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What are California's Protected Classes in Employment?

California Protected Classes in Employment

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If you are a California employee, federal and state employment laws protect you from workplace discrimination. This means that if your employer subjects you to unlawful negative treatment based on your membership in a protected class, you may be able to file an employment discrimination claim. While federal laws protect certain classes from discrimination and harassment, California state law extends these protections to additional classes of people.

What is a protected class?

Both federal and California employment laws define a protected class as a group of people who share a common characteristic and are legally protected from discrimination on the basis of that characteristic.

Federal Protected Classes List

Under federal law, it is illegal for your employer to discriminate due to your:

  • Race
  • Color
  • Sex
  • Age (40 and older)
  • Religion
  • National origin
  • Disability
  • Citizenship status
  • Genetic information

Federal Employment Laws

There are several federal employment laws and rules that prohibit California employers from subjecting employees to unlawful discrimination based on these protected classes. If you work for a company with 15 or more employees, you are protected by the following federal laws:

If you work for a company with 20 or more employees, your employer must also follow the guidelines outlined in the federal Age Discrimination Act (ADEA) which makes discriminating against employees who are age 40 or older unlawful.

Businesses with four or more employees should also comply with the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) which prohibits employers from discriminating against individuals on the basis of their citizenship status.

Additionally, companies of any size must adhere to paying everyone equally for doing equal work as outlined in the federal Equal Pay Act.

California Protected Classes List

In addition to the protected classes under federal law, California law prohibits your employer from subjecting you to discrimination based on your:

  • Sexual orientation
  • Gender identity and gender expression
  • Race
  • Color
  • Ancestry
  • National origin
  • Religion
  • Sex (including pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions)
  • Medical conditions
  • AIDS/HIV
  • Disability: physical or mental
  • Age (40 and older)
  • Genetic information
  • Marital Status
  • Military or Veteran status
  • Political affiliations or activities
  • Status as a victim of domestic violence, assault, or stalking

California Employment Laws

There are a number of California laws that prohibit employers from engaging in behaviors that constitute workplace discrimination, harassment, and retaliation including the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), the California Family Rights Act (CFRA), and the California Equal Pay Act. If you work in California, your employer is subject to state employment and anti-discrimination laws if the company employs five or more employees.

California City and County Protected Classes

It's important to also note that several counties and cities in California have their own local anti-discrimination ordinances that protect additional classes. For instance, if you work in Santa Cruz or San Francisco, these cities prohibit discrimination in the workplace based on your weight and height.

File a Workplace Discrimination Complaint in California

If you believe you are a victim of workplace discrimination, it's important to contact an experienced California employment attorney right away because time is of the essence. Your expert attorney will help you file on time with either the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). If you need help filing a workplace discrimination complaint in California, contact our expertLos Angeles employment lawyers at Hennig Ruiz for a free consultation.

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