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Both California state and federal laws strictly prohibit workplace discrimination based on race, skin color and national origin. If you were recently fired and feel that it might be due to one of these traits, you may have been wrongfully terminated and discriminated against. Understand the laws about this issue and what steps to take.

Racial discrimination

The Civil Rights Act of 1964, specifically Title VII, protects employees against discrimination based on race. Employers are prohibited from adopting policies and practices that negatively impact people of a certain race. Sometimes employees are fired for complaining about race-based harassment.

Racial, racist epithets and offensive drawings can all be severe and pervasive forms of illegal racial discrimination. If you were terminated because you did not tolerate such harassment, you may have been wrongfully terminated.

Skin color discrimination

Title VII also makes it illegal for employers to discriminate based on the complexion, pigment, darkness or lightness of an employee’s skin. Employees of a certain skin color may face worse treatment such as not considered for promotion or being assigned poorer work responsibilities. A manager may also disproportionately lay off employees with a particular skin complexion.

National origin discrimination

It is illegal for employers to terminate an employee based on birthplace, country of origin, language preference, last name, accent or ethnic heritage. Certain rules apply to accent and language, however. For example, a job position for a call center may require an employee to speak English fluently. English-only rules may be discriminatory, however.

California state laws

There are specific protections based on the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) in California. FEHA broadens the scope of Title VII by applying the rules to employers with at least five employees. Title VII only provides protections to employers with at least 15 employees. As an employee in California, you are more broadly protected than those in other states only protected by Title VII.

If you suspect you were terminated based on race, ski n color or national origin, it is recommended to speak with a civil rights attorney who focuses on employment issues. An attorney can help you understand your proceeding options and how to file claims. You can also get information regarding the strength of your claim and what damages may be available. Potential damages from wrongful termination include back pay, front pay, out-of-pocket costs, emotional distress damages, punitive damages and attorneys’ fees. Now that you are aware of the laws regarding your situation, seeking legal help and representation may help you understand your options.