Discrimination can take on many forms in the workplace. It can be based on race, religion, gender, age, disability, or other factors. To protect workers from such behavior, California has enacted laws that prohibit discrimination and harassment in the workplace. But who exactly is protected by these laws?


Under California law, employees work for an employer and receive payment for their services. This includes full-time and part-time workers, as well as temporary employees. If you are an employee, you are protected by anti-discrimination laws, regardless of your position or job duties.

An employer’s agreement is a written contract outlining your employment terms. This document should specify your job title, salary or wage, work hours, and benefits, among other things. As an employee, you have the right to review and sign this agreement before starting work.

Job Applicants

Job applicants are individuals who apply for a position but have not yet been hired. Under California law, job applicants are protected from discrimination during the hiring process. This means employers cannot base their hiring decisions on the applicants’ protected characteristics.

On the other hand, employers do have the right to reject applicants who do not meet the qualifications for a particular job. If an employer rejects you because of your race, gender, or another protected characteristic, hire a discrimination lawyer in Los Angeles to fight for your rights.

Independent Contractors

Independent contractors work for themselves and provide services to businesses on a contract basis. They are not considered employees under California law and, therefore, are not protected by employment laws in the same way that employees are.

However, independent contractors are protected from harassment in the workplace. This means that if a contractor is subjected to unwelcome comments or conduct based on their race, gender, or another protected characteristic, they may have legal recourse.

Immediate Family Members

California’s anti-discrimination laws do not protect workers who are employed by immediate family. This means that if your spouse, parent, child, or sibling is your employer, you are not protected from discrimination or harassment in the workplace.

However, harassing a family member who is an employee is a crime under California domestic violence law. If you are being harassed by a family member who is your employer, you may be able to seek protection through a restraining order.

Temporary Employees

Temporary employees are individuals employed by a staffing agency and assigned to work at a client company for a limited period. Both state and federal anti-discrimination laws protect them.

If you are a temporary employee, your staffing agency and the client company are considered your employers for anti-discrimination laws. This means that both companies are responsible for ensuring you are not subjected to discrimination or harassment in the workplace.

Unpaid Interns

An intern is a student or recent graduate who works for a company to gain work experience. In California, unpaid interns are not considered employees, so anti-discrimination laws do not apply to them; however, they are still protected by anti-harassment laws.

Further, if an intern is paid or receives some form of compensation, they may be considered an employee under California law. In such cases, the intern would be protected by anti-discrimination laws.

Certain Nonprofit Employees

Some nonprofit organizations are exempt from California’s anti-discrimination laws. Specifically, religious organizations and schools affiliated with religious organizations may be exempt from some employment laws.

However, these organizations are still subject to federal anti-discrimination laws, which prohibit discrimination based on race, gender, religion, and other protected characteristics. 

In California, employees, job applicants, temporary employees, and certain nonprofit employees are protected by anti-discrimination laws. On the other hand, independent contractors, immediate family members, and unpaid interns have limited protection from workplace discrimination. Understanding these laws and how they apply to your employment situation is essential to protect yourself from discrimination or harassment.

If you have any doubts or questions about your employment situation, it is best to seek legal advice from an experienced employment attorney who can guide you through your options and help protect your rights.