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How do I determine whether I am a victim of discrimination?

Chula Vista, CA |

I was recently laid off from work with a reason "unsatisfactory work performance". I worked at a cardroom as a poker dealer at the same place for eight years. I know the reason for firing me has nothing to do with my work performance since I am one of the best dealers there. I believe I am fired because I was flirting with owner's grand daughter. How do I determine if I am a victim of discrimination?


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Attorney answers 5


You do not have a legal claim of discrimination based on what you have described. The reason for your "layoff" is not unlawful. If your employer had laid you off or taken other adverse action against you because you belonged to a protected class of individuals (e.g., you were a person with a recognized disability, you were of a certain race or color, etc.), then you would, potentially, have an actionable discrimination claim. The point is that discrimination has a very specific meaning under the law and what you describe does not fit that meaning. In addition, even if your employer terminated you for a reason that defies logic, as long as the reason is not unlawful, it's valid for purposes of your termination. As an aside, if you worked for an Indian casino, there may be jurisdictional hurdles at play as well.


Mr. Kased is correct. The only workplace discrimination that is illegal is discrimination that is against public policy. Public policy refers only to things that are specifically prohibited by a statute (law) enacted by the legislature, or prohibited by a regulation promulgated (established) by a government agency. Public policy includes statutes prohibiting discrimination against people in specific protected groups, which include sex, race, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, age (40 years and older), religion, marital status, pregnancy and genetic information. Sexual harassment is considered a form of sex discrimination.

Public policy also protects people who blow the whistle on a matter of public concern, complain about improper wage and hour practices, or who exercise voting rights, family leave rights, jury duty rights, domestic violence rights, and a few more rights protected by statute.

An employer cannot refuse to hire, refuse to promote, change terms of employment or fire an employee if the reason for the change is against the law (against public policy). For example, an employer cannot increase your workload because of your race, sex, national origin, religion, etc. or because you blew the whistle on safety violations

There are various ways to enforce these rights, depending on the particular public policy involved. For more information on discrimination law, please see my Avvo guide on this subject:

To find a plaintiffs employment attorney in California, please go to the web site of the California Employment Lawyers Association (CELA). CELA is the largest and most influential bar association in the state for attorneys who represent working people. The web site is, and you can search for attorneys by location and practice area.

I hope you can resolve your situation and wish you the best.

*** All legal actions have time limits, called statutes of limitation. If you miss the deadline for filing your claim, you will lose the opportunity to pursue your case. Please consult with an experienced employment attorney as soon as possible to better preserve your rights. *** Marilynn Mika Spencer provides information on Avvo as a service to the public, primarily when general information may be of assistance. Avvo is not an appropriate forum for an in-depth response or a detailed analysis. These comments are for information only and should not be considered legal advice. Legal advice must pertain to specific, detailed facts. No attorney-client relationship is created based on this information exchange. *** Marilynn Mika Spencer is licensed to practice law before all state and federal courts in California, and can appear before administrative agencies throughout the country. She is eligible to represent clients in other states on a pro hac vice basis. ***


I am sorry to tell you that flirting with the relative is legal grounds for termination. Illegal discrimination has to be related to a protected category (e.g. race, religion, gender, national origin, etc)

For more information, contact me at or (310) 857-5293. You can also view my website at LEGAL DISCLAIMER: NO ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP: The information provided herein is intended for informational purposes only. This information does not necessarily reflect current legal or factual developments and is general in nature. Nothing set forth in this email should be construed as providing legal advice regarding an individual situation. Mark Wagner and/or the Wagner Legal Group makes no warranty, express or implied, about the correctness, accuracy or reliability of the information set forth in this email. The information provided in this email should not be construed as legal advice and does not constitute an engagement of legal services with Mark Wagner and/or the Wagner Legal Group or establish an attorney-client relationship. There should be no expectation that an attorney-client relationship has been created unless you receive and accept a written form of engagement setting forth the terms of the representation. This response may constitute Legal Advertising/Marketing.


The concept that is eluding you here is this: "one of the best dealers there" would BY DEFINITION not be flirting with the owner's granddaughter. There are lots of individual judgments that go into determining that someone is a good (or "the best") worker in any given position, but having the judgment and the good sense not to do stuff such as you admit to is right up there in the top 10. So, it's all in the details of how you define "best," and your employer defines it differently than you. That is not discrimination. That's just you being wrong. Lear a lesson from this that will serve you over the course of the rest of your work life. You have to be "good" in all of the ways that matter to the employer -- not just by your own standards.

My responses to questions on Avvo are never intended as legal advice and must not be relied upon as legal advice. I give legal advice only in the course of an attorney-client relationship. Exchange of information through Avvo's Questions forum does not establish an attorney-client relationship with me. That relationship is established only by individual consultation and execution of a written agreement for legal services.


The question of whether you were discriminated against depends on the specific facts of your matte, some of which you may not have detailed above. Your long term tenure and the fact that you say you had satisfactory performance, would bear out looking into your matter. Although "flirting" in the workplace is not a good idea, this was not the stated basis for your termination and I would consider whether there was some other unlawful motive (your age, race or other protected category) or perhaps was the firing retaliatory (have you "blown the whistle" for example on gaming practices or other issues).

Illegal employer conduct that constitutes actionable discrimination is when you are being treated differently than similarly situated employess and that conduct is directed to you based on your being in a protected class or category (such as race, gender, orientation, disability, etc.).

The conduct can include lack of promotion, different treatment in job duties or conditions, discipline or even a decision to terminate as in your case.

The State Agency governing employment discrimination is the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) and I have attached a link to their section called "Civil Rights 101". The site is very informative and I would suggest you take a browse through it and if you have specific questions seek an employment attorney, many of whom offer free initial consultations. Good luck.