Employment Complaint Process
Complainants are first interviewed to collect facts about possible discrimination. Every person wishing to file a complaint will be given a date, time and place where the interview will be held. You can obtain a copy of the questionnaire by contacting us or by downloading the forms using the links on this page. The completed form should be returned prior to your scheduled interview.
- The interviewing Consultant drafts a formal complaint on the DFEH's standard form. It is signed and served on the Respondent.
- If accepted for investigation, the complaint is also filed with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) if the matter falls within the jurisdiction of that agency. As a substantially equivalent agency, DFEH's findings are usually accepted by EEOC.
- The Respondent is required to answer the complaint and is given the opportunity to voluntarily resolve it. A no-fault resolution can be negotiated at any time during the complaint process.
- Complaints can be filed by individuals, the Director of DFEH, or a community organization.
- DFEH investigates every case in a standard, timely manner.
- DFEH has the authority to issue subpoenas and interrogatories and to take depositions. The California courts enforce DFEH's discovery efforts.
- If the investigation does not show a violation of the law, DFEH will close the case.
- Formal conciliation conferences are scheduled by the District Administrator when the investigative findings show a violation of the law.
- During the conciliation conference, the Department presents information supporting its belief that there has been a violation and explores options to resolve the complaint.
- If formal conciliation fails, the District Administrator may recommend litigation.
After DFEH issues an accusation, DFEH legal staff may litigate the case in a public hearing before the Fair Employment and Housing Commission (FEHC). If emotional distress damages or administrative fines are sought, the Respondent may elect to have the case moved to a civil court. If the case is moved to court, the DFEH prosecutes, but the Complainant is the Real Party in Interest.
The FEHC may award or order reinstatement, back pay, out-of-pocket losses, affirmative relief, training, policy changes and emotional distress damages and administrative fines. Emotional distress damages and administrative fines are limited to a total of $150,000 per Respondent. However, an additional award of up to $25,000 may be ordered for violations of Civil Code section 51.7 (Hate Violence). In the event the matter is removed to Superior Court, remedies are identical, with three exceptions:
- There is no limit on emotional distress damages.
- Instead of administrative fines, unlimited punitive damages may be awarded.
- The prevailing party may recover their reasonable attorney's fees, expert witness fees and costs.
View the Employment Complaint Flow Chart.