Filing a Discrimination Complaint in California (2021)

Filing Discrimination ComplaintDo you believe you have been the victim of discrimination? To start your claim, you must first file “charges” with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and/or the California Department of Fair Employment & Housing (DFEH) and obtain “right to sue” letters. This process is called “administrative exhaustion”.
Luckily, the systems are now highly automated and charges can be filled out online at the DFEH‘s website and, as of 11/1/17, at the EEOC‘s website. You can still choose to mail your charge in using the DFEH’s form. And the EEOC permits you to mail in a letter containing the following:

* Your name, address, and telephone number

* The name, address and telephone number of the employer (or employment agency or union) you want to file your charge against

* The number of employees employed there (if known)

* A short description of the events you believe were discriminatory (for example, you were fired, demoted, harassed)

* When the events took place

* Why you believe you were discriminated against (for example, because of your race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information)

* Your signature

Typically, people file with the EEOC if they intend to pursue federal employment discrimination claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, etc. (No EEOC charge need be filed for medical leave claims under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) or gender pay discrimination claims under the Equal Pay Act). People file with the DFEH if they intend to pursue state employment discrimination claims under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) and medical leave claims under the California Family Rights Act (CFRA).


California employment laws tend to offer at least the same amount and types of protections as federal employment laws and, in many respects, more powerful protections for the employee. For instance, the California FEHA protect a wider class of disabled people than the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and applies to a broader set of employers (employers with more than 5 employees for FEHA versus 15 employees for Title VII). Also, California employment claims are generally not subject to the special employer defenses that exist under federal law. See Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins (1989) 490 U.S. 228; Desert Palace, Inc. v. Costa (2003) 539 U.S. 90. However, a California court succeeded in introducing these federal employer defenses into California law in Harris v. City of Santa Monica.

Regardless, California laws (and filing with the DFEH) are generally the better way to go for employees.

In any case, the EEOC and DFEH have a “work sharing agreement” under which a charge filed with one is deemed filed with the other.


There are aggressive filing deadlines (which is one reason why you shouldn’t wait too long before consulting with a lawyer). Employees generally must file with the EEOC no later than 180 days after the illegal action occurred. For the DFEH, the deadline is 1 year.

Agency Investigations v. Private Lawsuit

The EEOC/DFEH agency receiving your charge may investigate and prosecute your claims themselves. Unfortunately, due to limited resources and budgets, the process can be drawn out and frustrating, taking a year or more. Even if the agency makes a finding of discrimination, it may still choose not to prosecute the matter in court. In almost all cases, the process is not as effective or efficient as a private lawsuit. To see something analogous to what I’m talking about, read my post, Dept. of Labor Fails to Protect Workers: “We have a crisis in wage theft”.

Traps for the Unwary

It’s amazing how some judges decide to let the EEOC and DFEH charges into evidence against the employee and even throw cases out based on what is contained in (or missing from) the charges. Defense lawyers like to make a big deal in front of the jury out of inconsistencies or contradictions contained in the charges, even though employees often fill them out themselves without the help of a lawyer. This is why it is always better to contact a lawyer BEFORE filling out and filing the charge yourself. Do not underestimate how important the charge can be to your case and how it can be used against you.

Also, keep in mind that different filing procedures and deadlines apply for government employees and for claims regarding whistleblower retaliation and wage and hour claims (overtime, breaks, minimum wage, etc.).

If you are facing legal issues in the workplace, contact a lawyer to discuss it and he can help you navigate the filing traps for the unwary.


  1. Andres Laris on September 21, 2021 at 1:27 pm

    305 Blackpine Dr corona 92879
    Agency employer : roico
    Number : 9094205485
    I started a job that I was lied to about the job . I was told I was going to be doing something else instead I was put on back breaking palletizing for 15$ and hour . I left my 3rd day and I was supposed to receive my check in 72 hours and they aren’t complying .

    • Jesus A Gutierrez on September 24, 2021 at 4:05 pm

      I urge for an agent to investigate this case and what I am about described. I currently at McDonald’s francise. Address location is: 2642 Santa Rosa Avenue, CA 95401

      I have been a victim of discrimination, harassment, and bullying. On September 24th, 2021, I left job site after beumg called in to work on this day i was scheduled to be off due to the continuance of these unsafe/unfair work practices which I just described above
      Furthermore, what I have gathered up until this time is strong possiblity that this employer has been hiring people who do not have a legal status to live and work in the United States. And on top of that I recently learned from a young lady who recently quit for another job and had admitted to me that is 15 years old.

