Equal Employment Opportunity Commission & Employment Discrimination & Harassment Complaints

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the Federal Agency in charge of processing complaints of employment discrimination and employment harassment complaints which violated Federal Law.

The Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) is the California Agency which does the same thing for California laws in charge of processing employment discrimination complaints and employment harassment complaints.

Both agencies also enforce the laws on occasion, bringing lawsuits on behalf of employees.

Filing Complaints with the EEOC and DFEH - Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies

Before an employee can file a lawsuit in a Federal or State Court, he must first file a complaint with one or both of these agencies. This is called "exhaustion of administrative remedies."

When an employee has a lawyer, the complaint is generally not investigated by the administrative agency. The DFEH or EEOC records the complaint, sends a notice to the employer, and issues a "right to sue" letter to the employee. Without "a right to sue" letter, the employee cannot file a lawsuit in Federal or State court.


Frequently employees wish to bring lawsuits based on both Federal and State Law. Both the DFEH and the EEOC therefore have "cross-filing." When the complaint is processed by one of the agencies, it automatically sends a copy to the other agency.

For cross-filing to occur, the employee usually has to request it. The request can be made simply by checking a box on the complaint form.

Further Information