Despite how much we want to believe that gender equality is alive and thriving, time and again we are presented with statistical data that shows otherwise. The goal of this page is to help individuals decide whether or not they should contact an employment lawyer regarding gender discrimination.
While this page discusses CA’s gender discrimination laws, it is not meant to be a substitute for speaking with an attorney. We highly recommend that you contact an employment lawyer if you feel your termination was due to your gender. If you’re looking to learn about another type of discrimination, visit our discrimination page.
This page covers the following subjects:
- The basics of CA’s gender discrimination law
- Disparate treatment vs. disparate impact
- Appearance – “ugly,” “hot,” and “bitch”
- What can you recover in a gender discrimination lawsuit?
- Average verdicts and settlements in gender discrimination cases
- The statute of limitations
- How much does a gender discrimination lawyer cost?
- Consulting with and hiring a gender discrimination lawyer
This video was prepared by a good friend of the firm.
Gender Discrimination Basics
It is well known that CA law prohibits corporations from refusing to hire, base their compensation on, promote or choose to fire a person based solely on their gender, gender identity, or gender expression. This law is found in the California Fair Employment & Housing Act (“FEHA”) § 12940(a).
Under FEHA, California employees are afforded more protections than with the federal Title VII sex-based discrimination protections. Aside from greater protections being afforded, CA law provides two distinct, and powerful, advantages:
- A plaintiff suing in California state court does not need a unanimous jury verdict like they do in federal court.
- FEHA has unlimited compensatory and punitive damages, whereas Title VII is capped!
This law also overlaps with CA’s wrongful termination law. A termination on the basis of gender or sex is against public policy.
Disparate Treatment vs. Disparate Impact
The goal of the plaintiff in a gender discrimination claim is to prove that they have suffered an adverse employment action due to their gender. This is generally proven by showing disparate treatment.
This is the most common type of discrimination and is defined as “intentional discrimination against someone on prohibited grounds.” The simplest example of this would be to say that Joe and Joan are, for all intents and purposes of a job, exactly the same except for their gender. They have the same job title, education and qualifications, but Joan is paid 20% less because she is a woman.
What About a Woman’s Physical Appearance?
May an employer fire a woman because they are unattractive? Common terms we hear all the time are:
When an employer makes a adverse employment decision against a woman and uses one or more of these terms, does that automatically make it unlawful? The following case examines this principle. In 2003 the CA State Court of Appeal decided Yanowitz v. L’OREAL. The essential case facts are that the Plaintiff was told by her male boss to fire a female subordinate because she didn’t look good enough. He instructed her to fire the unattractive female and “Get me somebody hot.” The court framed the legal issue like this:
[T]he issue is one of sex discrimination: May a male executive insist that a female subordinate be terminated because she is not sexually appealing to him, when no similar orders are issued with respect to male employees?
The CA Court held that this behavior met the definition of sex discrimination. The Plaintiff prevailed in her appeal because the same standards were not applied to men in the company. The Court further argued that it was not permissible under FEHA to hire both men and women, but then subject one or the other to more burdensome appearance standards.
What Can You Recover in a Gender Discrimination Lawsuit?
If you prevail in your case, you can recover the wages you have earned had you not been discriminated against. For example, if you were earning $115,000 per year, but then got terminated because of your gender, and remained unemployed for a year despite all of your efforts to find a job, you can recover $115,000. Another form of economic damages are if your male counterpart was earning $150,000 and you prove that the only reason you were paid $115,000 is that you were female, then you would be able to recover $35,000. This is an over simplified example but should give you the basic idea.
You may also recover for the past and future pain and suffering caused by the gender discrimination (this is commonly referred to as “emotional distress”). Emotional distress damages include lost sleep, depression, anxiety, uncertainty, and mental suffering.
Employees may recover their attorney’s fees as well and punitive damages. Punitive damages are available only if you prove the corporation truly engaged in reprehensible behavior. Punitive damages are awarded to serve as a deterrent from engaging in such behavior and, thus, are extremely rare. In order to win punitive damages, the lawyer for the plaintiff must prove that the organization acted with malice, fraud, or oppression.
Average Verdicts and Settlements in Gender Discrimination Cases
Most employment cases, not just gender discrimination, settle. But settlements are subject to confidentiality terms, so there is very little to zero data to calculate an average. Based on our experience, the majority of cases settle for under $50,000. Since every case is different you should not set your expectations for a certain amount from your suit.
Statute of Limitations
Generally, you have one year from your termination to obtain a right-to-sue letter from the DFEH. Your attorney will usually obtain this right-to-sue letter for you, but if you have already received one be sure to let your attorney know. You have one year from the acquisition date of this letter to begin your case in court or arbitration.
The statute of limitations, however, is different for employees of public entities. We highly recommend that you consult with an employment lawyer as soon as possible if you are a public employee.
How Much Does a Gender Discrimination Lawyer Cost?
Gender discrimination lawyers are paid with a contingency fee. This means that the lawyer is paid only if he or she successfully recovers monetary damages for their client. The lawyer will be paid a percentage of your award. You do not pay the lawyer any money out of pocket. Furthermore, the law office will front all of the costs of the case and recover those costs from the settlement or verdict at the end of the case.
Gender Discrimination Lawyer – Free Consultation
If you would like to know if you have a gender discrimination case against your former employer, call a Los Angeles employment lawyer for a free consultation. There is no obligation to call and this office never charges clients for case evaluation.
If you are looking for our racial discrimination page, click here. If you are looking for our disability discrimination page, click here. If you are looking for our age discrimination page, click here. If you are looking for our religious discrimination page, click here.