  2. Erictrinh on August 1, 2021 at 11:34 pm

    My name is Eric Trinh.I work from Mr barber
    19461 Brookhust st.Huntington Beach,ca92646.
    I work date: 5/23/2020 to 8/1/2021.
    Today my last day…
    I ask my owners Why? Let’s me go.(play off)
    Without reason..
    Please help me.
    Thank so muck.

  3. Jamie santillano on December 11, 2020 at 9:36 am

    I need a lawyer asap to help me with the discrimination harrassment I’ve dealt with at my job I work for the university of davis. I have a work related injury that was due to harrassment discrimination and negligence of my supervisor for 8 years I have been employed

    • Rubythelma felix herrera on August 14, 2021 at 2:01 pm

      Quick question why does the labor commissioner have same phone as osha violation office ….I have a huge problem that should of not taken this long for justice….I have two very catastrophic injuries with possibly osha violations ..or a criminal case. warehouse and chemical spill ., personal injuries general.employment ligitlation tenant rights housing.civil rights relation union.. wrongful death wrongful termination.

  4. Kat Stark on October 9, 2020 at 11:14 pm

    I worked in a Federally qualified health clinic, for 10 weeks as front desk.
    I have Multiple Sclerosis which is a disability, was told this was not a problem by HR. However, I have on occasion short term memory problems.
    The woman who was training me took all my notes that I took to help me process documents away, and would not let me write anything down between screens, she would tell me she is setting me up to fail, speak to me on occasion as if I were in idiot, humiliate me like this. I was so intimidated I didn’t go for breaks (for 9 weeks) because of the treatment. She got caught doing the humiliation thing and reported but nothing was done. I finally said something that day to the supervising nurse and the woman sister who is a MA told me to take her to the side and let her know this was not ok to empower her. I also asked the HR manager and she didn’t listen. So then within 2 days, there is now a rumor that she says we got into a fight and I called her the B word. I was so distraught I quit.
    There goes on a lot of cover up for the bullying this woman does. I didn’t know but I know now, that she has done this to two other people. HR moved one and I got her as someone to train me, and the other quit. because it was so terrible.

  5. Kathoey Butterfly on January 23, 2020 at 6:11 pm

    Someone should investigate the McDonalds in the Calaveras area for break, and lunch violations. I overheard an employee say he had been working for seven hours without any breaks, or halves, which I think means a thirty.

    I once saw a blonde kid do the splits while dancing. That was more funny than a complaint. Though I did just recently see a short manager cuss at a spanish employee, and tell him to go home. Not a big deal, but as I was walking out, I heard someone say it was because he couldn’t understand his english. I think they said his name was Karl?

    I’ve left reviews saying how I’ve heard employees talking about everything from games to movies, even the bible, and politics. I’m glad teenagers discuss such diverse subjects. However, the same managers yelling at them to stop discussing “inappropriate stuff,” I heard talking about sex, pregnancy, and relationships. Double standard much? Ew, gross.

    But hey, I find it pretty screwed up that it was a group of young girls yelling a boy he couldn’t talk about the bible to a fellow employee, but they were allowed to discuss how “tasty” their fellow employees, and customers, were.

    But I guess that’s California for you.

  6. Lupe on July 31, 2019 at 1:56 am

    I was sent home for 2 days with no pay on the first time I have ever got talk to. I have never had a warning or write up ever. I was told to clean the sink I’m a receptionist for a hardware store i did remove the dishes from the sink and placed them on the counter I don’t use the kitchen so I don’t know if the dishes are even company property so I left them on the counter for the rightful owner to claim some where lunch trays. Well apparently I was supposed to wash dishes to his likening and I refused to Scrub dirty dishes so I was told to go home and if I didn’t do it I would be replaced. But I know of other coworkers who get told all the time not to do something and they don’t ever get a warning. Example my manager told my coworker “I’ve told you multiple times not to park there that’s not a parking spot now it’s your fault the truck crashed” we have delivery trucks. And instead of her getting written up she gets assigned a parking spot no one else in the office has a spot we park on the street and no she’s not handicapped we’re also not allowed to be on our phones but she’s always on her phone in front of him and he has said to her a couple time next time I see you on your phone I will write you up and he doesn’t. one time he thought I was on my phone and he ran to my desk and started looking for my phone and now he walks by my desk looking all the time but she’s on her phone and it’s no big deal. I feel that because I’m brown Mexican and they are white I am being targeted.

