Which State Agency Handles Sexual Harassment Complaints?
The Civil Rights Department
Unfortunately, many employees today encounter sexual harassment in the workplace. Sexual harassment can consist of unwanted sexual advances, and can be physical or verbal. Because of its prevalence in the workplace, it is essential that employees understand the mechanisms through which they can report and challenge sexual harassment.
In California, there are several options available to employees. One is to file a complaint with the California Civil Rights Department, or CRD. The CRD is a state agency that aims to protect Californians from discrimination and harassment in housing and employment contexts. Originally the Department of Fair Employment and Housing, the CRD enforces an essential piece of legislation that relate to sexual harassment: the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). Under FEHA, employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees for reporting sexual harassment.
How Can You File a Complaint with the CRD?
If you feel that you have been subjected to sexual harassment, you can file a complaint with the CRD through their website. First, you will need to fill out an intake form. In addition to being completed online, this can also be done over the phone or by mail.
Before you begin the intake process, try to gather as much information as you can related to the harassment. If you have documents that support your claims, make copies that you can provide to the CRD. Documents can include emails, text messages, employment reviews, and anything else that evidences the harassment. In addition, consider if there are any potential witnesses to the harassment, and gather their contact information. When you fill out the intake form, you will be asked to provide information such as: (1) when the harassment occurred; (2) what the harassment consisted of; (3) copies of any documents related to your claims; and (4) the contact information for any witnesses of the harassment. The CRD will then use the information you provided to determine if the conduct that you described violates a law within their jurisdiction (namely, FEHA).
What Happens Next?
Once your complaint has been filed, the CRD will review it and determine whether to conduct an investigation into your claims. In some cases, they may also provide you with access to free dispute resolution services, such as mediation services. If the CRD determines that there is reasonable cause to believe that one of the laws they enforce has been violated, they will notify the parties involved and may file a lawsuit in court. However, they typically require that the parties go through mediation before a lawsuit can be filed.
If the CRD closes your case after their investigation, you have the option to appeal their decision. In addition, the CRD recommends that you find an attorney and consider filing a civil lawsuit.
Even if you decide not to pursue the CRD’s dispute resolution process, and to file your own civil lawsuit instead, you or your lawyer will first need to go through the CRD to obtain a right-to-sue letter. An attorney can help guide you through this process, and make sure that you have everything you need before filing your lawsuit. Once you obtain a right-to-sue letter, you will have one year to file your complaint with the court.
If you choose not to have the CRD investigate your claims, or even if you do want to file a complaint through the CRD, make sure you find an attorney who can help guide you through the process and advocate for you. Our team of experienced attorneys is ready to help you navigate this process, and to help you obtain justice.