What is Discrimination in the Workplace?

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Discrimination in the workplace can come in many forms. While some may be obvious, other types of discrimination can fall under the radar. Employees are protected by law from being treated unfavorably relative to their personal characteristics. Here’s what every employee should know about their legal rights against discrimination in the workplace.

Types of Workplace Discrimination

California is an “at will” state, and an employee can be terminated without the employer having to establish just cause as long as the reason isn’t illegal. However, employers cannot legally fire an employee for the following reasons:

  • Age, Gender, or Race
  • Religion
  • Ethnicity
  • National Origin
  • Physical or mental disability
  • Pregnancy
  • Parenthood

What is Wrongful Termination?

Wrongful termination happens when an employer fires an employee for reasons that protect employees under employment law. Wrongful termination may include the following types of retaliation:

  • Discriminatory retaliation (i.e., age, race, religion, etc.).
  • Retaliation for challenging a wage dispute.
  • Being terminated for serving jury duty.
  • Being terminated for reporting OSHA safety violations.
  • Being terminated for taking pregnancy leave.
  • Being terminated for refusing to sign an unlawful noncompete clause.
  • Being terminated for serving in the armed forces reserves.

Workplace Retaliation

In the state of California, your employer can terminate you at any time without an explanation. However, that doesn’t warrant termination for any grounds. An employer can not terminate or retaliate against an employee for the following reasons:

  • Making a complaint about workplace discrimination.
  • Making a complaint about sexual harassment and advances.
  • Refusing to engage in illegal activities.
  • Requesting overtime pay or any other additional benefits.

What are Your Rights Against Workplace Retaliation?

Employees are protected from workplace retaliation under employment law. If you believe you have been retaliated against, the first step it to notify your supervisor, human resources department or the business owner in writing, as soon as the incident occurs. Ensure that you keep a copy for your records. If there is no resolution to your retaliation problem, then your only recourse may be to seek legal representation. While each case is unique, you may be entitled to receive compensation for damages including but not limited to:

  • Lost wages
  • Lost benefits
  • Emotional suffering
  • Punitive damages


Employees who disclose evidence about their employer who is committing fraud, corruption or any other type of legal activity is called, “whistleblowing.” While reporting such illegal acts is the right thing to do, being fired for doing so is considered wrongful termination. Whistleblowing claims can be complicated. Whether you have evidence of misconduct and have not yet reported the incident or have been terminated for “whistleblowing,” contact an experienced employment lawyer today.

Warning Signs of Workplace Discrimination

Putting in a day’s work is hard enough — having a hostile environment to deal with while you are trying to get your job done can make it that much more stressful. Although specific employment laws are in place to protect employees from a hostile work environment, unfortunately, it’s not uncommon. Here are some warning signs you may be working in a hostile environment.

Hiring Practices

Employers who engage in unfair hiring practices will do so subtly without calling attention to their actions. If you think you’ve been discriminated against during the hiring process, you must be able to prove the following:

  • You are part of a protected class.
  • You met all the qualifications for the position in which you applied.
  • You did not receive a job offer.
  • The employer hired a less qualified applicant.


Unfortunately, many types of harassment still exist in the workplace today. However, you have the right to work in a non-hostile environment safe from harassment. Here are some common ways harassment occurs:

  • Physical harassment
  • Bullying/cyberbullying.
  • Discriminatory harassment
  • Psychological harassment ( i.e., belittling or condescending remarks)
  • Sexual harassment
  • 3rd party harassment (i.e., harassment from suppliers, vendors or customers.)

Unfair Treatment

Every employer must provide an equal-opportunity work environment. Although there are laws in place that protect employees from unfair treatment, it still happens every day. Here are some warning signs to look out for:

  • Being passed over for a deserved promotion.
  • Favoring one gender over another.
  • Your work assignments are being ignored.
  • Unrealistic workloads and deadlines.

Why You Need an Attorney

Being discriminated against in the workplace can be stressful and not knowing what to do can leave you feeling hopeless. If you are facing unfair treatment, retaliation, harassment or have been wrongfully terminated by your employer, we can help. contact Polaris Law Group at (888) 796-4010 today for a free consultation and to learn more about your employment rights.