How Do I File a Discrimination Complaint Against an Employer in California

How Do I File a Discrimination Complaint Against an Employer in California?

Unfortunately, workplace discrimination exists – despite laws at the federal, state and local level designed to prevent it. And if you’re like many people, you’re wondering, How do I file a discrimination complaint against an employer in California?

Here’s what you need to know.

How Do I File a Discrimination Complaint Against an Employer in California?

The bottom line is that it is absolutely against the law for an employer in California to discriminate against employees or job applicants to fall into certain protected classes. That includes any discrimination that’s based on:

  • Race
  • Religion
  • Gender
  • Sex
  • Medical conditions

But still, despite laws that make this kind of behavior illegal, these are the most common forms of discrimination in the workplace.

If your employer discriminates against you for any of these reasons (or for a handful of other reasons, which you should discuss with a Los Angeles employment lawyer), you could be entitled to file an employment discrimination lawsuit in court.

So – back to your original question: How do I file an employment discrimination complaint in California?

Although a lawsuit may seem like a good first option, you usually have to file a complaint with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing, or DFEH. It’s absolutely okay to talk to a lawyer if you haven’t yet filed a complaint, though.

The logic behind filing a complaint through DFEH is to ensure that workers have followed all possible avenues to resolve an issue before filing a lawsuit. When you file a complaint, that doesn’t mean you have to wait for the DFEH or Equal Employment Opportunity to investigate; you can ask for what’s called an “immediate right to sue notice.” If you get that notice, DFEH won’t investigate your claim. You can take your case directly to an employment attorney and start pursuing legal action.

The DFEH says that you should not proceed directly to legal action without an attorney’s representation, though. (And usually, it’s the attorney who asks for and receives the right to sue notice, anyway.)

However, you don’t have to ask for an immediate right to sue notice. You can let the DFEH investigate the situation and wait for a resolution.

What Happens if You File a Discrimination Lawsuit Against an Employer in California?

Civil employment discrimination lawsuits are fairly common. Your attorney will file a complaint and serve it on your employer (or former or formerly prospective employer), as well as anyone else who is named in the lawsuit as a defendant. Then, the defendant or defendants will respond to the complaint with a formal answer. The formal answer is the defendant’s first chance to refute your claim or provide some type of defense.

The case may then proceed in one of a few ways. You may be able to negotiate with the employer and other defendants, or your case may go to court. Generally, attorneys try to negotiate first; it’s often possible to reach a resolution that way, without forcing you to go to court. If negotiation is unsuccessful, you’ll most likely end up filing a formal lawsuit (through your attorney, of course).

During an employment discrimination lawsuit, which can take quite a bit of time, you’ll eventually have to appear in court. However, the closer you get to your court date, the more likely the other side is likely to settle. Sometimes employers want to keep their names out of the news; in other cases, they become aware that they might lose in court – and they’re afraid that their loss in court will cost them more than they’d have to pay you in a settlement. There are a lot of other reasons an employer might choose to settle, too.

What Should You Do if You Want to File a Discrimination Complaint Against an Employer in California?

You should file a formal complaint with the DFEH. You can do this with or without a lawyer’s help. If you intend to file a lawsuit, it’s a good idea to get in touch with a Glendale or Los Angeles employment attorney first. You can call us at 818-230-8380 right now to set up a free consultation. We’ll be happy to answer your questions and give you the legal advice you need right now.


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