In California, if an employee wishes to file a discrimination lawsuit against an employer, he or she must file charges with the California Department of Fair Employment & Housing (DFEH) and/or the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and obtain what's called a "right to sue" letter. This process is also known as "administrative exhaustion". Charges can be filed online at the DFEH's website and, as of November 1, 2017, on the EEOC's website. Charges can also be mailed using the DFEH's form. The EEOC permits mailed letters containing the following information:
- Your name, address, and telephone number
- The name, address and telephone number of the employer (or employment agency or union) you want to file charges against
- The number of employees employed (if known)
- When the events took place
- A short description of the events you believe were discriminatory (ex., you were fired, demoted, harassed)
- Why you believe you were discriminated against (ex., because of your race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age (40 or older), disability)
- Your signature
Should employees file charges with the California DFEH v. federal EEOC
The EEOC and DFEH have a "work sharing agreement" under which a charge filed with one is deemed filed with the other. There are also different filing deadlines. Employees generally must file with the DFEH no later than 1 year after the illegal action occurred. For the EEOC, the deadline is 180 days.
California employment laws provide at least the same amount and types of protection as federal employment laws, if not more. For example, the California FEHA protect a wider class of disabled people than the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and applies to a broader set of employers. FEHA applies to employers with more than 5 employees, whereas federal laws apply to 15 employees.
Our firm almost always files employees' charges with the DFEH, given the advantages of proceesing in California state courts under state laws.
If you are considering filing a complaint of employment discrimination, you should contact an attorney who specializes in employment law before taking any action on your own behalf, as your rights will forever be affected by any action you may take.