This page discusses California’s workplace racial discrimination law. The goal of this page is to help individuals decide whether or not they should contact an employment lawyer. While this page discusses CA’s race and color discrimination laws, it is not a substitute for speaking with a lawyer. We highly recommend that you contact an employment lawyer if you feel your termination was due to your race or color of your skin. If you’re looking to learn about another type of discrimination, visit our main discrimination page.
This page covers the following subjects:
- Racial discrimination basics
- Who does FEHA protect?
- Color vs. Race
- What can you recover in a racial discrimination lawsuit?
- Average verdicts and settlements in racial discrimination cases
- The statute of limitations for racial discrimination
- The cost of a employment lawyer
- Consulting with and hiring a lawyer
Racial Discrimination Basics
It is well known that CA law prohibits corporations from firing an employee based solely on their race or the color of their skin (including against one’s own race or color). This includes refusing to hire someone because of their race or color. This law can be 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. For instance, FEHA applies to employers with five or more employees whereas Title VII applies only where there are fifteen or more. Additionally, FEHA does not put a cap on damages like Title VII does.
Who Does FEHA Protect
For the most part, the law protects all employees (unless they work for an employer that has less than five employees).
FEHA does not, however, protect volunteers, family members employed by their parents, spouse, or child, or those under a special license in a nonprofit sheltered workshop or rehab facility, or nonresidents who are employed outside of California. Non-profit religious institutions mostly are exempt as well. The main exception to this are employees who perform nonreligious duties at a public health care facility operated by a religious corporation. Those employees are covered.
Additionally, these protections extend to people who associate with another who is protected by FEHA. For example, if a Caucasian man is married to an African-American woman and he is fired for being married to a black woman, he can sue for racial discrimination.
Color vs. Race
Many people tend to group race and color together, but these are actually two separate things. Even though claims of color discrimination are rare, they may form the basis of a lawsuit even against one’s own race such as in Walker v. Secretary of Treasury, I.R.S. In that case, a darker-skinned African-American supervisor discriminated against a lighter-skinned African-American employee.
Race, in the law’s eye, means classes of persons identifiable by their ancestry or ethnic characteristics. A special note is that discrimination claims based on tribal membership for Native Americans can be brought either as racial or national origin claims.
What Can You Recover in a Racial Discrimination Lawsuit?
First and foremost, if your attorney wins your case you can recover the income you would have earned had you there been no discrimination. For instance, if you made $60,000 per year, but was fired because of your race, you can recover $60,000 for each year you could not find a job.
You may also recover damages for the emotional distress you suffered due to the racial discrimination. Emotional distress may include the following: anxiety, depression, uncertainty, irritability, and mental suffering. The law attempts to put you back in the position you would have been if not for the discrimination.
Attorney’s fees are considered to be one of the most powerful components of a racial discrimination claim. Many racial discrimination cases do not have large lost income and emotional distress damages, so the California legislature has incentivized lawyers to take such cases by adding this provision.
Finally, it is possible that you may recover punitive damages if you can prove that your employer took part in reprehensible actions. Punitive damages are awarded to deter the employer from doing the same thing and, thus, are extremely rare. To win punitive damages, your attorney must show that your employer acted with malice, fraud, or oppression.
Average Verdicts and Settlements in Racial Discrimination Cases
Most discrimination cases, not just racial discrimination, do not go to trial and instead, settle. Since settlements are subject to confidentiality provisions, there is no data to figure out an average recovery. Our experience, though, shows that the majority of racial discrimination cases settle for under $50,000. Every case is different and one judge’s or jury’s view today may be completely different tomorrow given the same set of facts. For this reason, you should not expect a certain recovery amount with your lawsuit.
Statute of Limitations
Most of the time, you have a year from when you were fired to get a right-to-sue letter from the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (“DFEH”). Usually, your lawyer will get this letter for you, but if you have applied or received one it is imperative to inform your lawyer about it. Your lawyer will have one year from the acquisition date of this letter to file your case in court or arbitration.
Public entities, however, have a different statute of limitations. For former employees of public entities, it may be as short as six months! Since these statute of limitations vary so much, we urge you to contact a discrimination lawyer right away. Most employment attorney’s give free consultations.
How Much Does a Racial Discrimination Lawyer Cost?
Racial discrimination lawyers are paid on a contingency fee basis. This ensures that your lawyer gives you the proper attention your case deserves as they only get paid if they win your case. The amount the lawyer will make is a percentage that the two of you will have agreed on prior to the lawyer digging deep into your case. Another benefit to a contingency fee lawyer is that you will not pay the lawyer any money of your own. Additionally, the firm will take care of the costs of the case for you, and recover these expenses after the settlement or verdict awards are presented when the case concludes.
Racial Discrimination Lawyer – Free Consultation
If you are wondering if you have a racial discrimination case against your employer, call a Los Angeles employment lawyer for a free consultation. There are no obligations if you call and this office will not charge to evaluate your case.