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Following the right steps in handling discrimination and harassment is not always easy. The legal process about filing a case is complex and often unclear for people unfamiliar with the law, and discrimination and harassment in the workplace can be deeply upsetting experiences that make the whole process even more difficult. Nonetheless, it is vital that you act quickly if you want to preserve your rights. The best way to do this is to seek the advice of an attorney, such as us at the California Civil Rights Law Group, the leading civil rights firm in the Bay Area. You can call us for a free case evaluation at (415) 453-4740, or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. (We have law firm offices in Oakland and San Anselmo, and we can talk on the phone if you are in San Francisco). However, you can also take several steps on your own to protect yourself.
Your first step should be to preserve evidence. Although your testimony is important if you go to trial, juries are often persuaded by something tangible. You should document any discrimination to the best degree you can. Although they may be upsetting, keep any messages, including e-mails and text messages, related to the discrimination or harassment. Try to make sure you have someone you trust as a witness with you during important conversations. If that is not possible, ask if you can record those conversations. Do not record anything without the consent of every other participant—doing so is illegal under California law.
You should also report any harassing or discriminatory conduct to a supervisor and to Human Resources. If the harasser is your supervisor, report it to another supervisor instead, in addition to Human Resources. When you make your report, be sure to include everything you believe was discriminatory. If possible, make these complaints in writing in case you need to later show that you did complain. Sometimes, this will resolve the problem without needed to resort to a lawsuit. Even if it does not, it can help your case later.
In addition to making a report to supervisors and Human Resources, you should file a complaint as soon as possible with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (“DFEH”) and the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). You are only able to proceed with a lawsuit if you have filed a complaint with DFEH or EEOC on time. It is best to consult with an attorney in drafting your complaint; having an attorney assist you ensures that you include everything important, and that you do not include anything that will hurt your case.
If you do not wish to have an attorney assist you, you can draft and file the complaint yourself. You can find instructions on how to file a DFEH complaint here, and instructions on how to file an EEOC complaint here. You have one year from the discrimination to file your DFEH complaint, but only 300 days from the discrimination to file a complaint with the EEOC. Although you have some time to file, it is best to file as soon as you become aware you have a case—you do not want to accidentally miss a deadline! If the discrimination continues, you can amend your complaint later. (Please be aware that if you a government employee, different rules and deadlines may apply.)
ABOUT CALIFORNIA CIVIL RIGHTS LAW GROUP
Headed by renowned trial lawyer Larry Organ, California Civil Rights Law Group , is a leading employment law firm with San Francisco Bay Area offices in Oakland, Alameda County and San Anselmo, Marin County, California. Employees experiencing sexual harassment, race harassment, disability discrimination, LGTBQ discrimination, pregnancy discrimination, whistleblower retaliation and/or wrongful termination should reach out for an attorney consultation in either our Oakland/East Bay or San Anselmo/Marin County office.