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  • By: Moss Bollinger
  • Published: September 29, 2021
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Federal and state employment laws protect California employees from workplace discrimination. This means that if your employer subjects you to unlawful negative treatment based on your membership in a protected class, you may be able to file an employment discrimination claim. While federal laws protect certain classes from discrimination and harassment, California state law extends these protections to additional classes of people.

What are California Protected Classes

A “protected class” is one of the foundations of anti-discrimination law. The legality of some misconduct may be based on whether it is motivated by the victim’s membership in a “protected class.” In an employment law context, the application of the concept of protected classes may determine the legality of an employee’s termination. It may also determine whether mistreatment is merely bullying or harassment, the latter being illegal.

Under federal law, it is illegal for an employer to discriminate because of your:

  • Race
  • Sex
  • Color
  • Age (40 and older)
  • Religion
  • National origin
  • Disability
  • Citizenship status
  • Genetic information

Several federal employment laws, rules, and regulations prohibit employers in California from subjecting employees to unlawful discrimination based on membership in a protected class.

Employees who work for a company with 15 or more employees are protected by the following federal laws:

Protected Classes under California law (Department of Fair Employment and Housing):

  • Race
  • Color
  • Religion (includes religious dress and grooming practices)
  • Sex/gender (includes pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, and/ or related medical conditions)
  • Gender identity, gender expression
  • Sexual orientation
  • Marital status
  • Medical Condition (genetic characteristics, cancer, or a record or history of cancer)
  • Military or veteran status
  • National origin
  • Ancestry
  • Disability (mental and physical disabilities including HIV/AIDS, cancer, and genetic characteristics)
  • Genetic information
  • Request for family care leave
  • Request for leave for an employee’s own serious health condition
  • Request for Pregnancy Disability Leave
  • Retaliation for reporting patient abuse in tax-supported institutions
  • Age (over 40)


The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) applies to public and private employers, labor organizations, and employment agencies. The FEHA prohibits harassment based on a protected category against an employee, an applicant, an unpaid intern or volunteer, or a contractor. Harassment is prohibited in all California workplaces, even those with fewer than five employees. The California Family Rights Act (CFRA) and the California Equal Pay Act also protect California workers from discrimination.

California employees have the legal right to compensation if their employers violate federal and state discrimination laws. The experienced and knowledgeable employment law attorneys at Moss Bollinger will help ensure that your rights as a California worker are protected if your employer has engaged in any illegal conduct under federal or California law. Contact Moss Bollinger today.

Moss Bollinger LLP - Sherman Oaks, CA

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