Serving California, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Illinois with COVID-19 precautions in place and convenient virtual meetings.

How to File an Employment Discrimination Claim in California

Filing an employment discrimination claim in California involves a detailed legal process that protects workers from unfair treatment based on race, color, national origin, sex, disability, and other protected characteristics. Understanding this process is crucial whether you aim to settle a dispute through state agencies or pursue an employment lawsuit. This guide will walk you through how to file an employment claim in California, from initial steps to potentially filing a lawsuit.

When Should You File an Employment Discrimination Claim?

Filing an employment discrimination claim should be considered when you believe you have been subjected to unfair treatment at work based on your race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age (if you are 40 or older), disability, genetic information, or another protected characteristic under federal or state laws.

It is advisable to consult with an employment law attorney who can provide legal advice based on the specifics of your case. An attorney can help determine the strength of your claim and guide you on the best time to file.

If your employer has an internal process for handling discrimination complaints, you might consider filing a complaint through those channels first. However, this does not stop the clock on the statutory deadlines, so be mindful of how long you spend in internal processes. If you have attempted to resolve the issue informally or through internal mechanisms without success, it might then be appropriate to escalate the matter by filing a formal claim.

How to File a Discrimination Claim

Before diving into the filing process, it’s important to recognize what constitutes employment discrimination. This occurs when an employer makes job-related decisions based on discriminatory factors that are not related to the individual’s job performance or qualifications. Recognizing the signs of discrimination is the first step toward taking legal action.

Step 1: Document the Discrimination

Documenting instances of discrimination is critical. Keep detailed records of any discriminatory comments, decisions, or actions taken against you. This includes emails, witness statements, and any related documents that can support your discrimination or harassment claim.

Step 2: Contact an Employment Attorney

Consulting with an employment law attorney can provide invaluable guidance through the complexity of discrimination claims. An attorney can help you understand your legal rights and the strengths of your case.

Step 3: Filing a Claim with the California Civil Rights Department (CRD)

To file an employment discrimination claim in California, you begin with the CRD:

  1. Filing the Complaint: You can file a complaint online, by mail, or over the phone. The complaint should include details of the discrimination, your personal information, and the information of the employer.
  2. Investigation: Once filed, CRD will review the complaint and decide whether to investigate. If they proceed, CRD will gather evidence, interview witnesses, and review documentation.
  3. Mediation: Often, CRD may offer mediation services to resolve the issue without further legal actions. Mediation involves negotiating a settlement that is acceptable to both parties.
  4. Right-to-Sue Notice: If mediation fails or you choose not to mediate, you can request a Right-to-Sue notice from CRD, allowing you to file a lawsuit in court.

What Happens If You Choose to Sue?

With a Right-to-Sue notice, your attorney can file a lawsuit against your employer. This must be done within one year of receiving the notice. Should you choose to sue, here’s how the process typically unfolds:

1. Response from the Defendant

After you file your lawsuit, the defendant (your employer) is served with a copy of the complaint and summons. They have a specified period (usually about 30 days, depending on the jurisdiction) to respond to the complaint. The response can either admit or deny the allegations made or even file a motion to dismiss the case on various grounds, such as lack of legal foundation or jurisdiction.

2. Discovery Phase

The discovery phase is a critical part of the litigation process, where both parties exchange information related to the case. Discovery is intended to eliminate surprises, clarify what the lawsuit is about, and gather evidence that might be used at trial.

3. Pre-Trial Motions

Either party can file pre-trial motions, which may include motions to dismiss the case, motions for summary judgment (where one party argues that the key facts are undisputed and the law is on their side, thus no trial is necessary), or motions to compel (asking the court to require the other side to comply with discovery requests).

4. Settlement Discussions

Throughout the legal process, there may be attempts to settle the matter outside of court. Settlements can occur at any stage of the process and are often encouraged by the court to avoid the expenses and uncertainty of a trial. Mediation or settlement conferences may be part of this process.

5. Trial

If the case does not settle, it proceeds to trial. The trial concludes with a verdict where the judge or jury determines whether discrimination occurred and what compensation (if any) is appropriate.

6. Post-Trial Motions and Appeals

After a verdict, either party can file post-trial motions, such as a motion for a new trial or a motion to alter or amend the judgment. If unsatisfied with the outcome, either party may appeal the decision to a higher court, which will review the trial’s proceedings for legal errors.

7. Enforcement of Judgment

If the plaintiff wins the case and is awarded damages, the next step is the enforcement of the judgment. This might involve collecting compensation from the defendant through various means if the defendant does not voluntarily pay.

Get the Help You Need to File a Successful Discrimination Claim

Filing an employment discrimination claim in California is a structured but complex process. From gathering evidence to potentially entering the courtroom, each step requires careful attention to detail and an understanding of legal procedures. 

That’s why it’s so important to work with an employment law attorney that you trust. The experienced lawyers at the Law Offices of Todd M. Friedman, P.C., have the skills and knowledge necessary to help you file your claim efficiently and with less stress. Get in touch with our California workplace discrimination lawyers today to learn more about how we can assist you. 

This is attorney advertising. These posts are written on behalf of Law Offices of Todd M. Friedman, P.C. and are intended solely as informational content. These blogs in no way provide specific or actionable legal advice, nor does your use of or engagement with this site establish any attorney-client relationship. Please read the disclaimer