California employers have a lot of power when it comes to deciding who they are going to hire and who they are going to terminate. In many situations, the employer can make these decisions for any reason that they see fit. Further, they often don't even need to give an employee any explanation for why they are letting that employee go.
However, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act limits this power in some significant ways. Under the Civil Rights Act, it is unlawful for an employer to discriminate on the basis of the employee's national origin, sex, religion, color or race. These rules apply when it comes to hiring or terminating the employee. These rules also apply when it comes to compensating the employee, deciding whether to promote the employee or when offering any privilege to an employee. These rules apply to employees of private companies, governmental employees and to employment agencies.
The Civil Rights Act does allow employers to have programs that reward employees based on merit or seniority. However, if these programs have a disparate impact on one group over another, then the program could be considered unlawful.
The Civil Rights Act has many complexities and whether an employer's conduct is unlawful may depend on the specific facts in each case. Additionally, in workplace discrimination cases, California state law may also apply. Therefore, people who feel that they have suffered from workplace discrimination should speak with an attorney to get a better understanding of their legal rights.