21 Oct Different Sources of Employment Law
There are different sources of employment law in California. You’ve probably heard about Title VII. This is federal law, which Congress enacted as part of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII prohibits harassment and discrimination in the workplace. But California also has its own version of Title VII: the Fair Employment and Housing Act, also known as the FEHA. Like Title VII, the FEHA prohibits workplace harassment and discrimination. Both Title VII and the FEHA apply in California. If you’re considering suing your employer, you may be able to choose between the two.
Different sources of employment law, similar rules and remedies
After the federal government enacted Title VII, many states passed their own versions of the law. The FEHA is California’s version of Title VII. Because the FEHA is based on Title VII, there are many similarities between the two laws. For example, both prohibit harassment and discrimination based on certain characteristics, such as race, gender, and religion. They both also prohibit employers from retaliating against employees who oppose harassment or discrimination.
Moreover, they both set up a mandatory administrative process. Title VII created the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. If you want to sue your employer under Title VII, you have to go to the EEOC first. Likewise, the FEHA has the Department of Fair Employment and Housing. Like under Title VII, you must go through the DFEH’s administrative process before you sue your employer in court under the FEHA.
Finally, Title VII and the FEHA both authorize punitive damages and allow victorious plaintiffs to collect attorney fees and costs. They both also have asymmetrical cost shifting. This means prevailing plaintiffs can recover fees and costs as a matter of right, but when defendants win, they can’t recover fees and costs unless the plaintiff’s lawsuit was frivolous.
Though similar, there are important differences between Title VII and the FEHA
While similar, there some key differences between Title VII and the FEHA. Perhaps the most important difference from a plaintiff’s prospective is Title VII’s damages cap. While the FEHA allows for unlimited compensatory and punitive damages, Title VII limits recoverable damages.
Additionally, Title VII is federal law. This means that federal courts automatically have jurisdiction over Title VII cases. While California courts can hear cases involving federal law, a defendant being sued under federal law has the right to remove the case to federal court. While this doesn’t affect the substantive law, federal courts use different procedural rules. For example, California courts do not require plaintiffs to win unanimous jury verdicts, while federal courts do require unanimous verdicts. Moreover, it’s often more expensive to litigate in federal court and plaintiffs’ attorney are generally less experienced there. Accordingly, plaintiffs often prefer state court. Because the FEHA is not federal law, defendants have a harder time removing FEHA cases to federal court.
Finally, there are some differences in the substance of the two laws. For example, the FEHA prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. It’s unclear whether Title VII does so, though the Supreme Court is expected to conclusively resolve this issue in the spring of 2020.
Different sources of employment law: which law should I use?
Now you know there are different sources of employment law in California. If you’re considering suing your employer, you might be wondering: which source of law should I use? The answer: it depends. Most plaintiffs’ attorney probably prefer the FEHA. But that doesn’t mean that every plaintiff in every situation should proceed under the FEHA. There are some instances in which Title VII is the way to go. First, in some situations, Title VII is your only option. For example, if you are an employee of the federal government, you generally can’t use the FEHA to sue the federal government in state court. There are also some areas, called federal enclaves, where only federal law applies. If the offending conduct occurred in a federal enclave, Title VII may be the exclusive remedy.
Additionally, you may be in an area where the juries are not favorable for plaintiffs. Because the applicable federal court may be in a different city or county, it’s possible you could get a more favorable jury in federal court. Because you probably can’t bring your FEHA claims in federal court, you may want to use Title VII if this is the case.
These are only a few of the many factors involved in choosing whether to pursue claims under Title VII or the FEHA. Ultimately, this is a decision you’ll need make in consultation with your attorney. It’s also important to remember that there are other laws, both state and federal, that might apply in the employment context.
If you believe you have a claim against your employer, contact the Khadder Law Firm today for a free consultation.