What to know if you have suffered workplace harassment and/or discrimination.

If you believe that you have been the victim of workplace harassment and/or discrimination it is important to know that you have a limited amount of time to bring an action against your employer for such acts.  First, however, it is important to understand that an employee cannot sue his/her employer simply because the employee believes that his/her supervisor is a jerk or the employee does not like new work policies that have been instituted.

There is a misperception that an employee can sue their employer for perceived “slights.”  This is certainly not the case.  Contrary to the perception that employees can sue employers for nearly any act that the employee finds disruptive or insulting, California is very strict on when an employee can sue for harassment and/or discrimination.

In California, an employee can bring a lawsuit for harassment and/or discrimination only if the acts of harassment and/or discrimination are directed at an employee who is in a “protected class.”  A protected class of employees are employees who have a distinct and identifiable characteristic(s) that the state of California has determined needs special protections in order to avoid mistreatment by an employer.   So, for example, employees over the age of 40 are a protected class.  Therefore, if a supervisor is harassing and/or discriminating against an employee because s/he is over the age of 40 and is trying to get the employee to quit, this would create a basis for a lawsuit.  Similarly, if a supervisor is harassing and/or discriminating against an employee because of his or her disability, this would also be a grounds for a lawsuit.

Generally speaking, California prohibits harassment and discrimination against employees based on: Race, Religion, National Origin, Sex, Disability, Age, Genetic Information, Marital Status, Sexual Orientation and Identity, AIDS/HIV, Medical Condition and Political Activities or affiliations.  Accordingly, if an employee is a victim of harassment and/or discrimination due to one of these characteristics, then the employee would have a basis for a lawsuit.

Prior to filing a lawsuit in the California Superior Court system, an employee must first obtain a right-to-sue letter from the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH).  The employee must obtain the right-to-sue letter within one year of the act that constituted the harassment and/or discrimination.  After one year, the employee is barred from suing the employer.  Once the employee obtains a right-to-sue letter, s/he must then file his or her lawsuit within one year from obtaining the right-to-sue letter.  Failure to file a lawsuit within one year will again bar the employee’s lawsuit.

Therefore, if you have been the victim of harassment and/or discrimination you should contact the attorneys at The Rinka Law Firm at 310-556-9653.  We can determine whether you have a basis for a lawsuit and, if so, we can assist you with obtaining the right-to-sue letter and proceed with filing a lawsuit.  It is important that you do not delay in contacting us as you may end up waiving your rights to a recovery.

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