Gwilliam Ivary Chiosso Cavalli & Brewer

What isn't protected by employment discrimination law?

In California, state and federal law protects workers from discrimination based on several factors, including:

  • Race
  • National Origin
  • Gender
  • Age
  • Sexual orientation
  • Pregnancy status

However, it is important to note that most employers still have broad powers to hire and fire their workers as they see fit. Reasons can range from poor productivity to chronic tardiness to simple personality conflicts with co-workers or management. The vast majority of employees are “at-will” workers, which means they do not have an employment contract and their employer can terminate them at any time for nearly any (legally permitted) reason.

Limits to the law

An employee’s political views do not put them in a protected class under California employment law, even if his or her views put him or her in the distinct minority in the workplace. Nevertheless, a former Google engineer is suing the company, claiming wrongful termination in part because of his well-publicized opposition to increasing workplace diversity at the internet giant.

Discrimination against conservatives?

Readers may recall that a memo surfaced last summer from the ex-Google worker. In the memo, the engineer claimed that women lack the skills to work in the tech industry due to “genetic differences.” He also compared the political leanings among Google’s workforce to an “echo chamber” of liberal and moderate opinions.

Google fired the man shortly after the memo leaked and was published online. Now, he is suing the company, alleging that Google discriminates against male employees, workers of the “Caucasian race,” and conservatives. A Washington Post article about the lawsuit does not mention any specific damages that the engineer is seeking.

Proving a claim of workplace discrimination based on the fired man’s political opinions is likely going to be extremely difficult, and that allegation may only have been included in the suit for publicity. The other two claims of gender and racial discrimination, may seem equally far-fetched, but might deserve closer examination.

Everybody is entitled to employment protection

Anti-discrimination laws were passed to help give women and minorities the power to take action against prejudice and unfair treatment in the workplace. However, the statutes’ language is neutral; they prohibit discrimination based on gender and race -- including male employees and whites.

Of course, white men have experienced much less employment discrimination in California than women and ethnic minority groups. But cases have occurred, and the law applies to discrimination universally.

Consult proven employment law attorneys

Proving employment discrimination can be very difficult. If you believe you were denied a job, mistreated by management or fired because of discrimination, your only chance at holding the employer accountable and getting substantial damages or you job back is by retaining experienced legal council that focuses on employment law.

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