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

Email  |  Call (888) 600-8654

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.

Have a quick question? We answered nearly 2000 FAQs.

See all blogs: Business | Corporate | Employment Law

Most recent blogs:

HRIS - The Essential Tool for HR Management

HRIS: The essential tool for HR management

HRIS systems help manage and automate payroll, timekeeping, and benefits administration, enhancing overall HR efficiency. Modern cloud-based HRIS solutions offer increased data storage, security, and seamless integration with other HR applications.
What Is a Statutory Employee - Criteria, Taxation, and Example

What is a Statutory employee? Criteria, taxation, and example

A statutory employee is a freelancer treated as an employee for tax purposes, meeting specific criteria for Social Security and Medicare. These workers receive W-2 forms, allowing tax deductions for job-related expenses, but typically lack regular employee benefits.
Disparate Impact - What it Means, How it Works, History

Disparate Impact: What it means, how it works, history

Disparate impact refers to neutral policies that disproportionately affect protected groups, impacting areas like housing and employment. Federal regulations allow evaluating these impacts to identify and prevent discrimination.
What is Employer of Record (EOR)

What is Employer of Record (EOR)?

An Employer of Record (EOR) simplifies global expansion by handling payroll, benefits, and compliance, saving businesses time and resources. Companies can achieve a global presence without the complexities and costs of establishing a new office or entity.
What is EPL insurance

What is EPL insurance?

EPL insurance protects businesses from the high costs and disruptions of employment claims, covering legal fees and settlements. Safeguard your company from claims of harassment, discrimination, and wrongful termination with comprehensive EPL insurance.
Does employer match count towards the 401k limit

Does employer match count towards the 401k limit?

Employer 401k matches do not count towards your individual contribution limit, offering extra retirement savings. In 2024, the total 401k contribution limit, including employer matches, is $69,000 or 100% of your compensation.
What are employer payroll taxes

What are employer payroll taxes

Understand employer payroll taxes and the complexity of calculating the correct amounts, including contributions to Social Security and Medicare. Learn the importance of accurate payroll tax management to avoid potential penalties.
What is a Professional Employer Organization

What is a Professional Employer Organization?

Discover how a Professional Employer Organization (PEO) can streamline your HR responsibilities and provide expert support for a fraction of the cost. Learn about the various services offered by PEOs and how they differ from staffing agencies.
Everything you need to know about employee retention credit

Everything you need to know about employee retention credit

Explore the benefits of the Employee Retention Credit, a tax incentive designed to encourage businesses to maintain their workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn how to apply retroactively for this credit and maximize your business's financial recovery.
Will my employer know if I take a 401k loan

Will my employer know if I take a 401k loan?

Learn how taking a 401k loan is visible to your employer and understand the implications and conditions they might impose. Discover privacy rules around your 401k and employer's role in setting loan terms.
The largest employer in the US

The largest employer in the US

Discover the biggest employers in the US and learn which industries dominate the employment landscape, with insights into post-Covid economic recovery. Understand job stability and opportunities within these large companies despite economic fluctuations.
How to write a retirement letter to your employer

How to write a retirement letter to your employer

Craft an effective retirement letter with these straightforward tips, ensuring a smooth transition and maintaining positive relations as you step into retirement. Discover how to communicate your retirement plans clearly and respectfully.
What is employer branding

What is employer branding?

Discover the power of employer branding to attract top talent and improve your company's reputation. Learn key strategies to enhance your organizational appeal to prospective employees.
Questions to ask in an interview as an employer

Questions to ask in an interview as an employer

Use these key interview questions to gauge whether candidates align with your company’s culture and job requirements. Evaluate potential hires effectively with tailored queries in any interview setting.
Performance Appraisal

Performance Appraisal

Performance appraisals are crucial for making decisions about promotions, bonuses, and training; they can significantly enhance employee productivity if utilized effectively. This article details how to conduct effective performance reviews and utilize them to boost engagement and performance.


Absenteeism in the workplace can severely impact productivity and revenue, costing billions annually. This article addresses effective strategies and the importance of a skills matrix in managing absenteeism.
Recruitment Process

Recruitment Process

Learn about the full-cycle recruitment process, its benefits, and the six primary steps from preparation to onboarding in this detailed guide. Understand how a streamlined recruitment approach enhances efficiency and candidate experience.
Employee Onboarding

Employee Onboarding

Discover how effective onboarding strengthens employee-employer relationships, enhancing retention, job satisfaction, and performance. Learn to design tailored onboarding processes to build lasting bonds with new staff in this detailed guide.
Examples Of Orientation

Examples Of Orientation

Understand how a structured job orientation can ease new employees into their roles, improving both productivity and retention. Learn about the essential elements that make up an effective job orientation program.
Interview Guides

Interview Guides

Review the benefits of using an interview guide to streamline candidate evaluations and ensure a consistent interview process across your organization. Delve into the seven essential components that make up an effective interview guide.
Employee Performance Metrics

Employee Performance Metrics

Review the essential role of employee performance metrics in evaluating workforce productivity and effectiveness within an organization. Analyze the different categories of performance metrics and how they impact strategic HR decisions.
Strategic Workforce Planning

Strategic Workforce Planning

Learn about the importance of strategic workforce planning in ensuring a business is equipped for success both now and in the future. Discover how implementing this process effectively meets a company's current and future staffing needs.
Learning Is Developmental

Learning Is Developmental

Grasp the significance of learning and development in fostering a skilled workforce capable of facing challenges and thriving in the business world. See how strategic employee training is vital for achieving organizational goals and securing a competitive advantage.
Human Resources Planning Process

Human Resources Planning Process

Understand the critical role of human resource planning in preparing a workforce for future needs and maintaining a competitive edge. Examine the structured steps and benefits of effective HR planning processes in achieving organizational goals.
Compensation Types

Compensation Types

Gain insights into the various types of employee compensation and understand how to create competitive benefit packages to attract and retain talent. Review the importance of a well-structured compensation plan in enhancing employee satisfaction and boosting retention.
Sabbatical Leave

Sabbatical Leave

Understand the benefits of sabbatical leave for both employees and employers, and the key elements of effective sabbatical policies. Explore successful sabbatical programs from companies like Autodesk and Patagonia, and their impact on workplace dynamics.


Navigate the world of HR KPIs to measure and enhance your human resources management effectiveness and align with organizational goals. Understand the vital role of KPIs in achieving fair compensation and strategic HR outcomes.

Contact our attorney.

Please tell us your story:

1 + 3 = ?

© Copyright | Nakase Law Firm (2019)