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How to File a Formal Sexual Harassment Complaint

July 29, 2022 Legal Team

If you are experiencing unwelcome sexual advances or other verbal, physical, or visual conduct of a sexual nature, you have the right to file a formal sexual harassment complaint. A claim can be filed against your employer, and the individual harasser in some cases, within 300 days of the incident.

The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH)

The DFEH is a state agency in charge of protecting Californians from unlawful discrimination in the workplace. When filing a complaint, you may submit it to the Civil Rights Department (CRD) in one of three ways:

  • Online through the Cal Civil Rights System, CCRS, after creating an account.
  • Print out an intake form and mail it to:
    2218 Kausen Drive, Suite 100
    Elk Grove, CA 95758
  • Call 800-884-1684
    Deaf, hard of hearing: 800-700-2320 (TTY)
  • Email: for help

The Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

Another option is to file a Charge of Discrimination with the EEOC. This is a signed statement asserting that your employer engaged in employment discrimination, which can be filed:

  • Online by clicking “Filing with EEOC” on the EEOC Public Portal. First, you must answer a series of questions then the EEOC will advise you on how they can assist, including if filing a charge of discrimination is appropriate.
  • Call 1-800-669-4000 for assistance.
  • By mail or going in person to the EEOC’s field office closest to you.

The Sexual Harassment Complaint Process

Once you file a complaint with either organization, it will be automatically cross-filed with the other agency. Therefore you only need to submit a complaint once. After an evaluation, if the DFEH or EEOC accepts your intake form, they will file an official complaint. The respondent (your employer) will be notified, and at this point, they may choose voluntary mediation to settle the case. If a settlement is reached, the case is resolved.

On the other hand, an investigation will be conducted if there is no settlement or your employer does not voluntarily choose mediation. If the investigation does not show reasonable cause that a violation occurred, the case is closed, but you still have the right to sue, or you can appeal the agency’s decision. If the agency does find reasonable cause, the parties must attend mandatory mediation, where they will either reach a settlement or head to court. A lawsuit will be filed, but the case may still settle at this time or will ultimately be resolved with a judgment by the court.

Sexual Harassment Lawsuit

After exhausting all administrative procedures of the DFEH or EEOC to no avail, you may be issued a “Notice of Right to Sue” by the EEOC. This permits you to file a lawsuit in federal or state court. Alternatively, you can ask the investigating office for permission to file a lawsuit before their investigation is complete. Either way, once you receive the right, you only have 90 days to pursue a case. For more information on your legal options and to discuss your rights, speak to an Orange County sexual harassment attorney today.