California state laws, in addition to federal laws, protect workers from workplace discrimination. The Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), in particular, is the California law that serves to keep workers safe from being discriminated against. This law is enforced by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH).
The FEHA offers protection to anyone employed in the public and private sectors. This includes people who work for employment agencies and labor organizations. The FEHA makes it unlawful for any employer with five-plus employees to use discriminatory practices when reviewing new-hire applicants. Also, existing employees that fall under a protected category cannot be discriminated against or retaliated against as a result of their protected status. Job applicants, employees, unpaid interns, contractors and volunteers are also protected from harassment at all workplaces -- even workplaces with less than five employees.
Let's say that you're an African American job applicant and you're passed up for a job opportunity. The employer ends up hiring a dramatically less-qualified person instead of you, and you suspect it's because of your race. Or, you get passed up for a job because of your sexual preference, gender, age or national origin. In all of these cases, you might be able to assert your legal rights in court.
An employment law attorney can help you prove in court that you were the victim of workplace discrimination. If successfully navigated, such a legal action might bring you compensatory payment for financial damages caused by discrimination. This compensation could be for lost income, lost opportunity, emotional and psychological turmoil and more.
Source: California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, "Employees and job applicants are protected from bias," accessed April 21, 2017