If you have been the victim of workplace discrimination in California on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality or disability, you can file a formal complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (FEHA).

But before you decide to file an employment lawsuit, it’s important to understand the filing process for each agency ahead of time. It’s also crucial that you contact an experienced employment lawyer to help you file the complaint correctly and on time.

Filing a Discrimination Complaint with the EEOC

The EEOC has authority to enforce Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, or sex) as well as the federal Americans with Disabilities Act and the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act. If your employer has violated your rights under any of these laws, and has over 15 employees, then you can file a formal complaint with the EEOC. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • The standard deadline for filing a discrimination charge with the EEOC is 180 days. This increases to 360 days if there is a state or local agency that prohibits the same kind of discrimination. In California, this will usually be the case, but check with an attorney to be sure.
  • You cannot file charges with the EEOC online. However, the agency does provide an online Assessment System to help you figure out whether your complaint fits within EEOC discrimination guidelines. Once you complete the assessment, you can print out the results and bring them into your local EEOC field office to expedite the process of filing a charge against your employer.
  • If you file your charge in person at a field office, make sure to bring any relevant documents along with you.
  • You can also file a workplace discrimination charge by mail. Your employment attorney can make sure you include all of the information that the EEOC requires to file a charge.

Filing a Discrimination Complaint with the DFEH

You can also file an employment discrimination complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). The DFEH enforces the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) and has jurisdiction over all businesses in the state with five or more employees or one employee in cases of harassment. The DFEH complaint must be filed within one year of the last wrongful act by the employer. Additionally, the California laws tend to be more generous to employees than federal laws.

  • Begin by making a Pre-Complaint Inquiry with the DFEH to determine whether your situation will constitute a discrimination complaint under California rules. You can make the employment discrimination inquiry online or email the DFEH at [email protected]
  • After you and your attorney complete your Pre-Complaint Inquiry, an investigator from the agency will contact you to conduct an intake interview.
  • If the investigator decides that the agency should investigate your case, they will write up a complaint and request your signature.
  • You can also file a DFEH Complaint online at and request an investigation or an immediate right to sue notice.

Violations of Worker’s Rights

If your employer has failed to pay your wages, or has violated your rights with respect to minimum wage, breaks, overtime, child labor laws, or safety regulations, you can file a complaint with the California Department of Industrial Relations (DIR). Here’s how:

  • Download a form from the DIR Bureau of Field Enforcement entitled Report of Labor Law Violation.
  • Complete and print the form.
  • Sign the form and either mail or hand-deliver it to the nearest district office.

Help for Filing Lawsuits Against California Employers: Resource List

  • The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH)
  • California Labor Commissioner’s Office: District Offices
  • The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
  • How to File a Charge of Employment Discrimination via
  • How to File a Workplace Discrimination Complaint in California

If you feel like you’ve been subjected to workplace discrimination in California, always document the acts of discrimination and follow your workplace’s internal policies for making a discrimination complaint. For help with filing a lawsuit against your employer, contact our expert California employment attorneys at Hennig Ruiz Law Firm for a free consultation.