Filing a Discrimination Complaint in California (2024)

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, from 2017, 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. pj on May 23, 2024 at 5:25 pm

    Labor law violations – working above 16 hours any given day, on a daily basis as a live-in Caregiver without fair compensation, and employer has consistently refused to increase hours despite live-in status with the exception of the bare minimal of five hours within past three years; intentionally and unnecessarily delaying payments; sharing personal information with third party, etc.

    • Michelle Higgins on June 13, 2024 at 2:05 pm

      If a person lives at a complex and was working for management on site under table,got paid 25 dollars a month to clean the washers and dryers and counters,floor, clean sink and take garbage out even.The Managers on site Sabrina and at that time coral unfortunately she past away though. They fired her because they didn’t want there boss to find out. Some days she worked 30 min. Up to hour or so pending how messy it was. They had to unlock and lock the laundry room 7 days a week

  2. Toby on March 9, 2024 at 4:38 pm

    I work for a hotel and I see a lot of discrimination between the Straight Males against the other staff member who are female and one old gentlemen. The straight males can request days off the day before, but the rest of the staff have to place their time off request in two months in advance. Saw this super bowl weekend. When one of the female staff member place her request in two week before hand, but was told its will be Super bowl weekend and that the Straight Males staff will be having that day off because their are all 49er Fans. This happen a lot here at the hotel and I was think about reporting this to our HR department about how our AGM treat the straight males staff over the other staff. If it any sports, our male staff get their request off, but the rest of staff does not. Plus, our one male gay staff member always force to work hard shift, so the straight male have the easy shift. This is a on going practice at this hotel. Straight males get a lot more time for themselves and the staff member (females and older male) has to work the hard shift….I.E. 40-50 check in on weekend and Mondays. I’m not should if this is a form of discrimination, but like to know if I have a case to file thru the HR Department.

  3. XOCHIL on March 5, 2024 at 2:05 pm


  4. Habiba Koura on February 1, 2024 at 6:50 pm

    Subject: Urgent: Seeking Legal Representation for California Labor Abuse and Discrimination Case Against Yelp

    To whom it may concern:

    I trust this email finds you well. My name is Habiba Koura, and I am reaching out to you as I am currently seeking legal representation for a labor abuse and discrimination case against Yelp, specifically under California labor and employment law. After resigning from Yelp due to troubling experiences during my training, I believe your expertise in California labor law would be crucial in addressing the issues I’ve faced.

    In the course of my interactions with Yelp’s HR department, I have amassed significant documentation that provides evidence of instances of a hostile work environment, financial and personal consequences, missed opportunities for team transition, and discriminatory practices. I am prepared to provide proof of these communications to support my case under California labor laws.

    Given your reputation for professionalism and dedication to justice, particularly in the realm of California labor and employment law, I believe you could be an invaluable advocate for my case. I am seeking legal representation to navigate through the complexities of this matter within the context of California labor law and would greatly appreciate the opportunity to discuss the details further.

    If you are available for a consultation, please let me know a time that suits you. I am eager to explore the possibility of working together to bring attention to these issues and seek appropriate remedies within the framework of California labor laws.

    Thank you for considering my request, and I look forward to the potential opportunity of working with you.

    Best regards, Habiba Koura

    Discrimination Based on Ethnicity:
    * I perceived targeted treatment due to my ethnicity and background. 
    *  Sarcasm, snarky comments, and eye-rolling created an environment that made me feel less valued because of my origin.
    * Language Barrier and Discriminatory Behavior: As Arabic is my first language, I expressed concerns about potential language barriers during the training.
    * Discriminatory behavior ensued, making me feel like I was being treated as though my understanding was inferior to my colleagues.
    * Targeted for Asking Questions: Questions were met with sarcasm and insinuations that I had no right to seek clarification. The discrimination escalated to the point where I felt singled out as the only non-native English speaker on the team.
    * Insinuation of Lower Understanding: I felt demeaned by insinuations that my level of understanding was lower than that of my colleagues. Manager took advantage of my background, creating an atmosphere that hindered my ability to ask questions freely.
    In summary, these discriminatory behaviors based on my ethnicity and language proficiency significantly contributed to the hostile work environment I experienced. I believe it’s crucial for Yelp HR to address these concerns to ensure a more inclusive and equitable workplace.
    Thank you for your attention to this matter. I trust that you will consider these additional insights in your review of my case.

    * Hostile Work Environment:
    * Aggressive tone hindered my ability to learn and perform effectively.
    * Constant belittlement, refusal to answer questions, and lack of support impacted my mental well-being.
    * Financial and Personal Consequences:
    * Resignation led to tangible financial losses.
    * Unequal treatment during virtual conference raised concerns about equitable team treatment.
    * Missed Opportunity to Move Teams:
    * Lack of chance to transition to a different team for a more supportive learning environment.
    * Abuse of authority from my manager contributed to the difficulties I faced.
    * Manager’s Teaching Style:
    * Sarcasm and personal vendetta created a toxic atmosphere.
    * Lack of proper training and coaching for success in my role.
    * Impact on Mental Well-being:
    * Trauma during training significantly affected my ability to perform at my best.
    * Diverse Learning Styles:
    * Manager’s coaching style may not resonate with everyone.
    * Need for an adaptable coaching approach to foster diversity within the team.
    * After-Hours Communication:
    * Preference for after-hours communication hindered seeking assistance.
    * Lack of responsiveness to requests for instructional tools or videos.
    * Short Temper and Limited Diversity Management:
    * Manager’s short temper and incompatible management style with Yelp’s commitment to diversity.
    * Positive note about Jimmy’s effective and inclusive teaching technique.

