Employees in California have a right to be free from harassment and discrimination on the job.
If you are targeted or subjected to unwelcome and offensive conduct because of a protected class – for example, because of your sex, race, age, religion, sexual orientation, sexual identity, disability, or medical condition – then you may have a legal claim for unlawful discrimination and/or harassment under California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (often referred to as “FEHA”).
The difference between harassment and discrimination under the FEHA is this: harassment occurs when an employee is treated poorly through interpersonal relations (i.e., workplace behavior) because of a protected characteristic or activity. Discrimination is when an employer makes adverse employment decisions against an employee (e.g., termination or demotion) because of a protected characteristic or activity.
In California, companies are strictly – automatically – liable for harassment committed by a supervisor against a subordinate employee. An employer is only legally responsible for harassment between co-workers if it knows – or should have known – about what is happening and fails to take prompt and effective corrective action.
Traditionally, harassment arises in two forms: a “hostile work environment” or in the context of a “quid pro quo.” A “hostile” workplace requires: 1) conduct directed at a protected class (e.g., sex, sex identity, sexual orientation, race, religion, national origin, disability, etc.); 2) that is unwelcome and offensive; and 3) that is severe or pervasive such that it alters the terms and conditions of employment. “Quid pro quo” harassment occurs when a job benefit is conditioned on sexual favors.
Being a bad boss, or making bad or unfair business decisions, is not unlawful. Workplace bullying is not unlawful unless it is based on a protected class. Because an employer typically cannot be held legally responsible without notice of the unlawful conduct, it is critical for employees to complain in writing to a supervisor and human resources department.
If you complain in writing to your employer and the company fails or refuses to help you, or retaliates against you, then contact Top Law PC for a confidential, free case evaluation.