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How do I recognize discrimination?

San Diego, CA |
Attorney answers 4


Do you believe that you have been treated differently or adversely at work because of some protected characteristic (e.g., age, disability status, race, etc.)? Have you been the target of inappropriate comments at work that target a protected characteristic you possess? Have you been written up for an illegitimate reason? If you answer yes to any of these and have specific examples to support your affirmative response(s), then you may have actionable discrimination and harassment claims and should consult with an employment attorney right away.


Many people misunderstand the meaning of employment discrimination. “Discrimination” does not mean an employer has to be fair, respectful or has to make good decisions. Workplace discrimination means the employer treats one person or group differently from others who are not in the same group, but are similarly situated.

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:

*** 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 think you should talk to an attorney and explain all the facts and let the lawyer give you a free consultation to discuss it. Sometimes it is hard to find. You need to consider if the different treatment was based on a protected categoy (e.g., race, religion, gender, 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.


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. 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.