Employment Discrimination in California

Employment discrimination against protected classes is illegal in California.

Federal and state law prohibit California employers from discriminating against employees based on certain characteristics, such as race or religion. (To learn more, see our page on employment discrimination and harassment.)

Protected Classes in California

In all 50 states, federal law makes it illegal to discriminate based on:

  • Race
  • Color
  • National origin
  • Religion
  • Sex (including pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions)
  • Disability
  • Age (40 and older)
  • Citizenship status
  • Genetic information

In addition, California state law also prohibits discrimination based on:

  • Race
  • Color
  • Ancestry
  • National origin
  • Religion
  • Sex (including pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions)
  • Disability: Physical or mental
  • Age (40 and older)
  • Genetic information
  • Marital status
  • Sexual orientation
  • Gender identity and gender expression
  • AIDS/HIV
  • Medical condition
  • Political activities or affiliations
  • Military or veteran status
  • Status as a victim of domestic violence, assault, or stalking
Several cities in the U.S. have their own laws protecting additional characteristics or extending protection to more employees. For example, height and weight are protected classes in San Francisco. Contact your local government to learn more.

Employers Subject to the Antidiscrimination Laws

Federal antidiscrimination laws apply to California employers with 15 or more employees, with the following exceptions:

  • age discrimination (employers with 20 or more employees)
  • citizenship status discrimination (employers with four or more employees), and
  • equal pay for men and women (all employers).

California's antidiscrimination laws apply to companies with five or more employees.

Government Agency Regulation of Workplace Discrimination in California

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the federal agency that regulates workplace discrimination. You can contact the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission by calling 800-669-4000 or check out its website at www.eeoc.gov. The website will help you locate an EEOC field office in California.

The Department of Fair Employment and Housing, Sacramento District Office enforces state antidiscrimination law in California. You can contact the Department of Fair Employment and Housing, Sacramento District Office at 916-478-7200 or 800-884-1684 or go to its website.

For more information on employment discrimination, see The Manager's Legal Handbook, by Lisa Guerin and Amy DelPo (Nolo).

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