Department of Fair Employment and Housing Jurisdiction Over Claims

In State Personnel Bd., appellants unsuccessfully applied for positions with the California Highway Patrol. They appealed to the Board and also filed complaints with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). The DFEH found cause to believe unfair employment practices had occurred and moved forward on the claim. The Board thereafter filed an action to enjoin the DFEH from exercising jurisdiction over the claims. the trial court granted the injunction, concluding article VII of the California Constitution gave the Board exclusive jurisdiction over all matters involving state civil service employees. The California Supreme Court reversed and dissolved the injunction. It found state civil service employees were covered by the FEHA, as are private employees. It then noted that the differing purposes of each agency, as well as the different procedural and evidentiary guidelines that are followed in either forum, supported the conclusion that the agencies maintained concurrent jurisdiction. Finally, the court found application of the FEHA to state employees constitutional. "The Legislature is not restrained by article VII of establishing other agencies, such as those established by the FEHA, whose specialized watchdog functions might involve consideration of matters also within the purview of the Board." (39 Cal. 3d at p. 439, italics omitted.) We interpret the language and meaning of State Personnel Bd. to support an expansive view of the avenues aggrieved state employees may pursue when filing their complaints. The Supreme Court took care to explain the differences between the two forums, emphasizing that the antidiscrimination provisions of the FEHA were more extensive than those in the Civil Service Act. "Given the differences between the two statutory schemes, the Legislature's desire to include state employees within the purview of the FEHA, notwithstanding their coverage by the antidiscrimination provisions of the Civil Service Act, is understandable. The procedures, protections and enforcement services available to discrimination claimants under the FEHA go beyond those available under the Civil Service Act. . . ." (State Pesonnel Bd., supra, 39 Cal. 3d at p. 431, fn. omitted.) As such, we cannot agree all state employees who allege they were terminated for discriminatory reasons must file a claim with the Board. Instead, they may conclude it would be in their best interest to focus their energies on a claim with the DFEH. Also, the Supreme Court's attention on the different purposes of the two agencies suggests it would be proper for a potential claimant to consider which forum would be more appropriate for his or her cause of action. The court noted the Board's responsibilities center on ensuring that state appointments are based upon merit ( 18500), while the FEHA was implemented to eliminate discrimination and to vindicate civil rights. ( 12920.) Thus, aggrieved state employees may determine the facts underlying the complaint better comport with the purpose behind the FEHA and, accordingly, pursue redress solely with the DFEH.