Not all discrimination is unlawful.  For example, the very act of choosing one person over another is discrimination in some sense, but that choice could be based on completely legitimate reasons (for example, better education where education is a bona fide occupational qualification).  So when is discrimination illegal in the employment context?  The answer is that discrimination in employment on the basis of a protected category is illegal. 

There are many federal and state laws that prohibit job discrimination.  The following are examples of California and federal laws for various protected categories, and are not an exhaustive list:


Fair Employment and Housing Act, Government Code section 12940 et seq.:  Age - forty (40) and over; Ancestry; Color; Creed; Denial of Family and Medical Care Leave; Disability (mental and physical) and Medical Condition including HIV, AIDS, cancer, and genetic characteristics; Marital Status; National Origin; Race; Religion; Sex (includes sexual harassment); Pregnancy (includes perceived pregnancy); Sexual Orientation

California Constitution, Article I, Section 8:  sex, race, creed, color, national origin, ethnic origin


Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, including the 1991 Amendments (Title VII):  Race; Color; Religion; Sex (includes pregnancy and sexual harassment); National Origin

Equal Pay Act of 1963 (EPA):  protects men and women who perform substantially the same work in the same establishment from sex-based wage discrimination

Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA): protects individuals age 40 and older

Title I and Title V of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), 42 U.S.C. section 12101 et seq.:  protect qualified individuals with disabilities in the private sector, and in state and local governments

Sections 501 and 505 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973:  prohibit discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities who work in the federal government

© Alexandra M. Steinberg 2016 All rights reserved.