  7. Kristina on July 17, 2019 at 1:51 pm

    I was wrongfully terminated as a result of discrimination of my social class. I was targeted and harassed for several months by a new office manager for a clinic I worked for 3 years. I was terminated due to a picture that I was accused of posting on my private Snapchat account of a drink during my lunch hour. The picture in question was in fact NOT of an alcoholic drink but I was being accused of drinking on my lunch break when in fact I did not. I was not asked any questions or given the chance to explain. It is obvious this was personal against me and was looking for a reason to let me go as this same manager took all the employees out to lunch on a work day and payed for every TOO in fact have an alcoholic beverage during lunch. If I am being terminated for a picture of a drink being assumed I was drinking on my lunch then why is the whole office not terminated for actually drinking on their lunch that the manager again payed for. I don’t believe this is fair or equal treatment. I really feel this lady was discriminating against me as she has made several threats against me due to my family size and social status as a single mother of 5 kids.

  8. Vashan L Bobney on December 6, 2018 at 8:37 am

    I’m working under a supervisor who consistently uses derogatory language when discussing African Americans. I have suffered differential treatment by this supervisor. The supervisor has repeatedly told staff members that I need to watch my back and if I complained the higher ups had his back. After hearing him use the n word another two employees one Caucasian the other Hispanic and myself went to the Administrator to let her know about how I was being treated and what was said. The Administrator told me there is nothing she could do about it and told me it if she hired a KKK member and he did the same thing there would be nothing that could be done. The very next day my hours were cut by the Administrator. So I went outside of my workplace but within the company to get help with my situation. I was contacted by the Administrator that her boss and her bosses boss wanted to sit down with me. I room the meeting and told them what I went through and suffered and nothing has been done. I’m still working under the supervisor and the same Administratior with my hours being at the bare minimum.

  9. mylene m huff on November 21, 2018 at 2:49 pm

    I believe i was wrongfully terminated by my employer i recieve a fake $100.00 Bill from a customer i called the manager to have the bill check but it took awhile and customer was agitated to wait for the management so i went ahead and gave him the change come to find out it was a fake bill they went after the person gave him the fake bill and items was retrieve as well i dont know if the customer the change or not but the manager said no. this is the !st time i didnt wait for the manager
    for the bill to be check and they let me warning whatsover this is not even enforce before.i know there is another employee she only recieve suspension .i need closure what can i do please help

  10. Juan Moreno on November 6, 2018 at 1:18 pm

    Hello I was working for a resturant named tacos tu madre and was unjustly fired I was never written up for anything wrong. they would not pay every minute of work and now that I am terminated they haven’t paid me my last check. Note that 72 hours has passed and still not recieved last check.

  11. Debra on October 28, 2018 at 9:51 am

    is it discrimination if your boss tells you that you are not one of his strong cashiers, and he only schedules me when he wants to and gives me like a 11 to 3 shift when I was hired to work till 1:30 pm but I want to know if it’s discrimination if he tells me I’m not a strong cashier and gives me work shifts I can’t work.
    I’m on social security and can only work so many hours and make a certain amount of wages

  12. Wendy on October 11, 2018 at 3:37 pm

    Hi there i was wondering if i have any rights when my employee takes me off the schedule claiming she has to cut 50hrs. But puts a new employee in place of my hrs. And tells me im not fired. Is there anything i can do about this.

  13. Tonya on June 29, 2018 at 10:42 am

    The information disclosed in this conversation does not constitute or create a lawyer-client relationship.
    We respect your privacy. Your personal information will only be supplied to the chosen business, who may contact you using modern phone equipment, which may include auto-dialers and text. Consent is not a condition for purchase or hire. Lawyers pay a fee to participate in this service and are included based on a neutral process that involves no evaluative judgment or investigation as to their qualifications and is not a recommendation.

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    You have entered the conversation. Waiting on operator…
    Samantha has entered the conversation.
    Hi, thanks for chatting with us.
    Before we begin chatting, I need to ask you a couple of quick questions. Do you mind letting me know the total employees that work for the business?
    6-20 Update
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    Thank you. Please provide additional details about your legal issue to help the attorney evaluate your case.
    I see you are still typing please take your time.
    I was givin my paycheck and noticed a day of pay missing. I went to hr lady named vivian and explained that i believe iam missing a day of pay. She starts yelling at me about child support and say she not a thief and disnt take it. I told her i didnt say she took it i said i am missing a day of pay. She preceded to say she didn’t steal it and aaid i nedx to speek to shy zibler. The boss. So i went outsi2 and finished my break. I came back in from break and continue my day ob the phones. Shy walked in and viviam starts yelling across the room there he is tonya get up and tell him he stole your money. So shy came and pulled me off phone and asked what was going on i explained that i feel iam missing a day of pay he asked what time it was i answered10:13 am. He said you should be on the phonea i said i was u pullex me off he than said he no longer needed me due to lack of project managers and let me go. I demaned that he put that in writing which he did. But i no i was let go due to confronting about missing pay

