What if I want to go straight to court and file a lawsuit on my own?
Federal and state law both require you to file an employment discrimination complaint with the EEOC or DFEH first. This is called “exhausting your administrative remedies.” However, once you file your complaint, you can choose to file a lawsuit against the employer instead of asking the EEOC (or DFEH) to investigate and resolve your complaint.
If you want to file a lawsuit right away, you must ask the EEOC for a Right-to-Sue notice, which is a legal document that allows you to file a lawsuit in court on your own. However, you generally have to give the EEOC 180 days to investigate your complaint first.
- If it has been more than 180 days (6 months) since you filed your complaint, the EEOC is required to give you a Right-to-Sue notice.
- If it has been less than 180 days, the EEOC will give you a Right-to-Sue notice only if its own investigation will take longer than 6 months.
To request a Right-to-Sue notice, send a written letter to the local EEOC office that is handling your complaint. Once you get the Right-to-Sue notice, you only have 90 days to file your lawsuit in court.
IMPORTANT: Once you get the Right-to-Sue notice, the EEOC will dismiss your complaint and will not do anything more to investigate or resolve your case. So if you want the EEOC to continue to help with your case, DON’T request a Right-to-Sue notice.
The process for requesting a DFEH Right-to-Sue notice is very similar. For more information on how to request a Right-to-Sue from the DFEH, see http://www.dfeh.ca.gov/res/docs/Complaints/Right%20to%20Sue%20form%20(3%20pages).pdf.