How Do I File A Claim?
How do I file a state claim with California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH)?
You can file a claim by contacting the DFEH and scheduling an appointment with a DFEH consultant. Once you have met with the consultant, s/he will file the necessary paper work if you may have experienced sex discrimination.
How do I contact the DFEH?
You can schedule an appointment with a DFEH consultant by calling 1-800-884-1684 if calling from within California or 916-227-0551 if calling from outside of California. Please visit the DFEH website for more information.
Do I have to contact the Fair Employment Housing Commission (FEHC)?
No. Although the FEHC has the task of enforcing the FEHA, the DFEH handles the processing of any claims. You only need to contact the DFEH to file a claim.
Against whom can I file a claim?
You can file a claim against your employer. If you are employed by a temporary work agency, you can file a claim against both the agency and your current place of employment. You can also file a claim against any coworker who sexually harasses you or any individual who aids, abets, incites, compels, or coerces discriminatory acts forbidden by the FEHA.
If I choose to file a claim, what is expected of me?
The DFEH will investigate your claim and may ask you to provide any evidence that may help the investigation.
How long will the process take?
Once filed, the DFEH can take up to a year to process your claim.
Do I need an attorney?
You do not need an attorney. If the DFEH investigation yields possible violations of the FEHA by your employer, attorneys working for the DFEH can prosecute your claim for you. If the court action is successful, you will be entitled to applicable remedies.
Where do I find an attorney?
One source for finding an attorney is through the California Employment Lawyers Association.
What if I can’t afford an attorney?
If you cannot afford an attorney, the DFEH can prosecute your claim on your behalf.
What will my attorney need from me?
An attorney will ask you for information regarding the circumstances of the discrimination you may have faced and any evidence you may have of this discrimination.
Do I have to contact the DFEH before hiring an attorney?
No. However, your attorney can bring a private lawsuit only after the DFEH has processed your complaint or issued you with a Right to Sue Letter, a written document that says you can bring a private lawsuit.
Can’t I sue my employer directly without going through the DFEH?
No. You cannot sue under the FEHA without first going through the DFEH. If you want to bring a private lawsuit, the DFEH must finish processing you claim or issue you a Right to Sue Letter, a written document that says you can bring a private lawsuit.
Who will investigate my complaint?
The DFEH will investigate your complaint.
What do I do after my initial contact with the DFEH?
You are not obligated to do anything.
What happens after I submit my claim?
The DFEH will investigate your claim. If reasonable cause exists and the Department believes that a violation may have occurred, the DFEH will take action to try to remedy the situation.
What happens if the investigators determine that no "reasonable" or "probable" cause exists on which to base a claim?
If the DFEH determines that your claim has no "reasonable" cause, they will dismiss your claim. At that time, you can pursue a private legal action against your employer if you still feel that you have been discriminated against.
What happens if the investigator determines that "reasonable" or "probable" cause exists on which to base a claim?
If the investigators find that reasonable cause exists, the DFEH will work with you and your employer to privately negotiate any remedies acceptable by all parties. This process is called conciliation. If the attempts at conciliation are unsuccessful, the DFEH may bring legal action against your employer. You can also pursue private legal action by obtaining a Right to Sue Letter, a written document from the DFEH that says you can bring a private lawsuit.
Can I appeal a decision of the DFEH?
Yes. If the DFEH dismisses your claim, you can bring a private court action against your employer.
If my case gets litigated, who will hear my case?
You can either have your case be heard by the FEHC or in civil court. The administrative hearing held by the FEHC may produce a faster outcome. However, a civil court hearing has no limits on punitive and emotional distress damages.
Can I file a federal claim of employment discrimination as well? If so, how?
Yes. You just have to indicate to the DFEH that you want to file a federal claim as well.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of filing a federal claim over a state claim?
Generally, California law provides more coverage and more remedies than federal law. In limited circumstances, however, federal law is advantageous. For instance, Title VII does not have an exception for preferential treatment of veterans. The DFEH attorney or a private lawyer can help you decide which law helps you the most.
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