The Department of Fair Employment and Housing enforces civil rights laws in California. It has the legal power to handle discrimination claims in housing, public accommodations, and employment.
By law, your employer cannot treat you differently because of your membership in any protected class. The protected classes are very broad and include many individual qualities, such as race, color, and national origin; disability; sex, pregnancy, or sexual orientation; religion; and even marital status. In other words, an employer cannot treat a man differently because he is a man, cannot treat a Muslim differently because she is a Muslim, and cannot treat a diabetic differently because he is diabetic.
California’s antidiscrimination laws apply to all employers with at least five employees, and their antiharassment provisions apply to employers who employ only one person.
You can initiate a complaint with the DFEH by calling, emailing, writing, or submitting an online form. This is called filing a pre-complaint inquiry. After the inquiry is submitted, a DFEH investigator conducts an intake interview by telephone and decides whether the complaint will be accepted for investigation.
Complaints that are accepted for investigation are signed by the complainant and filed with the DFEH. The DFEH sends a copy to the employer, which is required to file an answer to the allegations in the complaint.
The DFEH conducts an investigation about the allegations of the complaint. It can issue questions to the employer, called interrogatories. It can also demand documents using subpoenas and compel testimony through depositions.
The DFEH closes the case if it does not find any legal violations. However, if it issues a merit finding, the parties must participate in mandatory dispute resolution. This service is free of charge. If it fails, however, the DFEH decides whether to file the case in civil court.
The DFEH has a work-sharing agreement with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for matters within the EEOC’s jurisdiction. Most of the time, the EEOC will defer to the DFEH’s investigative findings to resolve its parallel charge.
Sacramento, CA 95821