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How to File an Employment Discrimination Claim in California

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California law protects workers against discrimination based on a number of personal characteristics, including race, religion, sexual orientation, and gender. If you are experiencing discrimination in the workplace based on your membership in a protected class, you have the right to seek justice. California has procedures employees must follow in order to bring a claim for workplace discrimination. Continue reading to learn about the process for filing an employment discrimination claim in California, and if you have experienced workplace discrimination, call an experienced Riverside workplace discrimination lawyer at Ochoa & Calderon for assistance.

Step One: File an Administrative Complaint

The California Fair Employment and Housing Act of 1959 (FEHA) prohibits discrimination, harassment, and retaliation in the workplace against certain categories of people. FEHA applies to employers with five or more employees as well as to state or local government entities of any size. FEHA does not apply to religious organizations, the federal government, and certain other types of entities.

If your employer is covered by FEHA, you must generally exhaust your administrative remedies before filing a complaint in civil court. That means you must file a claim with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) or its federal counterpart, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Generally, employees have better luck and stronger protections when filing with the DFEH.

You have three years from the date of the alleged discriminatory conduct to file your complaint with the DFEH, absent certain exceptions. Your complaint will establish the grounds for your claim. The DFEH will investigate your claim and determine whether to file a lawsuit in court against your employer based on your claim. They will collect evidence, including any evidence you can provide to support your claim, conduct interviews, and otherwise investigate the validity of your claim. If the DFEH investigates a claim and decides not to act, it will issue a “right-to-sue” notice to the claimant employee. The notice gives the employee the right to file a civil lawsuit on their own behalf.

Claimants can also request that the DFEH forgo its investigation and issue an immediate right-to-sue notice. It is strongly recommended to retain an attorney before pursuing a claim in court. The DFEH will, in fact, only skip its investigation and issue an immediate right-to-sue if the employee is represented by an attorney.

Step Two: Filing a Lawsuit

If the DFEH has investigated your claim and determined not to sue, or if you have requested an immediate right-to-sue notice, then you can bring your claim in court. With help from your attorney, you will file a civil complaint in court against your employer and any other relevant parties. The complaint will be served on your employer, at which point the civil case will begin. Your case will involve the exchanging of evidence, interviewing witnesses, filing and arguing motions in court, settlement negotiations, and if a settlement cannot be reached, a trial.

Protect Your Rights and Your Finances

For help pursuing claims of discrimination, retaliation or harassment in Southern California, call Ochoa & Calderon to discuss your case with a talented and savvy California employment discrimination lawyer. Call 951-901-4444 in Riverside or 844-401-0750 toll-free throughout Southern California.

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