Quite often I will receive a call from an employee who is concerned that they are being discriminated, harassed and/or retaliated against at work. The first thing I will ask the employee is whether or not they have notified their employer that such unlawful practices are taking place. I am not surprised when they tell me they have not. The employee may be afraid to do so for fear of retaliation, and/or concerned that the employer will ignore their complaints. Employees are, however, expected to utilize their employer’s internal complaint procedures, if available, in order to show that they used reasonable care to avoid the harm resulting from the unlawful conduct.
California Employers Are Required to Take All Reasonable Steps To Prevent Discrimination In The Workplace
In California employee protection against workplace discrimination, harassment and retaliation is governed by Fair Employment and Housing Act (California Government Code §12940, et. seq.), otherwise known as the “FEHA” statute or, simply, FEHA. The FEHA is the state counterpart to Title VII of the federal 1964 Civil Rights Act, and is generally considered to provide broader protection and remedies than Title VII. The FEHA prohibits unlawful employment practices by employers who the FEHA statute defines as any person or entity with five or more employees.
Pursuant to FEHA employers are required to “take all reasonable steps necessary to prevent discrimination” in the workplace. (Cal. Gov. Code § 12940 (k)). Reasonable steps included a prompt investigation of discrimination, harassment and/or retaliation claims, as is required to ensure a discrimination free environment. Employers are also required to establish antidiscrimination polices and to implement effective procedures to handle complaints of discrimination. In addition to claims of discrimination, retaliation or harassment, an employer can face liability for failing to police its own workplace against discriminatory practices if discrimination is shown to exist.
Both employees and employers stand to gain from utilizing protective measures that are aimed to provide a workplace environment that is free from discrimination, harassment and retaliation. The employee, on the one hand, needs to know their employer is equally concerned about ensuring that discrimination doesn’t occur at work. The employer, on the other hand, needs to be able to defend against claims that they were indifferent to unlawful discriminatory practices at work, either by not having an antidiscrimination policy or by doing nothing to enforce that policy when the occasion arises. The Law Office of George G. Romain provides counsel to both employers and employees, and serves the greater Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Riverside counties. Call now for your free consolation.
– Attorney George G. Romain