The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) is a government agency that is charged with protecting residents from discrimination and hate crimes. Generally, the DFEH investigates and prosecutes claims of violations by employers or housing management groups. The DFEH also provides other services such as access to public record searches and updates on California statutes.
Most employment law claims must be investigated by a government agency such as the DFEH, or its federal counterpart, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). If the agency is unable to resolve the claim, or if the petitioner is unsatisfied with the result, the agency may grant them the opportunity to bring the claim in court. This can be done by requesting a right to sue letter.
Most of the legal issues addressed by the DFEH involve housing or employment violations. The typical claims brought to the DFEH include:
- Employment Discrimination;
- Sexual Harassment;
- Employment Retaliation;
- Intimidation/Hate Crimes;
- Failure to Provide Required Public or Private Access to Individuals with Disabilities;
- Failure to Provide Reasonable Accommodations to Individuals with Disabilities;
- Housing Discrimination;
- Denial of Family or Medical Leave; and
- Discriminatory acts by service providing businesses such as restaurants, hotels, retail stores, etc.
Both the DFEH and the EEOC are government agencies that handle similar claims and have similar procedures for processing claims. However, the EEOC is a federal agency and can only receive claims under federal law, while the DFEH is a California state agency and therefore can process claims under both federal law and state law. This can be significant because in many cases California law provides greater protections than federal law.
For example, in addition to the standard protected classes under federal discrimination laws (race, color, sex, age religion, disability, and national origin), California provides additional protection for discrimination according to sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, marital status, and medical/genetic condition.
Therefore, some claims may only be available if brought to the DFEH since it can apply both federal and state law. In addition, there is a longer time limit for bringing a claim with the DFEH (300 days) than the EEOC (180 days).
The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing can provide much needed relief for victims of discrimination, harassment, and retaliation. However, DFEH procedures are extremely complicated and generally require the aid of a California employment lawyer. An experienced lawyer can evaluate your claim, file your case with the DFEH, gather physical evidence, depose witnesses, and advocate for you in administrative hearings.