Get a free consultation from an employment lawyer, who can assess your chances of winning a suit. There are many other factors to consider than just your race and gender.
Regardless of what a lawyer advises, you may want to consider finding a new job. Even if race and gender are not the reasons why you are advancing, a different employer may be a better fit for your talents and energy.
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Your headline raises an important point about the law and specifically about employment law:
When attorneys talk about what your employer "can" and "can't" do under the law, we don't mean that the employer won't act differently than we contend the law requires. Employees get unlawfully fired every single day, all day long. The law may inhibit employer actions, but it cannot effectively prevent such action. And it only inhibits employer action when the employer recognizes that the action may be unlawful. Where the employer is convinced that the action will be be found lawful, or where the employer is willing to take the risk of a subsequent determination of unlawfulness, the employer will ordinarily take the action it prefers. Then, it is up to the employee to initiate legal process and to pursue that process to a satisfactory remedy and resolution. And that is a great deal more of a gamble than most claimants understand.
Picture a funnel. At the top, we see a lot of employee terminations, some of which the employee and/or an employment attorney contend are unlawful. Some -- but not all -- of those will be the basis for a lawsuit. Now, some -- but not all -- of those lawsuits will go away before trial or settlement for various procedural failures and defects. Some will go away because the evidence can't be mustered or falls apart. Some will go away because the claimant's resources are exhausted or out-spent.
Working our way down the funnel, some -- but not all -- of the cases that don't go away pre-trial will be settled for amounts that the employer finds bearable -- worth it to get rid of the employee. And some -- but not all -- of the remaining cases will go to trial where some -- but not all of those will be won by the employer. As for the cases lost by the employer at trial, some of those will be appealed and some of those appeals will be won.
Viewing the funnel as a whole, the numbers will always reveal that employers often exercise the power to terminate even where there is a contention that the employee "can't" be fired. As for those employees who "can't" be fired, what that really means is that if the employee sues and if the suit survives the rigorous gauntlet of long and uncertain legal process -- through the stages of settlement, trial and appeal -- the employee may receive compensatory damages at the end. In the meantime, financial obligations, raising children, mortgages, heath care, etc.all persist. None of that goes away or is covered by a rescuing angel because of the on-going lawsuit. It is inarguable that employees who haven't been fired, and who aren't at risk of being fired, need to fully understand the FUNNEL before affirmatively making legal war on the current employer.
Can you be fired after suing your employer. Of course you CAN. Is it legal? Will it be upheld after years down the legal road? Ask your attorney. Is your claim worth the risk? That is the plaintiffs' dilemma, the hardest decision of any lawsuit.
In 20+ years as a management-side attorney for an employer with a workforce of 20,000 plus, an employer without "at will" powers as most have, I never -- not even once -- saw an employee engaged in active litigation against the employer stay employed with that employer. How many of these terminations of employees litigating against the employer were later found unlawful? ZERO. It is a fact that no employee's performance is so perfect over a sustained course of time that the employer cannot find grounds for termination that will pass muster -- if the employer needs to find those grounds and articulate a defense. This is an ugly truth that we don't give much attention to here on Avvo, but one that compels potential plaintiffs' understanding.
If you get fired and a good lawyer will bring a legal challenge, that's one thing. If you aren't fired, and aren't otherwise going to be fired, that's another thing altogether. As the carpenters say: measure twice, you only get to cut once.
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Under most circumstances the EEOC is not the best option for a California employee. Filing a complaint with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing is a far better alternative.
Before you file anything with any entity, consult with an attorney. You should allow the attorney to assist you with the filing process. Just keep in mind that you have one year from the allegedly discriminatory conduct to file your complaint.
Also, if you believe you are being discriminated against, you need to inform your company that you believe such is occurring. The law frowns upon someone who fails to allow the company to correct the problem before filing a lawsuit on the issue.
Good luck to you.
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