The California Veterinarian’s Guide to Understanding Discrimination in the Workplace


Discrimination in the workplace occurs when an employer treats a prospective or current employee differently because he or she is the member of a “class” protected by California state or federal law.

Discrimination Basics

In the past, discrimination laws typically pertained to disparate treatment based on an individual’s nationality, race, color, age, religion or sex. However, these laws have now expanded to include ancestry, disability, medical condition, genetic information, ethnicity, marital status, sexual orientation, military or veteran status, political office, gender identity and gender expression.


The laws that prohibit employment discrimination are enforced by various federal and California state agencies, including the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Department of Labor, Department of Industrial Relations and Department of Fair Employment and Housing. These agencies can bring actions on behalf of employees, so employees are able to file grievances against your practice with minimal investment or effort.

Preventing Claims

As an employer, remember that your duty to avoid discrimination begins as soon as the hiring process starts. In some cases, discrimination may be unintentional. For example, you may be tempted to choose a male applicant over a female because you believe that the male will have an easier time handling large animals. However, eliminating an applicant solely based on the applicant’s sex is considered discrimination.