Employment FAQ

What are the time limits for filing a complaint of employment discrimination?

How does a person file a complaint of employment discrimination?

How does the Department conduct an investigation?

How long does it take the Department to conduct an investigation?

What remedies are available to persons who file complaints of employment discrimination?

Does the Department represent Complainants?

How long may a woman be off work for pregnancy?

For what reasons may an employee take leave under the California Family Rights Act (CFRA)?

Can an employer fire a person who is out sick?

What is sexual harassment?

What are the time limits for filing a complaint of employment discrimination?

A complaint of employment discrimination must be filed within one year from the date that the alleged discriminatory act occurred.

How does a person file a complaint of employment discrimination?

To file a complaint of employment discrimination, go to the DFEH Web site home page and click on "File a Complaint." If assistance is requiredto complete the online complaint filing process, please call 800-884-1684.

How does the Department conduct an investigation?

The Department is a neutral fact-finding agency. Department staff conduct impartial investigations in which records are reviewed and relevant witnesses are interviewed. An investigation may be conducted on site and/or through telephone interviews. The Department has the authority to take depositions, issue subpoenas and interrogatories and seek temporary restraining orders during the course of its investigation. All evidence gathered is analyzed to determine if a violation of the Fair Employment and Housing Act has occurred. In making its determination, the Department considers evidence from both sides as well as from any neutral parties the Department may have contacted.

How long does it take the Department to conduct an investigation?

The Department has up to one year from the date a DFEH complaint is filed in which to complete an investigation and file acomplaint in civil court if it is justified.

What remedies are available to persons who file complaints of employment discrimination?

The remedies available for employment discrimination include:

  • Back pay
  • Hiring
  • Promotion
  • Reinstatement
  • Out-of-pocket expenses
  • Front pay
  • Policy changes
  • Training
  • Reasonable accommodation
  • Affirmative relief
  • Actual damages, including damages for emotional distress
  • Punitive damages
  • Attorney fees and costs

    Does the Department represent Complainants?

    During the investigation, the Department acts as a neutral fact-finder, gathering evidence to determine whether the Complainant's allegations can be proven. The Department does not represent either the Complainant or the Respondent. If the investigation establishes that there is evidence to support the Complainant's allegations, and the parties do not reach a settlement, the case is forwarded to the Department's Legal Division to review for potential litigation. The Department has a staff of attorneys who prepare and litigate cases in court. When the Department decides to litigate a case, itfiles a civil complaint in the name of the Department of Fair Employment and Housing against the employer. The Department attorneys represent the Department, not the individual Complainant. Though the assigned Department attorney is not the Complainant's personal legal advisor, the Complainant's interests are paramount in the litigation, and the Complainant is given 100% of any remedies recovered, with the exception of attorney fees and costs. The Department does not charge complainants attorney fees orexpert witness fees (although it can ask the court to order the employer to pay them when the DFEH is the prevailing party in litigation), nor does it take a percentage of any award or settlement.

    How long may a woman be off work for pregnancy?

    Under California law, an employer must provide up to four months disability leave for pregnant employees. If more than four months of leave is provided for other types of temporary disabilities, the same leave must me made available toemployees who are disabled due to pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition. Pregnancy leave is required only when a woman is actually disabled. This includes time off needed for prenatal care, severe morning sickness, doctor-ordered bed rest, childbirth, recovery from childbirth, and related medical conditions.

    For what reasons may an employee take leave under the California Family Rights Act (CFRA)?

    An eligible employee may take a job-protected leave of absence for the birth of a child for purposes of bonding, for placement of a child in the employee's family for adoption or foster care, for the serious health condition of the employee's child, parent, or spouse, and for the employee's own serious health condition. The leave may total up to 12 workweeks in a 12-month period. It does not need to be taken in one continuous period of time.

    Can an employer fire a person who is out sick?

    This depends on the nature of the illness and would have to be decided on a case-by-case basis. Generally, non-chronic illnesses of a short duration that do not have a long-term impact such as a cold or the flu, do not qualify as disabilities under the Fair Employment and Housing Act or the Federal Americans with Disabilities Act. However, if the temporary disability meets one of the definitions of disability contained in the Fair Employment and Housing Act, it may mean that being fired may be a violation of the law. In addition, if the illness is a "serious health condition" as defined under the California Family Rights Act and if the employee is eligible for leave under that law, the individual may be entitled to a job-protected leave up to 12 weeks in a 12-month period. Check with your local Department office if you are unsure about your rights.

    What is sexual harassment?

    State regulations define sexual harassment as unwanted sexual advances, or visual, verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. This definition includes many forms of offensive behavior and includes gender-based harassment of a person of the same sex as the harasser. The following is a partial list of prohibited behavior:

    • Visual conduct: leering, making sexual gestures, displaying of sexually suggestive objects or pictures, cartoons or posters.
    • Verbal conduct: making or using derogatory comments, epithets, slurs and jokes. Verbal abuse of a sexual nature, graphic verbal commentaries about an individual'sbody, sexuallydegrading words used to describe an individual.
    • Physical conduct: touching, assault, impeding or blocking movements.
    • Offering employment benefits in exchange for sexual favors.
    • Making or threatening retaliatory action after receiving a negative response to sexual advances.