How much time do I have to file a discrimination complaint against an employer?

In California, you only have 300 days (10 months) to report employment discrimination to the EEOC, or 1 year to report discrimination to the DFEH.[1986]

How to File a Complaint with the federal EEOC:

If you decide to file a claim, you can contact the EEOC in person or by mail to report the employment discrimination and file a complaint.

    In person: The EEOC has local offices in the following California cities: Los Angeles, Fresno, San Diego, San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose. Contact the local EEOC office near you to report discrimination and file a complaint. (See Appendix L, PG. 637 for local EEOC office addresses and phone numbers.) You can also call 1-800-669-4000 to give basic information about your situation, and then a local office will follow up with you about filing a complaint. (Important: You cannot actually file an EEOC complaint by phone, but you can get the process started.)By Mail: You can mail a written complaint to any local EEOC office. For instructions on how to write a complaint, see PG. 594, below. For a list of local EEOC offices and addresses, see Appendix L, PG. 637.

How to File a Complaint with the California DFEH:

You can contact the DFEH by mail, by phone, or online to report the discrimination and file a “Pre-Complaint Inquiry”:

    By Mail: Fill out the Pre-Complaint Inquiry form and mail it to any local DFEH office. For a list of local DFEH offices and addresses, see Appendix M, PG. 638. To learn how to obtain the Pre-Complaint Inquiry form, see Appendix N, PG. 639. [1987] By Phone: Call the DFEH Communication Center at (800) 884-1684. If you have a hearing impairment, please call 800-884-1684 or TTY at (800) 700-2320 for service.Online: Use the DFEH’s online system, available at, or email the Pre-Complaint Inquiry form to [email protected]

Once you file a complaint with the EEOC and/or the DFEH, you have two options:

    You can ask the EEOC or DFEH to investigate and resolve the discrimination claim, including filing a lawsuit in court on your behalf; OR
    You can file a lawsuit directly in court on your own, but you must ask the EEOC or DFEH to give you a “Right to Sue” letter. (Note: You cannot go directly to court—the law requires you to go through the DFEH or EEOC first.)[1988]

For more information on how to file a complaint with the EEOC or the DFEH and a summary of the complaint process, see PG. 594 below. For a complete description of the EEOC and DFEH complaint processes, see Appendix O, PG. 640 (EEOC Complaint Process), and Appendix P, PG. 642 (DFEH Complaint Process). For more information about the process of filing a lawsuit in court, see PG. 598.

  1. 1986

    The EEOC usually requires discrimination complaints to be filed within 180 days from when the discrimination occurred. However, in California, you may have up to 300 days to file an EEOC complaint, because California law also covers the same types of discrimination. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5 (general time limits on filing), 2000e-5(e) (time limits on filing where complainant has initially instituted proceedings with authorized state or local agency); see also Green v. Los Angeles Cnty. Superintendent of Sch., 883 F.2d 1472, 1473 (9th Cir. 1989); Saulsbury v. Wismer & Becker, Inc., 644 F.2d 1251 (9th Cir. 1980). You must file a DFEH complaint within 1 year from when the discrimination occurred. Cal. Gov’t Code § 12960.

  2. 1987

    The form is also available online at Complaint Inquiry—Employment.pdf.

  3. 1988

    Cal. Gov’t Code § 12965(b).