DFEH Right to Sue

To file a lawsuit for discrimination, you must file a complaint with DFEH and obtain a Right-to-Sue notice.

By Brad Nakase, Attorney

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What does it mean when an employee gets a right-to-sue letter?

When an employee requests a Right-to-Sue letter or a DFEH investigation, it typically indicates their intention to pursue legal action for employment related discrimination or harassment. Here is a breakdown of what these requests entail:

After an employee files a complaint with the DFEH, the agency conducts an investigation to determine if there is evidence of discrimination or harassment. If the DFEH concludes its investigation and either finds no violation or is unable to reach a resolution, they issue the employee a Right-to-Sue letter. This letter grants the employee the right to file a lawsuit against the employer or individual named in the complaint. It signifies that the DFEH will not be taking further action on the employee’s behalf.

Alternatively, instead of requesting a right to sue letter immediately, an employee may request an investigation by the DFEH. By doing so, they are seeking the agency’s involvement to assess and address their complaint of employment discrimination or harassment. The DFEH will investigate the matter, which may involve gathering evidence, conducting interviews, and reviewing relevant documentation. The aim is to determine if there is merit to the employee’s claim and if resolution can be achieved through the agency’s intervention, such as through mediation or negotiation with the employer.

The decision to request a Right-to-Sue letter or a DFEH investigation depends on the employee’s objectives and the circumstances of their case. Some employees may prefer to obtain the right to sue letter to pursue legal action immediately, while others may opt for the DFEH investigation to explore the possibility of a resolution without going to court.

It is important to note that the procedures and requirements for requesting a Right-to-Sue letter or initiating a DFEH investigation may vary, so employees should consult the DFEH’s guidelines or seek legal advice from a DFEH lawyer for workers for accurate and current information specific to their situation.

How do I get a right to sue letter in California?

You can obtain a right to sue letter by going online at www.dfeh.ca.gov. After you have submitted your form, we will send you a Right-to-Sue letter with the information you provided.

In California, individuals who believe they have been subjected to employment discrimination have the option to file administrative claims with the appropriate government agency before pursuing a lawsuit in court. The primary agency responsible for handling these claims is the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). Here are some key points to understand about filing administrative claims for employment discrimination in California:

In California, the statute of limitations for filing an administrative claim with the DFEH is generally one year from the date of the alleged discriminatory act. It is crucial to file the claim within this time frame; otherwise, you may lose your right to pursue a legal remedy.

California law prohibits discrimination based on various protected categories, including race, color, national origin, religion, sex, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, age (40 or older), marital status, and pregnancy.

The DFEH handles claims related to various forms of discrimination, such as hiring practices, promotions, pay disparities, termination, harassment, retaliation, and other discriminatory actions in the workplace.

Before filing a claim with the DFEH, it is generally necessary to exhaust administrative remedies by first submitting a complaint or intake form to the agency. The DFEH will then evaluate the complaint to initiate an investigation if they determine that there is sufficient evidence of potential discrimination.

If the DFEH accepts your complaint, they will investigate the allegations and may attempt to resolve the matter through mediation or other alternative dispute resolution methods. During the investigation, they may collect information, interview relevant parties, and review relevant documents.

If the DFEH concludes its investigation and determines that there is no violation or is unable to reach a resolution, they will issue you a Right-to-Sue letter. This letter grants you permission to file a lawsuit in court against the employer or individual accused of discrimination.

In some cases, it may be advisable to file a complaint with both the DFEH and the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC. California has a work-sharing agreement with the EEOC, allowing cross-filing of claims. This ensures that the claim is reviewed by both agencies and increases the chances of potential remedies.

It is important to note that the process for filing administrative claims and the specific requirements may vary depending on the circumstances and the agency involved. It is recommended to consult the DFEH’s website or seek legal advice or an employment attorney who is knowledgeable about California employment laws to ensure compliance with the appropriate procedures and deadlines.

What is a statute of limitations?

A statute of limitations is a legal concept that sets a specific time period within which a legal action can be initiated. It establishes a deadline for filing a lawsuit or bringing criminal charges after a certain event has occurred. Once the statute of limitations expires, the right to take legal action is generally lost, and the person or entity that could have been sued or prosecuted can raise it as a defense.

Statutes of limitations vary depending on the jurisdiction and the type of legal claim or offense involved. They are designed to promote fairness and prevent the filing of lawsuits or criminal charges long after the relevant evidence has deteriorated or disappeared, witnesses’ memories have faded, or potential defendants have suffered prejudice due to the passage of time.

The length of a statute of limitations can vary significantly depending on the nature of the legal claim or offense. For example, some jurisdictions may have shorter limitations periods for personal injury claims compared to contract disputes or property-related cases. Similarly, the statute of limitations for criminal offenses can vary depending on the severity of the offense, with more serious crimes often having longer limitations periods.

It is important to note that statutes of limitations can be told or extended under certain circumstances. For example, if the defendant is absent from the jurisdiction or if the plaintiff was a minor or had a legal disability at the time of the incident, the limitations may be paused or extended. Additionally, in some cases, the discovery of fraud or certain other specified events can reset the clock and allow legal action to be initiated even after the original limitations period has expired.

Recently, California bill AB 9 extended the time to file a complaint with the DFEH from one year to three years.

If an individual needs specific information about the statute of limitations for a particular legal claim or offense, it is important to consult the laws of the relevant jurisdiction or seek legal advice from an attorney.

Why is it important that employees not wait to pursue a discrimination or employment law claim?

There are several reasons why it is generally important for employees not to wait to pursue a discrimination or employment law claim. Most jurisdictions have statutes of limitations that set a deadline for filing claims if an employee waits too long, they may lose their right to pursue legal action altogether. By initiating the claim promptly, the employee ensures that they are within the specified time limit.

Also, waiting to pursue a claim can result in the loss or degradation of crucial evidence. Memories fade, witnesses may become unavailable, and documents can be destroyed or lost over time. By acting promptly, employees increase the likelihood of preserving essential evidence that supports their case.

Taking swift action can lead to more effective and timely resolution of the issue. Employers are often obligated to promptly investigate and address complaints of discrimination or harassment. By reporting the problem early, employees increased the chances of the employer taking appropriate remedial action to address the situation and prevent further harm.

Waiting to pursue a claim may expose an employee to continued discriminatory treatment or potential retaliation from their employer or coworkers. By promptly asserting their rights and initiating the appropriate procedures, employees may benefit from legal protections against retaliation.

Pursuing a claim in a timely manner ensures that employees have the opportunity to seek appropriate remedies, such as compensation for damages, injunctive relief, or changes in workplace policies or practices. Waiting too long may limit the available remedies or weaken the employee’s case.

It is important to note that there may be exceptions or specific circumstances that could extend the filing deadline or justify a delay in pursuing a claim, such as the discovery of the discriminatory conduct or the presence of extenuating circumstances. However, as a general rule, employees should act promptly to protect their rights and maximize their chances of a successful resolution to their employment law claim.

It is advisable for employees to consult with an employment law attorney or relevant government agency, such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the local fair employment practices agency, for guidance and to understand the specific time frames and requirements applicable to their situation.

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