  5. mirian Gomez on December 29, 2023 at 8:31 am

    was told to leave my job and come in office the following day waiting hour and a half so they can tell me they can’t see me at the moment and for me to come in the following day they said they were gonna call me. They never called me. I finally retired. I sent them all an email that they had 24 hours to respond to me.

  6. Lorena Ruiz on December 7, 2023 at 5:02 pm

    My husband is been working at a construction company for over 22 years, he is been a foreman for a couple of years now but lately the supervisor is been giving him inly 3 man to finish bug jobs that require 9 man or more so he still get the job done but he comes home really exhausted, and he told his supervisor that he need it more man for that job but he ignored him, while the supervisor’s son works with them also and he gets 15 man for a small job every day, now they told him to turn his fireman’s truck in for no reason hiw can he go about this are they aloud just to come and ask fir the keys ir there have to be a meeting.

    • Eugene Lee on December 14, 2023 at 7:12 pm

      Sorry Lorena, I can’t quite make out your question (the last sentence of your post).

  7. Cayla Eddings on November 28, 2023 at 12:12 pm

    I worked for amazon and i feel as i was wronged a few times . I worked for a dsp and my first day they encouraged us not to take a break so we can just get off the clock and go home. They also encourage us to work on lunch breaks. Sometimes you may need to call driver support and they tell you to do so during lunch breaks. One day i was exhausted and took one of my 15 mins breaks and i was accused of time-clock fraud. They dont give you time yo use the restroom although this is a very laborious job withc requires you to stay hydrated. And with hydration comes bathroom breaks.

    Another time my car was stolen. With that my prescription glasses were stolen. I cant see well especially driving at night. I asked for some time off until i can get another pair. He told me no thats their was nothing he could do and that it wasnt his problem. (I have text messages). I complained to Amazon dsp hotline and he suddenly took me of the schedule for 4 weeks without even telling me. He put me back on the schedule without telling me and by the time i seen it j had been absent for 3 days. So he terminated me.

    • Eugene Lee on December 14, 2023 at 7:19 pm

      Regarding the breaks, that’s illegal. The employer cannot prevent or discourage you from taking your lawful meal and rest breaks. That means they also can’t “encourage” you to skip them or cut them short. That’s just the same thing as discouraging you from taking them. As for bathroom breaks, discouraging or preventing them would be an OSHA violation. That probably justifies filing a worker safety complaint with OSHA. As for the stolen glasses and not being able to drive safely at night, I would tend to agree with Amazon that that is not their problem. Finding adequate and safe transportation to and from the workplace is generally going to be considered the employee’s problem, not the employer’s problem. As for the way Amazon terminated you, that sounds very unfair, and perhaps even underhanded. But unless there was an illegal motivation for doing that, I don’t think that would constitute grounds for a wrongful termination suit.

  8. China on November 16, 2023 at 10:40 am

    My sister passed away on March 13, 2023. I communicated with my manager about the days I wanted off for the funeral, but things came up within my family. So I took more days, our pharmacist Angelica Tuason at the time (doesn’t work for the company anymore). I told her I couldn’t come in because my family needed me. I was having a hard time because I couldnt come. Which caused a lot of stress for me to the point where I felt I couldn’t take it anymore. Eventually, I went back to work the following week, still undergoing my emotions, and realized my manager, Lindsay Testado, hadn’t put in for my grief. So I called HR and asked them two weeks later, and they told me my manager never put it in for my grief. Also, I’m complaining about the professionalism of my current Co-workers and the display of bullying and sexual comments they make within the pharmacy. I was also discriminated against because I was the only one getting mistreated; she picked and chose why she wanted to give me hours; it was to the point I was stressing over finances, so I have to get a temporary job, and once I did that she didn’t want to schedule me at all. So I called my union rep, Becca, and she said my manager is trying not to schedule me for two or more weeks, so I can say I’m voluntarily quitting. I’m also a student, and I struggle with my time in school. I had a big project that took some time, and I overestimated the work and had to call it off. And she went off on me and said she was disappointed. Mind you, there is another coworker who’s in school as well, and when she calls off, my pharmacist says okay. I know this because my coworker tells me all the time. My manager/pharmacist didn’t even want to schedule because I chose to do my job and only speak about the job and not have side conversations. She said that she was “concerned” about me. Lastly, I wanted to ask a question to see if a company is supposed to get someone certified within a specific time frame (6 months), and Mrs.Testado is the reason why I don’t have my certification. Am I obligated to get my certification if they provide it?

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