Legally, the term “discrimination” covers only actions that are taken against people because they belong to certain protected classes. To discriminate means to treat those people in some way differently than other people who are not in the same class. For more information on protected classes in California, see Protected Classes.

Discrimination happens in many ways, some of which may not be intentional. For example, a supervisor does not usually decide to overlook a person for promotion because of race or gender. Certain acts can constitute unlawful discrimination because of their effect, regardless of the motivation for these acts.