Where Does Someone Initially File an Employment Discrimination Complaint?
| Read Time: 3 minutes | Employment Law 101

Your employer needs to ensure your safety at work in specific ways. This includes making sure that your workplace is free from unlawful discrimination. If your employer has failed to protect you from discrimination, you can easily feel lost and vulnerable. Fortunately, federal and state laws give you the right to seek justice against this kind of workplace misconduct. 

You can seek justice by filing a discrimination complaint with the state or federal government. So, where does someone initially file an employment discrimination complaint? It depends on your specific situation and your needs. We can walk you through the process. And if you need the help of a good attorney, King & Siegel LLP is here for you. Contact us today.

Filing a Discrimination Complaint

Before you file a discrimination complaint with the government, you need to take reasonable steps to file an internal complaint with your employer. If you have completed this step, or if this step is unreasonable because of your circumstances, you are ready to file a government complaint. 

If you win your complaint, you can receive:

  • Back pay,
  • Economic damages,
  • Compensation for emotional distress,
  • Job reinstatement,
  • Other employment benefits,
  • Policy changes at work, and 
  • Punitive damages.

To win these damages, you need to make sure you timely file your complaint with the correct government agency.

If you are not a federal employee and your employer has between five and 15 employees, you must file your complaint with the state. If you are a federal employee, you must file your complaint with the federal government. And if you are not a federal employee and your employer has 15 or more employees, you can file your complaint with the state and the federal government. 

Complaints from Non-Federal and Private Employees

If you work for the state or the private sector, you often have multiple options for initiating a workplace discrimination complaint. You might be eligible to file a state and a federal complaint. 

Filing a State Complaint with the California Civil Rights Department

The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) prohibits employers from denying work benefits to employees or harassing them because of their age (40 and older), ancestry, color, disability, genetics, marital status, medical condition, military status, sex, or sexual orientation. If your employer has at least five employees, you can file your state employment discrimination complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). You must initiate your complaint within three years. 

Filing a Federal Complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 (the Civil Rights Act). And the Civil Rights Act protects employees from discrimination and harassment based on many of the same characteristics protected by FEHA. To combat workplace discrimination from an employer with at least 15 employees, you can file a discrimination charge with the EEOC. You typically have 180 days to file an EEOC charge, but federal law gives you 300 days to file if the basis of your complaint is also covered by state law.

Complaints from Federal Employees 

Federal employees have rights to protection from discriminatory workplace behaviors, but the process for filing government complaints is different. If you are a federal employee who is a victim of workplace discrimination, you must first contact your employing agency’s EEO Counselor. Your employing agency should have posted information about where the appropriate EEO Office for your complaints is.  

You need to contact your EEO Counselor within 45 days. Once you have initiated contact, you will likely have to engage in alternative dispute resolution. And if alternative dispute resolution does not work, you have 15 days to file a formal complaint with your employer’s EEO Office. 

You should also receive an EEOC notice about your hearing rights. If you receive this notice, you have 30 days to request a hearing. 

There are many steps to winning justice in an employment discrimination case. Between processing the mistreatment you have endured, salvaging your professional life, and standing up against unscrupulous employers, handling the intricacies of a government complaint can often prove too much for a harassment victim acting alone. This is why you should speak to an attorney about your situation. You deserve justice and compensation for what your employer has done to you, and a skilled attorney can help ensure you receive justice. 

Contact Us Today

At King & Siegel, our skilled sexual harassment attorneys have an excellent education and extensive experience that will help you claim victory against employers who mistreat you. Our California attorneys want you to know that you are not alone. We keep communication open and guide our clients through every step of the employee complaint process so that they do not feel like they are in the dark. We lead with professionalism, expertise, and compassion. And we are not afraid to fight for you. Contact us today.

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Julian Burns King graduated with honors from Harvard Law School and founded King & Siegel in 2018. As head of the Firm’s discrimination and harassment practice areas, she champions the rights of working parents and victims of workplace discrimination and harassment. She has been recognized as a “Rising Star” by Super Lawyers annually since 2018 and has recovered tens of millions of dollars on behalf of her clients.

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