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Where do I file a job discrimination complaint in California?

Employee discrimination and retaliation complaints are handled by a division of the California Department of Industrial Relations. It is not necessary for you to abandon a personal legal action against an employer to file a complaint with the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement. In fact, it may be in your best interests to speak with an employment attorney before taking any action, particularly if you are seeking whistleblower protection.

A complaint must be filed with DLSE within six months of a claimed worker discrimination or retaliation event. There are a few exceptions to the filing period, imposing both shorter and longer deadlines, which an attorney can outline.

A document known as an RCI form - obtained in person, by mail or from the DLSE website - can be filed with supporting documents at any DLSE office. The filing undergoes a review to make sure the Labor Commissioner has the jurisdictional rights to decide the case. The complaint then shifts to an investigator.

The investigator will speak with you, an employer and any witnesses about the alleged wrongful termination or other illegal act. Subpoenas can be issued to gather proof. A settlement may be proposed but if rejected, the case moves to the Labor Commissioner.

In some instances, a fact-gathering hearing takes place before a decision is made. An attorney can represent you at the informal hearing, conducted by a hearing officer. The parties involved, including the Labor Commissioner, may subpoena materials or witnesses and object to "unnecessary" subpoenas.

The Labor Commissioner then makes a determination. An employer found in violation of employment rules has 10 days to comply or appeal. Employees also have rights to appeal. An attorney can advise you of those rights and help you exercise them.

It takes courage to stand up to unfair treatment in the workplace. An employment lawyer can be an invaluable ally throughout the process.

Source: State of California: Department of Industrial Relations, "Retaliation and Discrimination Complaints" Nov. 22, 2014

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