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Which is more effective, the EEOC or DFEH?

Los Angeles, CA |

I believe I have a relatively straightforward employment discrimination case. I am interested in seeing if an administrative agency can handle it as I have been told that is much cheaper and easier than litigation. Is this pretty much the general consensus?

My question is, if I can choose either the federal EEOC or California's DFEH to handle the case (i.e. there is an overlap of state and federal laws), which agency is more likely to secure a good settlement or decision? My thinking is California is in pretty poor financial shape so the EEOC might have more of an ability to pursue it?

Thanks for your time!

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Attorney answers 3

Best Answer

In addition to Ms. Koslyn's good advice, there may be a misconception that should be clarified. Neither the EEOC or DFEH serve as advocates for employees, at least initially. Their role serves two purposes. One is to issue a right to sue letter to any employee who believes is the victim of statutory discrimination (which they do automatically if asked), the other is to investigate claims deemed viable. The investigators are not representing you as a claimant. They are supposed to be neutral. And I will tell you it is the concern of many plaintiff's attorneys that investigations are often inadequately conducted. But sometimes, they are necessary because the investigators have access to information, facts and statistics private attorneys cannot obtain prior to filing a lawsuit. So, in questionable claims, it is often advisable to allow one of these agencies to conduct an investigation. Upon concluding the investigation, if the findings support the claims, either agency may file a lawsuit for violation of state or federal law. But they are not representing the employee, which is an important distinction. They are more like a prosecutor. They will, however, encourage a settlement and even offer mediation services.

There are pros and cons to using either agency. Yes, the DFEH is cash strapped and has had to close offices. But most plaintiff's lawyers will tell you they prefer the protections of state law and state courts, wherever possible. The bottom line is that there is no substitute for having you own attorney advocating your rights. If your case is as strong as you believe it is, you should have no problem finding a lawyer who will take the case on a contingency basis. But you should talk to at least 2 or more attorneys to get different opinions and styles. We are all different in our approach. But if you are looking to do this easy and cheap, you may be in for a rude awakening. Get a realistic assessment of your case before deciding what to do.

They say you get what you pay for, and this response is free, so take it for what it is worth. This is my opinion based on very limited information. My opinion should not be taken as legal advice. For true advice, we would require a confidential consultation where I would ask you questions and get your complete story. This is a public forum, so remember, nothing here is confidential. Nor am I your attorney. I do not know who you are and you have not hired me to provide any legal service. To do so would require us to meet and sign written retainer agreement. My responses are intended for general information only.


Don't assume your case is straightfoward or easily resolved, and don't expect the strapped agencies to resolve it for you, since this wasn't true when there wasn't a budget crisis. The practical function of these agencies, who get literally thousands of claims each year and can't possibly investigate them all, is mostly to issue "right to sue" letters, which then allow a claimant to file a lawsuit.

You should see a lawyer before you file this claim with either the state or federal agency, because the wording can prejudice you claim if you don't do it correctly, and the choice of which agency to use may matter. You'll need an employment litigator anyway, so see one now.

To prepare for meetings with lawyers, compile copies of all the documents that relate to your claim, and draft a timeline that lists everything that happened to you from the day you were hired on, including all witnesses and their contact information and each significant event.

I'm only licensed in CA. Please note that this answer does not constitute legal advice, and should not be relied on, since each state has different laws, each situation is fact specific, and it is impossible to evaluate a legal problem without a comprehensive consultation and review of all the facts and documents at issue. This answer does not create an attorney-client relationship.


In addition to the good advice offered you by the two attorneys above, I would only add as has been pointed out that most Plaintiff's lawyers prefer to file with DFEH and obtain a Right to Sue in the State courts. The reason for this is that Federal Court procedures can work against a Plaintiff. For instance, usually in State Court your attorney will have the right to question and participate in the selection of jurors, that right is generally restricted in Federal Courts, additionally, in order to prevail in State Court you need to have a majority of the jurors vote in your favor while in Federal court a unanimous verdict is required. This means in a Federal case that the defendant needs to convince only one juror that your case in not credible. Again, as previously stated, see an employment attorney......most will not charge for a consultation and the advice and insights gained could be invaluable.

Please be aware that this response is given to a general question and does not establish an attorney client relationship between you and the attorney furnishing such response.

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