Race Discrimination

California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA): It is unlawful for an employer to refuse to hire; to discharge or to terminate; to refuse to select or to bar or discharge an employee from a training program leading to employment; or to discriminate against the person in compensation or in terms, conditions, or privileges of employment" because of the employee's race or color. Cal. Gov. Code § 12940(a).

Although claims of discrimination based solely on one's skin color are sparse, such discrimination based solely on the color of one's skin is indeed prohibited by FEHA. Walker v. Secretary of Treasure, I.R.S. (ND GA 1989) 713 F.Supp. 403, 405. Thus, FEHA protects employees from discrimination against skin color in addition to protecting them from discrimination motivated by race. In addition, FEHA protects not only minorities, but members of all races. Griggs v. Duke Power Co., (1971) 401 US 424, 430-31.

An employee does not need to be aware of precisely why the defendant is discriminating against the plaintiff, "whether it was his accent, his skin color, his ancestry or his nationality." If a plaintiff's claims that he/she was subject to discriminatory hateful treatment because of his or her "membership in a group which is perceived" as different "when measured against other employees at his workplace, and which is not based on his birthplace alone," it is enough for the plaintiff to have a claim for racial discrimination under FEHA. Sandhu v. Lockheed Missiles & Space Co., (1994) 26 Cal. App. 4th 846, 857.

For example: the fact that a plaintiff is East Indian which is normally considered Caucasian does not preclude the Plaintiff from bringing an employment discrimination claim. Sandhu, supra, 26 Cal. App. 4th at 858.

An employer's animus towards an employee's national origin or ancestry may be the basis for racial discrimination, even though national origin and ancestry are separately protected classes under FEHA. Cal. Gov. Code §12940(a).

The protection given to employees extends to employees who are associated with members of a protected class. For example, in Watson v. Nationwide Ins. Co., the Caucasian plaintiff brought a claim for discrimination based on the fact that she was given differential treatment by her employer because she married a black man, (1987) 823 F.2d 360, 361-362.

To bring a claim for racial discrimination an employee needs to prove that the employee:

  • belongs to a particular race,
  • that the employee's job performance was satisfactory, or that the employee was qualified for the job which they were not hired for,
  • that the employee was subjected to discriminatory conduct, (Ex: being discharged from work)
  • and that other employees not of the same race were not subjected to the discriminatory actions of the employer. (Ex: others not of the same race retained similar jobs and the employee who is bringing the claim lost his/her position to an individual of similar qualifications to the employee but not of the same race). See L.A. County Office of the Dist. Atty. v. Civil Serv. Com, (1997) 55 Cal. App. 4th 187, 201.
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