Victims of hate violence or threats of violence

You have the right to be free from hate violence or threats of hate violence at work, in your home, at school, and in other situations. You may have the right — under California’s Ralph Civil Rights Act — to back pay, damages, or compensation, if you experience violence, harassment, intimidation, or threats of violence that occur specifically because of one of your personal characteristics. (To read this information in Spanish or Chinese, click the buttons at the top of the page. Farsi and Arabic translations are coming soon.)

    How can I tell if the Ralph Act applies to me?

    You have to meet two conditions for the Ralph Act (California Civil Code § 51.7) to apply:

    The first condition is that you experienced violence or were harassed and threatened with violence, or someone intimidated you (for example, they scared you into doing something or not doing something) with threats of violence.

    The second condition is that you were targeted because of your:

    • Immigration status
    • Religion
    • National origin
    • Race
    • Sex (including pregnancy or childbirth)
    • Gender
    • Skin color
    • Ancestry
    • Disability (mental or physical)
    • Sexual orientation
    • Citizenship
    • Primary language
    • Political affiliation (targeted because of political activism)
    • Medical condition (cancer or genetic information discrimination only)
    • Marital status

    The Ralph Act applies in many locations, public and private.

    What kinds of actions and violence does the law prohibit?

    The Ralph Act may apply, for example, if you are kicked or punched or someone tries to hurt you; if damage is done to your house, car, or other property; or if you are verbally threatened or harassed with violent language.

    What kinds of situations does the law cover?

    Here are some examples.

    • A Muslim man is told to go back to his country and then physically assaulted by the same person.
    • A woman is kicked by a coworker. Separately, later, the coworker tells her, “Chick, you better walk faster, or I’m going to hurt you again,” and the woman injures her ankle as she rushes down a flight of stairs in fear.
    • An activist is shoved and knocked to the ground by someone criticizing his or her affiliation with the immigrants’ rights movement.
    • An Asian-American is kicked in the workplace by someone who is mocking her facial features.
    • A supervisor repeatedly sexually harasses an employee at work, causing her to fear for her safety.
    • A Jewish person finds a swastika and a death threat painted onto her house.

    What could I do if I believe my rights have been violated?

    First, collect as much information about the event as possible, especially from any witnesses, and write down that information.

    Then, there are at least three actions you can take:

    • You can sue in court, as long as it has been less than a year since you learned the identity of your attacker and less than three years since the date of the attack.
    • You can file a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH); for details, click here or call (800) 884-1684.
    • You can discuss your options with Legal Aid at Work (call 415-864-8848) or another lawyer.

    Remember that you can also report any violent threat or action to the police.

    What remedy could I get if I succeed with a Ralph Act claim in court?

    The law provides for five potential remedies, depending on your situation:

    • A restraining order against your attacker(s)
    • A civil penalty of $25,000 awarded to you
    • Compensation for your injuries and medical expenses, lost wages, and damage and repairs to your property
    • Punitive damages (a payment to you from your attacker meant as a punishment against the attacker)
    • Attorneys’ fees to pay your lawyer

DISCLAIMER

This Fact Sheet is intended to provide accurate, general information regarding legal rights relating to employment in California. Yet because laws and legal procedures are subject to frequent change and differing interpretations, Legal Aid at Work cannot ensure the information in this Fact Sheet is current nor be responsible for any use to which it is put. Do not rely on this information without consulting an attorney or the appropriate agency about your rights in your particular situation.