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How to File a Racial Discrimination Complaint in California

How to File a Racial Discrimination Complaint in California

Racial discrimination at work is an injustice that no one should have to endure and which no employer should tolerate. When you experience unfair treatment, harassment, or disadvantage because of your race, you can feel belittled, angry, and powerless. You know in your heart that your civil rights have been violated, but you may not know where to seek help or how to take legal action.

Laws at both the state and federal levels strictly prohibit racial discrimination in employment. But even with these protections on the books, successful advocacy may require detailed documentation, trusted legal counsel, and determination.

Asserting your rights and filing a racial discrimination complaint can seem intimidating. But with the right guidance and representation, you can take a stand against unlawful practices and work to create real change. By following certain defined steps and working with an employment law attorney who is deeply familiar with California’s protections, you can correct illegal discrimination and secure the fair, just, and equal treatment you deserve.

Recognizing Racial Discrimination in the Workplace

State and federal laws prohibit workplace discrimination based on race, color, ancestry, national origin, and other protected characteristics. These laws ban unfair treatment in all aspects of employment, including hiring, firing, promotions, compensation, benefits, assignments, discipline, and other terms and conditions.

Racial discrimination can take many forms, both overt and subtle. Examples include:

  • Being passed over for promotion in favor of a less qualified employee of a different race;
  • Being singled out for harsher discipline than coworkers of a different race;
  • Being paid less than similar employees because of your race;
  • Being denied the ability to wear natural hairstyles or other cultural symbols by discriminatory grooming policies and
  • Being subjected to racial slurs or offensive comments by coworkers or managers.

More subtle discrimination may involve being excluded from networking events or training opportunities.

If you believe you are experiencing discrimination, it’s critical to methodically document any incidents and secure evidence. Detailed notes on dates, times, places, witnesses, and the specific actions taken against you will help prove your case. Tangible evidence like emails, texts, photos, or audio recordings can also help demonstrate you are facing discrimination.

Step 1: Consult With an Employment Lawyer

As a threshold matter, a free consultation with an employment lawyer can help your claim immensely. An employment lawyer can provide advice on whether the discrimination you are experiencing is illegal and can give you advice specific to your situation.

Step 2: File an Internal Complaint with Your Employer

Although there is no legal requirement to complain to your employer about discrimination, complaining to your employer allows the employer an opportunity to fix the problem. Outline the discriminatory incidents in writing and submit this to HR and/or your manager per your employer’s process. This allows the company a chance to investigate and take potential corrective action before you escalate matters externally.

Provide as much documentation as you can to back up your allegations. Your employer should respond within a reasonable timeframe. If their response is unsatisfactory or they fail to address the discrimination, you can then file a formal charge with a government agency.

Step 3: File a Complaint With California’s Civil Rights Department and/or the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

California’s Civil Rights Department (CRD) enforces state laws prohibiting workplace discrimination and harassment. To initiate an investigation into your racial discrimination allegations, you can file a complaint with the CRD by:

On the intake form, you’ll provide details on the alleged discriminatory acts, names of individuals involved, dates, and any witnesses or evidence you have. After filing, CRD will review your complaint and may try to resolve it through mediation between you and your employer. If that fails, the CRD will conduct an investigation by interviewing witnesses, collecting evidence, and requesting documents.

Alternatively, or in conjunction with filing with the CRD, you can also file a charge with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting workplace discrimination.

To file a charge, you can:

  • Submit an intake questionnaire on the EEOC’s online portal
  • Walk in or make an appointment to visit an EEOC office
  • Mail a letter to your nearest EEOC office

As with the CRD complaint, you’ll provide details on the alleged discrimination and any supporting evidence.

After reviewing your charge, the EEOC may mediate with your employer or investigate by conducting interviews, gathering documents, and assessing your employer’s defenses. This process can take several months or more to complete.

Step 4: File a Lawsuit in State or Federal Court

If agency mediation and investigation don’t resolve your case, the next step is filing a lawsuit in court. With a racial discrimination attorney’s help, you can file in California state court or federal district court. Which court you choose depends on factors like:

  • Applicable laws – federal laws may offer additional protections
  • Time limits – state vs. federal deadlines for filing suit
  • Potential remedies – federal courts may offer higher damages

Litigation can be complex, so working with an experienced employment lawyer is highly recommended. They can guide you through document collection, depositions, motions, and trial requirements.

An Employment Lawyer Can Strengthen Your Case

Pursuing action against racial discrimination often requires determination and perseverance. An attorney experienced in California employment law can provide invaluable support through every phase of the process. Malk Law Firm offers:

  • Case assessment and advice on the strongest legal avenues
  • Assistance in filing complaints with the proper agencies
  • Legal representation if your case goes to court
  • Guidance to ensure proper documentation and evidence collection

You don’t have to endure workplace discrimination. Contact our office today to discuss your situation in a consultation. We’re ready to answer your questions, review your concerns, and help you seek the justice you deserve.

You Have the Right to a Discrimination-Free Workplace

Experiencing racial discrimination at work can make you feel powerless and alone. But you have rights under California and federal law, and there are clear legal steps you can take to correct discriminatory practices. With an experienced employment law attorney from Malk Law Firm on your side, you can stand up for yourself and make your voice heard.

For a case assessment, compassionate counsel, and dedicated legal representation, contact our office today. We have the resources to thoroughly review your situation and advise you on the strongest avenues for seeking justice. Whether negotiating with your employer, filing claims, or litigating in court, we’re committed to helping you reach a positive outcome.

You deserve fairness, equality, and justice in your workplace. Together, we can make that a reality. Call us now to schedule your consultation.

Author Bio

Michael Malk is the Founder and Managing Attorney of Malk Law Firm, a Seattle employee rights law firm he started in 2007. With more than 20 years of experience practicing law, he has dedicated his career to representing clients throughout California and Washington in a wide range of legal areas, including unpaid wages, sexual harassment, discrimination, wrongful termination, and other employee rights matters.

Michael received his Juris Doctor from the University of California— Davis School of Law and is a member of the State Bar of California, the State Bar of Washington, and the American Bar Association. He has received numerous accolades for his work, including being named as one of the “Top Attorneys in Southern California” by Los Angeles Magazine in 2018 and being selected as a Super Lawyer for six consecutive years.

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