Internal Administrative Remedies and FEHA

In a unanimous opinion filed on October 27, 2008, the California Supreme Court held that when an employee voluntarily pursues an internal administrative remedy prior to filing a Fair Employment and Housing (FEHA) complaint, the statute of limitations (of one year) on the FEHA complaint is subject to equitable tolling.

This decision is important to those employees who are concerned about missing the one-year deadline on filing a Discrimination Charge with DFEH (Department of Fair Employment and Housing) and wonder if they should pursue internal administrative remedies first, provided optionally by their employer, skip the internal remedies altogether, or pursue both – the internal administrative action and DFEH procedures.

The recent Supreme Court holding establishes that an employee no longer need to worry about missing the DFEH deadline while pursuing an internal remedy. This decision makes a lot of sense as it reiterates the Court’s continuing efforts to encourage employees/potential litigants to seek and find out-of-court remedies to their grievances before filing a court action.