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What legal remedies are available for victims of employment discrimination?

Those who are the victims of employment discrimination are likely aware that their employer’s actions are not just unethical but illegal. But what does that mean? What happens if victims put the time and effort into holding the offender accountable for their wrongdoing? Can victims really get anything out of this process?

These common questions are the focus of this article.

Why should I move forward with an employment discrimination case?

These laws serve three goals. First, to return the victim of the discriminatory action back to their position of employment or to a higher position as appropriate if the discrimination had not occurred; second, to hold the employer responsible for their illegal actions; and third, to deter others from making the same mistakes.

Legal remedies are available for victims of employment discrimination at both the state and federal levels. The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), California Family Rights Act (CFRA), and Pregnancy Disability Leave Law (PDLL) provide relief that can include the following:

  • Back pay. The victim can receive any pay, additional pay, bonuses, or other benefit that was withheld as a result of the discriminatory action.
  • Front pay. The same also applies to potential future pay.
  • If the discriminatory action resulted in termination or demotion, the victim could receive a court order demanding reinstatement to their position.
  • Additional monetary awards. The victim can also receive monetary awards for emotional distress.
  • Additional injunctive relief. Court action can also apply and could include an official order to force an employer to reinstate, promote or otherwise act in the victim’s interest or prohibit certain actions such as the employer using the same discriminatory practices in the future.

In serious cases the court may also award additional punitive damages. These are monetary awards in addition to those noted above and serve to further punish the employer for particularly egregious behavior. The court can also order the offender to cover the victim’s reasonable attorney’s fees, costs of using expert testimony, and court fees.

When are these remedies available?

It depends on the details of the case. FEHA prohibits employers from discrimination based on an employee’s race, sex, pregnancy status, childbirth, medical conditions, age, ancestry, color, and religion. This applies to the termination of employment as well as many other employment situations such as promotion opportunities, bonuses, benefits, working appearance, and disciplinary actions. Those how experience negative employment action as a result of any one of these types of discrimination are likely eligible for the legal remedies noted above.

What should I do if I believe I am the victim of employment discrimination?

The first step is often to file a Charge of Discrimination form with the Civil Rights Department. This generally includes a sworn affidavit that provides additional details of the allegations. The accused then has an opportunity to respond to the allegations and, if unable to reach a resolution, will further investigate the matter. This is generally followed by an opportunity for the victim to move forward with further legal action to better ensure they receive the compensation and legal remedies discussed above.