Generally for many different legal situations in California, there are two different types of jurisdictions. There are the California state courts and the federal courts. Which jurisdiction a lawsuit filed in depends on the facts and whether a federal law or state law has been broken as well as other factors.

This is true for wrongful termination claims as well. People can choose to start a complaint federally through the EEOC or they can start a complaint through the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). In a previous post we discussed the process for filing a complaint through the EEOC, but this one will discuss the process for filing the complaint through the DFEH.

If people feel that they were wrongfully terminated for illegal reasons, they can fill out an intake form with the DFEH within one year of being terminated. The intake form will then be reviewed and an investigator will contact the employee to discuss the matter in more depth. Based on that conversation, the investigator will determine whether to start a formal investigation.

If a formal investigation is started, a formal compliant will be sent to the company who terminated the employee. The company will then have an opportunity to respond to the complaint. After reviewing the response the DFEH will determine whether the law was broken. If they determine that it was broken, the employee and employer must mediate the matter. If the mediation is unsuccessful then the DFEH may file a lawsuit in court. Throughout this process though the employee has the right to obtain a Right-To-Sue notice and file the lawsuit on their own in court as well.

When people lose their job in California, they may feel that the termination was unfair, but that by itself does not make it illegal. However, in other situations the termination may have been illegal. If people feel that is the case, they can file a complaint with the DFEH to investigate the matter or at the very least obtain a Right-To-Sue notice so they can file a lawsuit on their own in court. It is not always clear whether a person was wrongfully terminated or not though and experienced attorneys may be able to guide one through the process.

Source:, “Complaint Process” accessed on March 15, 2018