Employees all over California, and the United States, want to go to work and do their jobs while feeling safe and respected. Employers have a duty to not only keep employees physically safe, but to protect them from discrimination.

In California, employee law defines workplace discrimination broadly. Employers cannot discriminate based on a variety of factors including race, disability, religion, sexual orientation and gender. Under these laws, employers have a duty to refrain from discrimination against employees in all aspects of their jobs including hiring and firing, a duty to stop any discrimination that arises and a duty to not retaliate against employees that report discrimination.

Despite these laws, many employees still experience discrimination in the workplace. When an employee is discriminated against at work, they have legal remedies. According to new data, more employees have been using these remedies to relieve workplace discrimination.

From 2009 to 2011, complaints to the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission, which enforces employee rights, rose seven percent. Furthermore, since 2009, lawsuits based on the Fair Labor Standards Act have risen by 35 percent. And, since 2007, lawsuits claiming violations against the Americans with Disabilities Act has risen by 90 percent.

These suits have not just been brought against small operations or businesses. There has been a large increase in employment law disputes brought against retail companies that many Californians might not expect. These companies include Wal-Mart, Burger King, Dollar Tree, Hallmark and Disney.

These cases have meant big money for employees that have been subjected to workplace discrimination. In 2010, $404 million was paid to employees that filed EEOC complaints alleging discrimination. Like these employees, those who are currently suffering from workplace discrimination of any kind, have legal options and may be entitled to compensation.

Source: About.com, “Chrysler, Disney, Wal-Mart and Burger King the Latest Retail Targets of Employee Lawsuits – Discrimination, ADA, and Fair Labor Lawsuits Increase Rapidly (DIS, SMT, BKW, DLTR),” Barbara Farfan, Aug. 31, 2012