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I Believe that I was Discriminated Against at Work. Can I Sue My Employer?

If you believe that you were discriminated against at work, been treated unfairly, or fired, you must first determine whether the discrimination was related to a legally protected trait.  Often, employees who are considering a lawsuit against an employer assume that, because they were treated unfairly or rudely by their employers, they will automatically have a case for discrimination.  While it is frustrating and sometimes outright unfair to work in an environment where you feel that your boss is not treating you properly, there is no law that protects employees from being treated badly in general.

Currently, under CA law, if an employee wants to bring a claim for discrimination against an employer, the employee must show that the discrimination or  poor treatment was motivated by some protected trait such as their race, religion, gender, national origin or disability.

While in the past most employment law discrimination cases were based on one of the above classes, we are seeing a rise in claims that are being brought based on categories not currently protected under the law. For example, in a recent Maryland case, the Equal Opportunity Commission (EEOC) tried to broaden protected classes to include people with criminal backgrounds.  There, the courts ruled against the EEOC’s position and mandated that criminal backgrounds are definitely not within the protected classes.

However, in Rhode Island, homelessness has recently become a protected class within the law. In other states still, literacy or appearance have been included as protected classes in employment law cases. Finally, with so many families having both parents employed full-time, there has been a rise in employment law cases regarding discrimination based on family responsibility. Employment law experts agree that if case law is any indication, family responsibility is a trait that will likely be protected in the future.

Due to the ever changing and expanding definitions of protected classes, it is a good idea to consult an employment attorney in your jurisdiction in order to discuss your legal options and make the best decision for your particular case.

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