Any employee, who is discharged, threatened with discharge, demoted, suspended, or in any manner discriminated and/or retaliated against in the terms and conditions of his or her employment for engaging in a "protected activity" under the jurisdiction of the labor commissioner may file a complaintwith the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE). Examples of some protected activities include filing or threatening to file a wage claim with the Labor Commissioner's office, taking time off to serve on a jury, complaining about a safety or health hazard, and/or refusing to perform work that may be hazardous. View a list of the specific anti-discrimination/retaliation statutes/orders under the jurisdiction of the labor commissioner.

There are specific time limits for filing a complaint for discrimination/retaliation with the DLSE. The majority of the Labor Code Sections and IWC Orders require that the complaint be filed within  one year of the discriminatory/retaliatory act. However, certain Labor Code Sections have longer time periods for filing a complaint. Labor Code Section 1197.5 that covers discrimination in the payment of wages on the basis of sex, race, or ethnicity has a  two-year period from the date of the discriminatory activity for filing a complaint

However, when an employee is discriminated/retaliated against for complaining about or reporting violations of the licensing laws relating to child care facilities under Health and Safety Code Section 1596.881, the time period for filing a complaint is no later than  ninety days after the adverse action.

After filing the complaint, the employee will be contacted by a Discrimination Complaint Investigator from the Labor Commissioner's office. The employee, the employer and witnesses who may have information regarding the case may be interviewed. The investigator will prepare a written report and forward it to the labor commissioner for review. The labor commissioner, after reviewing the written report will issue a decision regarding the complaint based on the facts outlined in the report. View more information and details on how to file a discrimination complaint, the discrimination complaint process, appeal rights and the discrimination complaint form.

In some cases, if the labor commissioner feels there is a need to obtain further information, a hearing before a DLSE Hearing Officer may be held. Both the employer and the employee will receive written notification and a copy of the summary of the facts at least five days before the scheduled hearing. This hearing is an informal hearing; however, all parties can subpoena witnesses and documents to support the facts outlined in the written report and may have attorneys, union representatives, or other persons of their choice to represent them at the hearing. The hearing officer will submit a "Findings of Fact and Conclusion" to the labor commissioner within seven days of the hearing.

If after an investigation the labor commissioner dismisses the complaint, the employee has the right to file a separate private court action against the employer. Also, an employee alleging discrimination or retaliation due to any action that involves the federal Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA) regulations has the right to file a complaint with the federal OSHA agency. This complaint can be filed simultaneously with the State Labor Commissioner's complaint. Employees must, however, file with federal OSHA within thirty days of the adverse action occurring.

Under the anti-discrimination/retaliation statutes, the remedy that is available is what is known as a "make whole" remedy. This remedy can include, but is not limited to; reinstatement of employment, reversal of a demotion, payment of back wages, reinstitution of benefits, purging personnel files of any adverse memos or letters, a cease and desist order, and the posting of a notice in the workplace.

**Note: Employees who feel that they have been discriminated against or harassed because of their race, religion, sex, color, sexual orientation, national origin, ancestry, physical handicap, medical condition, marital status, age (over 40), or request for family leave, should contact the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. DFEH's telephone number within California is 1-800-884-1684 and 916-227-0551 outside of California.


Where do I go to file a discrimination complaint with the labor commissioner?


You can file a discrimination complaint with any local office of the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement. Additionally, you can download, complete, and print the complaint form off of the Internet (EnglishSpanishChineseKoreanVietnamese, and Tagalog), and file your form by mailing it directly to the Discrimination Complaint Investigation Unit at:

Labor Commissioner's Office
Retaliation Complaint Investigation Unit
2031 Howe Ave., Ste. 100
Sacramento, CA 95825

Labor Commissioner's Office
Retaliation Complaint Investigation Unit
320 W. Fourth St., Ste. 450
Los Angeles, CA 90013


How much time do I have to file a complaint after the occurrence of the discriminatory/retaliatory act or action against me by my employer?


The majority of the Labor Code Statutes and IWC Orders allow one year from the occurrence of the adverse action to file a complaint with the Labor Commissioner. If you file a complaint under Labor Code Section 1197.5, you have two years from the time of the adverse action. But, if you file a complaint under Health and Safety Code 1596.881, you have 90 days from the occurrence of the adverse action to file a complaint.


If I do not agree with the decision of the Labor Commissioner, can I appeal to some other authority?


Generally, no. However, Retaliation Complaints alleging violation of Labor Code section 6310 or 6311, related to workplace health and safety, include appeal rights for the worker who filed the complaint, in the event the Labor Commissioner dismisses the complaint for lack of sufficient evidence. This appeal right is required by the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Act, and the State of California's Labor Commissioner's office is required to provide the same or a similar process for violations of Labor Code section 6310 and 6311. In the appeal, the Complainant shall define the grounds upon which the appealing party considers the Determination to be unjust or unlawful and identify every issue to be considered by the Director. The Director will provide all other parties with a copy of the appeal, allowing an opportunity to respond. The Complainant, or individual who filed the complaint, must file their appeal within 15 days from the date of the receipt of the Determination. The appeal must be filed with the Director of the Department of Industrial Relations at:

Office of the Director – Legal Unit, RCI Appeals
1515 Clay Street, Suite 701
Oakland, CA 94612

There is no appeal right under this provision for the employer. In the event the Labor Commissioner finds that the employer violated the law, the Respondent has 30 days to comply with the order.
In addition to the appeal right discussed above, any party to a complaint alleging retaliation for complaining about a workplace safety and health issue has the right to file a Complaint Against State Program Administration (CASPA) with federal OSHA if they are not satisfied with the procedures followed in the Labor Commissioner's investigation. A CASPA complaint can only be filed after appeal rights with the State have been exhausted. A CASPA complaint can be filed at:

U.S. Department of Labor - OSHA
Attention: Area Director
Ronald Dellums Federal Building
1301 Clay Street, Suite 1080N
Oakland, CA 94612

May 2021