Crystal Moore, a 23-year member of the Latta, South Carolina police force, was fired by the town’s mayor. The mayor claimed Moore had questioned authority and failed to maintain order at a town council meeting. He denied that the firing had anything to do with the fact that Moore is openly lesbian. A voice recording made in March by a town council member suggests otherwise. In the recording, councilman Jarrett Taylor asked the mayor whether he was prejudiced against Moore. The Charleston City Paper posted the sound clip and the transcript of the call in which the mayor said:
“I would much rather have—and I will say this to anybody’s face—somebody who drank and drank too much take care of my children than I had somebody whose lifestyle is questionable around children. Because that ain’t the damned way it’s supposed to be.”
How this situation unravels will depend on further fact investigation and of course the applicable state and federal workplace discrimination laws. Both Federal and California laws prohibit discrimination in the workplace based on an employee’s “protected characteristics”. Under California’s laws, “protected characteristics” mean: “race, religious creed, color, national origin, ancestry, physical disability, mental disability, medical condition, marital status, sex, age, or sexual orientation”. California’s laws are perhaps the broadest in the U.S. In fact, only 21 states have state-wide employment non-discrimination laws that cover sexual orientation, and South Carolina is not one of them.
Federal anti-discrimination law includes the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, Equal Pay Act of 1963, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Americans with Disabilities Act. California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act is more favorable, and it doesn’t have damage caps, limited attorney fee provisions, restrictive legal burdens of proof or special employer defenses like Federal laws.
Federal law typically requires the employee to file an administrative charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) within a mere 180 days from the date of the discriminatory violation. California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act gives the employee 1 year to file such a charge with the California Department of Fair Employment & Housing (DFEH).
An employee who wins a discrimination lawsuit is entitled to recover several types of compensation, such as lost wages, emotional distress, litigation costs and statutory attorney fees. An employee could also recover punitive