Is DFEH Escaping its Houdini Headache?

A few years ago, the fine minds at the Department of Fair Employment and Housing decided to use a new system for accepting online complaints from employees wanting to file discrimination claims. The DFEH decided to use Houdini, Esq. to provide the “service.” But it was a disaster, as I’ve written about before here.

As this article in the Sacramento Bee notes, things haven’t gotten much better for employees filing online complaints with Houdini. My experience with Houdini is that it’s a pain in the ass. A real pain in the ass.

The problem with an online complaint system is that it better work because if it doesn’t work properly, it could preclude some employees from filing timely lawsuits. Because in California, we have a silly law that requires those who want to sue their employees under California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act to file a complaint with the DFEH within one year of the discriminatory act, and then the employee has one year from the date of the DFEH right-to-sue letter to file a lawsuit in Superior Court.

But Houdini has messed-up some complaints which prevented some employees from filing timely lawsuits. Sometimes it’s difficult to determine whether the complaint got through or not. So then some try to file another complaint.

It shouldn’t be so difficult to file a complaint. If you request an immediate right-to-sue letter, you best make sure all of your complaints of discrimination are included in your original complaint.

The California legislature should change the requirement of filing a complaint with DFEH and receiving a right-to-sue letter before filing a lawsuit. Because with a crippled system for online complaints like Houdini, those that have been victims of discrimination can end up being victims of state incompetence. Especially since DFEH has done its best to avoid meeting or speaking with employees filing complaints or employees with questions.

Apparently DFEH is going to start using a version of Salesforce to try to remedy the problem. Let’s hope it succeeds.

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