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How to File a Complaint Against Your Employer in California

April 17, 2024

Facing unfair treatment or unlawful practices in the workplace can be a distressing experience, but it’s essential to know that you have rights and recourse under the law. If you believe your employer has violated state or federal employment laws, filing a complaint can be the first step towards seeking justice and holding your employer accountable. In this article, we’ll guide you through the process of filing a complaint against your employer in California.

1. Understand Your Rights

Before filing a complaint, it’s crucial to understand your rights as an employee under California labor laws. Familiarize yourself with laws related to discrimination, harassment, wage and hour regulations, workplace safety, and other relevant areas of employment law. Knowing your rights will empower you to identify potential violations by your employer and take appropriate action.

2. Document the Violations

Gather evidence to support your complaint. This may include emails, memos, performance evaluations, witness statements, photographs, or any other documentation that demonstrates the employer’s unlawful actions or policies. Be sure to keep detailed records of dates, times, and descriptions of incidents relevant to your complaint.

3. Explore Internal Complaint Procedures

Many employers have internal procedures for addressing employee complaints. Check your employee handbook or company policies to see if there are specific procedures you need to follow. If internal procedures exist, follow them accordingly. Be sure to document all steps taken and any responses received from the employer.

4. File a Complaint with Government Agencies

If your attempts to resolve the issue internally are unsuccessful or if your employer does not have internal complaint procedures, you may file a complaint with relevant government agencies. In California, the following agencies handle various types of employment-related complaints:

  • Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH): Handles complaints related to discrimination, harassment, retaliation, and other civil rights violations in employment.
  • Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE): Enforces California labor laws related to minimum wage, overtime, meal and rest breaks, and other wage and hour issues.
  • Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA): Oversees workplace safety and health standards and investigates complaints related to unsafe working conditions.
  • Employment Development Department (EDD): Handles complaints related to unemployment insurance, disability insurance, and paid family leave benefits.

Each agency has specific procedures for filing complaints, which may include completing complaint forms, providing detailed information about the alleged violations, and submitting supporting documentation. You can typically file complaints online, by mail, or in person at agency offices.

5. Consult with an Employment Lawyer

If you’re unsure about the appropriate steps to take or if you encounter obstacles in the complaint process, consider consulting with an experienced employment lawyer. A lawyer can assess your situation, explain your legal rights, and provide guidance on the best course of action. An attorney can also represent you in negotiations with your employer or in legal proceedings if necessary.

6. Follow Up on Your Complaint

After filing a complaint, stay informed about the status of your case and any updates from the investigating agency. Be prepared to provide additional information or documentation if requested. Keep records of all communications and interactions related to your complaint.


Filing a complaint against your employer in California requires careful preparation, documentation, and adherence to relevant procedures. By understanding your rights, gathering evidence, and following the appropriate steps outlined above, you can assert your rights and seek resolution for workplace violations. If you believe you’ve been unlawfully treated by your employer, don’t hesitate to take action to protect your rights and hold your employer accountable.

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    Labor Law PC

    Top rated employment and labor attorney in Los Angeles, California