  14. kumar on May 24, 2018 at 3:57 pm

    An employer hired my as intern for 3 months and classified me as 1099 contractor. After three weeks, when they found that I was not good enough to be hired as a permanent full-time, they terminated the internship, and kept my pay for rest of the 8 weeks. When I tried to reach out to them to get my rest of the pay, they told that employment was at-will. They have also not corrected the taxation form, I had to file my taxes with1099 for an internship.
    Could you please tell me what I can do about that.

  15. Jaleen Wedlow on May 23, 2018 at 5:24 pm

    I worked at Jersey Mike’s for two days and they paid me under the table, I came on time and I was doing training, I’ve called and they been slow to reply and I never gotten proper paperwork or anything done. I’ve asked several times when do I work and properly do paper but they never gotten back to me. I feel like they “let me go” due my hair, but I kept it up where no food was getting it. The boss claimed he was busy and claimed he had me in the system but afterwards no days to work or anything. What should I do? I only worked twice from there.
    I didn’t know I could do anything until a friend told me what they did was illegal.

  16. jenny on January 31, 2018 at 11:35 pm

    my boss wants to fire me because she thinks im pregant when im not

    • Eugene Lee on May 3, 2018 at 3:52 pm

      That is still perceived discrimination. If you have proof your boss is doing this, you should consider contacting a labor lawyer right away.

  17. Frank Avelar on December 25, 2017 at 9:35 am

    I need a you guys asap. I live in Gilroy ca.

    • Eugene Lee on December 26, 2017 at 9:57 am

      Sure please give us a call at 213.992.3299

  18. Moe on November 26, 2017 at 9:08 pm

    I work for a transit company in baldwin park ca. I have been a bus driver going on 4 yrs. I was asked by my boss to become a dispatcher for the company i told him i was computer illiterate but he still insisted that i try out so i did and it was alot to take on but i some what got it. So as a driver there was two black girls in dispatch i truly got along with but the day i walked in to dispatch it was like walking into the devils den they did not communicate with me did not want to teach me or answer any questions i would ask just silence so i compliant to my boss over and over again about how rude they where how unprofessional there words were and how the would call me names and tell people not to speak to me that i was the enemy.At first i did not understand why but then we got a new dispatcher that was related to them and a driver over heard them talking about me saying they was gonna run me out because there relative wanted my AM shift what should be my next step?

    • Eugene Lee on November 27, 2017 at 11:05 pm

      Unfortunately, that doesn’t sound like a legal issue, as you got along with them until you got promoted and came into direct competition with their relative. That sounds like office politics, which is not against the law. I recommend you try to resolve this going through the complaint channels at your employer, as this appears to be a company managerial issue.

  19. Richard A Trujillo on June 14, 2017 at 9:49 pm

    I have a question i work for a company that employs illeagle immegrants an puts them in a leadman position but the thing is your laedman knows no english cant read english and has a crew of 7nonspeaking english and 1 non speaking speaking spanish US citizen then move nonpeaking spanish

  20. Ga on January 24, 2017 at 11:44 am

    So I work in a fine dining steakhouse. I work behind the bar where all my coworkers are Hispanic and bilingual. My bar manager is as well. They constantly converse in Spanish. My manager will also constantly come back and speak Spanish to my coworkers as a whole. I am the only one who doesn’t speak Spanish. It makes me feel extremely uncomfortable and I also know on one occasion my manager was speaking badly about me in Spanish behind bar to one of my coworkers. Is this legal?

  21. PIR8 on April 11, 2016 at 10:16 am

    My wife applied for a job with a City in California several months ago, that is in the same department where she has worked in a different city in California for almost 10 years. This job would have been a step DOWN in pay and title, but was closer to where we live and in theory had more room for advancement.

    After months of going through their grueling hiring process, they sent a letter stating they wanted to proceed with the hiring process, and she just needed to do the Livescan ™ and pass their background check.

    A month later, another letter arrives stating she failed the background check, without any supporting documents or reasons, even though she requested a copy of anything they found (she’s maybe gotten a traffic ticket before and that’s it)

    They have since pulled the job position, so I am thinking that they used the last piece of the process to choose someone less qualified over her. Is there any recourse?


