does not help matters, the next step is to contact the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). You should start working with a lawyer before you start communicating with the EEOC. It must investigate your complaint before it authorizes you to file a lawsuit in court. An employer can help you present your case persuasively to the EEOC in order to help you get the best outcome before and after the EEOC gives you permission to file the lawsuit.
Contact HKM Employment Attorneys, LLP About Employment Discrimination in San Francisco
The San Francisco employment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys, LLP can help you if you have been a target of employment discrimination. Contact the employment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP in San Francisco, California, to set up a consultation.