• Posted By Sirmabekian
  • 2022

Employment discrimination is an unfortunate but common occurrence. While federal and state rules prohibit certain types of discrimination in the workplace, many employees are still subject to them. If you have suffered from discrimination in the workplace, you may be able to file a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). When can you file a DFEH complaint, and how do you go about filing one? We discuss that here. 

When Can I File a DFEH Complaint?

California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) offers more protections for employees than the federal law. FEHA protections apply to employees with at least 5 employees and the law is enforced by DFEH. Under FEHA, an employer is not allowed to discriminate against an individual on based on:

  • Religion 
  • Race
  • Ancestry
  • National origin
  • Gender
  • Sex
  • Mental or physical disability
  • Marital status
  • Sexual orientation
  • Age
  • Military and veteran status
  • Gender identity 
  • Gender expression
  • Refusal to participate in any of the above discrimination

If you believe you have faced unlawful discrimination, you can file a complaint with the DFEH. A complaint needs to filed within 3 years of the date in which you faced said discrimination. Below are the steps to do so.

#1 Gather Information 

Gather any and all records that you can think of supporting your claim of discrimination, and compile a written narrative detailing it. If, for instance, your boss has terminated you after you turned 60, claiming that people of your age tend to be less competent in the workplace, put that in writing.

#2 Fill in an Intake Form

You can do this online through the Cal Civil Rights System, through mail with a printable form, or by calling the DFEH. 

You are strongly advied to consult with a discrimination attorney prior to submitting the complaint as your attorney can help ensure that you have filled in the form properly, and it might be better for you to sue immediately rather than go through an investigation. 

#3 Evaluation

The DFEH will now evaluate your form and decide if they will pursue investigations. Here, 2 things can happen:

  • The DFEH declines further investigation and issues a Right to Sue notice. You should note, however, that the DFEH not accepting your case does not mean that it is without merit. The DFEH is operating under budget constraints and a heavy workload. An experienced attorney can still use the Right to Sue notice to begin a formal lawsuit against your employer. 
  • The DFEH accepts your case, which means that you now sign a complaint form that has been prepared by your agency. This complaint is then served to your employer, who will have the chance to respond to your allegations. The DFEH will offer free dispute resolution services where appropriate to help you reach a resolution, but if both parties cannot agree on one, the investigation will continue. 

What Happens Next?

Once the investigation is complete, the DFEH might either

  • Find that no violation has occurred under California law, and the complaint will be closed.
  • Or, they might continue on with the complaint, and both parties will go through mediation. If mediation fails, the DFEH might file a lawsuit for you or issue you with a Right to Sue, after which you can work with your attorney to do so.

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