  22. vincent y ramirez on August 17, 2015 at 8:28 am

    I am 47 bias parties deny job fabricate lies: example SCB 15-1196 foia act how many parties share interest: rude past tentans rental contracts no access: BBB rude: calls, prejudice NSA v CIA 898 F.2d 235 DC: slut demand nerd: DC cir ?? discovery?

  23. Crystal Ramirez on February 16, 2015 at 4:20 pm

    Thank you for sharing such valuable insight and information. The importance of having your claims filed within the correct amount of time and with the right contentis crucial to success. In many cases a discrimination lawyer in Los Angeles
    could make the difference between winning and losing your case.

  24. Mister Mike on February 8, 2015 at 11:57 pm

    I have missed the deadlines – it has been a little over 2 years since I was fired, with two other older employees. I see some talk that I can sue under the Equal Pay Act for 3 years. I am in California. Is there anything that I can do?

  25. Luis on December 8, 2013 at 10:38 pm

    Thanks alot for sharing this blog with updated information.

    Indeed it was useful.

  26. The Pilot on October 24, 2012 at 2:49 pm

    DISCRIMINATED AGAINST!! When and IF a call back for an interview! Question, ” Do you speak Spanish? ” Answere, No. Born and raised in California! White Male 24, cannot qualify for the position. We are ” THE UNITED STATES of AMERICA !!! ”
    The #1 Language IS ENGLISH!!! WE the People, Proud to be, the U.S.of A.!!! What is wrong with this picture??? California, get smart, Vote and protect your Country, your State. God Bless

    • Ja'net Raines on May 3, 2018 at 8:04 pm

      Hell yeah! Your just 24 yes of age try being female , white, Blonde, ( which I pay for !) And more certified than all the illegal’s here, sorry to say but willing to . . . build that wall ! And change the current law . . . enter Calif. You better speak, write, know the pledge of allegiance. Become a citizen upon entery in order to get all that I CAN’T GET!. . OR NO ENTRY EVER . . NO COMING HERE FOR WORK. . CLEAN UP YOUR OWN COUNTRY AND STOP DIRTYING OURS . . AND WIPE YOU BUTT AND LEARN TO FLUSH IT. . DAMN SHAMEFUL ACTS NOT WELCOMED. NRA certified and not a crazy white chick either. . just American Born Breed and PROUD TO COVER OUR OWN !

  27. Michelle on April 5, 2012 at 2:14 am

    Thanks for this wonderful blog. I liked this information provided by you. Keep sharing such kind of blogs. Compliance and audits are a certain way which assures the best HR practices and metrics are being followed by the organization.

  28. Wayne Morrise on March 14, 2012 at 2:40 pm

    There are a lot of discrimination complaints you can check out online, different stories and different ways of discrimination I read lots of stories about it. Sad feelings for the discriminated persons.

  29. Reno carpet cleaning on January 6, 2012 at 1:40 am

    I just love the way you work. Thanks for sharing this great and interesting stuff. Fabulous post! I really enjoyed that.

  30. gbnoteversions on November 19, 2011 at 6:36 pm

    Very true is the need to contact a competent lawyer before starting the legal process by filing the complaint.  People are largely unaware of how what they are saying can be perceived and attacked.

  31. Labor Law Office on November 15, 2011 at 8:42 pm

    Hey, you have a great blog here! Excellent information for the reader. I’m definitely going to bookmark you!

    I have a websitesite also it covers California Labor Law related information as well. Come and check it out if you get time

  32. georgefuller on October 20, 2011 at 7:23 am

    I wonder if an employer hurting or maltreating her
    employee, (house maid to be specific) is covered in the services offered by Los Angeles personal injury attorneys
    or in employment and labor law attorney

  33. Advogado Rio de Janeiro on June 26, 2010 at 7:49 pm

    We need to implement something like this here in Brazil!! So interesting post! Tks

  34. Sherman Texas Attorney on May 19, 2010 at 6:16 pm

    With the difficult economy, I would imagine that claim filings have increased. That could lead to increased processing time.

  35. CA Defense on March 19, 2010 at 9:09 am

    Having the ability to file online must really speed up the process from traditional mailing.

  36. Joe Markowitz on January 22, 2010 at 12:07 pm

    Have you noticed that the processing time for right to sue letters seems to have substantially increased lately?

    Thanks for putting up all this information. It is really useful. And thanks for visiting my site and for all the comments.

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