I Think My Employer Is Discriminating Against Me. What Do I Do?
If an employer or co-worker makes your life miserable because he or she views you as “different” and acts on this attitude in a negative manner, and this behavior is consistent and systemic, you can file a lawsuit for employment discrimination.
An employee’s salary was lowered because his boss learned he was gay
A recent news report spoke about a male employee, whose salary was lowered after his employer learned that he’s gay. Wernecke was hired based on his qualifications, but the alleged discrimination that occurred after his employment led to a civil rights lawsuit. Some of the behaviors he experienced included:
- Shutting him out of the business so that he couldn’t perform his job.
- Excluding him from professional meetings and office social events.
- Passing him over for assignments with large commissions.
- Subjecting him to discriminatory remarks.
- Snubbing him during a traditional weekly office greeting.
- Taking client accounts away from him without discussion.
- Having his salary lowered to half of what he was initially earning because he was being paid “so much more than other females in the office.”
- Being fired based on his sexuality.
What the law guarantees – and doesn’t – when it comes to protections
You do not have the constitutional right to employment – no employer is legally obligated to hire you just because you’ve applied for a job. However, you do have the right to certain protections as an employee and as a human being. The Equal Protection Clause under the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution provides that people who are similarly situated must be treated the same way.
When it comes to employment, there are categories of protected classes for workers. Most people are at least familiar with the fact that you can’t discriminate based on race, gender or religion, but there are people who have a right to be protected for additional reasons; sexual orientation is one of those reasons.
It doesn’t matter whether an employee is gay, straight, bisexual or any other label used to describe the individual’s sexual preference. That information is irrelevant to whether an employee is qualified and capable of doing his, her or their job. When you have been singled out and harassed because of your sexual orientation, it’s time to seek help from a qualified employment law attorney.
Just as discrimination based on sexual preference violates civil rights, so does discriminating based on gender. The female employees of the company mentioned in the news article may potentially have their own civil rights claim based on being paid significantly less because they’re women.
Remedies for employment discrimination
In California, there are several categories of damages that an employee may be entitled to should a court rule that discrimination occurred. The damages awarded may be dependent upon the type of discrimination that applies. Types of damages include:
- Back pay for previous lost income
- Front pay for future lost earnings
- Hiring / Reinstatement
- Promotion that was wrongfully denied
- Out-of-pocket expenses
- Policy changes to prevent discrimination practices
- Training for workers and employers to prevent further damaging behavior
- Reasonable accommodation(s) should a disability be involved
- Damages for emotional distress, that may be shown by medical records
- Punitive damages to punish particularly egregious behavior
- Attorneys’ fees and costs
When your rights are violated it’s important to stand up and enforce their intended purpose: to protect people from discrimination. Nobody has the right to treat an employee as “less than” simply because of gender, sexual preference or any other class recognized under California law.
If you have been discriminated against by your employer or co-workers, our attorneys will fight to protect your right to work in an environment where you are respected rather than singled out. With McNicholas & McNicholas, LLP in your corner, you can show your employer that inequality doesn’t have a place in the business world. To schedule your free consultation with one of our Los Angeles employment attorneys, call our office at 310-474-1582 or reach out through our contact page to tell us your story.