Employment disputes can involve violations of local, state, or federal employment laws. In most cases, when you have a workplace dispute, you will likely need to file with a state employment agency, which will investigate your claim.  If sufficient evidence is present, the agency may prescribe legal action for your dispute.  There are many different state employment bodies.

For instance, in California, the relevant filing agency is the DFEH, while in Texas, the appropriate place to file would be the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC).  You may need to consult with a lawyer to determine the exact name of the agency that you should be filing with.  Many state employment dispute organizations also have subdivisions for each type of employment dispute (i.e., discrimination, harassment, wage/hour, etc.)

How Will the State Employment Agency Help Me?

State employment dispute agencies can provide a number of different services for persons seeking legal relief.  These may include:

  • Performing fact-finding functions to discover the relevant information regarding the dispute
  • Acting as a neutral third-party mediator between the employer and employee(s)
  • Researching state laws to determine the applicable laws
  • Determining whether a violation such as discrimination or harassment has occurred
  • Enforcing legal relief for the plaintiff
  • Granting appeals (if allowed)

Thus, state employment agencies handle a large portion of the state’s employment dispute claims every year.

Can’t I File Directly With a Federal Agency?

In most cases, you will need to file first at the state level.  Generally, your state agency will contact a federal agency like the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).  Both agencies may do a preliminary review of your case to see whether it involves federal or state laws, or both.

However, usually you will be required to “exhaust your remedies” at the state level.  This means that you must reach a final conclusion with your state agency.  Only if their evaluation is not satisfactory will you be able to file with a federal agency.

A similar exhaustion of remedies may also be required before you can file a private lawsuit.  However, many states have waivers that will allow you to file an employment dispute lawsuit from the outset.  This may depend on the individual factors surrounding your claim.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help With State Employment Disputes?

Whenever filing any type of employment dispute claim, you will generally need the assistance of a lawyer.  Employment disputes can be complicated, but a qualified workplace lawyer can help you with your claim.  Your attorney will be able to guide you through the process and can provide you with representation during any hearings.