Discrimination and Retaliation Complaints

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) is committed to ensuring applicants and recipients in its programs or entities are treated fairly and equally. The Civil Rights Unit (CRU) oversees compliance with civil rights laws and regulations of CDSS funded programs and entities that are administered by California county welfare departments. A primary duty of the CRU is to receive and assess discrimination and retaliation complaints. We oversee all discrimination and retaliation complaints regarding CDSS funded public assistance and social service programs administered through county welfare departments. Common covered programs include CalFresh, CalWORKs, IHSS, and CPS. CRU does not represent individuals filing complaints.

What is Discrimination and Retaliation?

Retaliation is when a harmful or adverse action is taken against a complainant/applicant/recipient because they are engaged in protected activity.

Retaliation for filing a complaint is a violation of civil rights regulations, and is strictly prohibited.

If you feel uncomfortable with filing a complaint with your worker or district office, you can file your discrimination complaint with the Civil Rights Bureau.

You may also file your complaint anonymously. If you choose to do this, please remember that investigative staff can't contact you for additional information, or tell you about the findings. An anonymous complaint should contain as much detail as possible; if the complaint is vague or unclear, it could slow or even stop the investigation.

Below is information on when and how to file a discrimination or retaliation complaint and how they are handled and investigated:

What you should do if you think you were retaliated against
If you believe that you have been retaliated against, you should tell us about it. You can reach us to discuss any questions or to ask us to look into it by filing a formal complaint. Complaints can be filed by an applicant or recipient of benefits, or their authorized representatives. Complaints can also be filed anonymously. You have 180 days from the date the alleged retaliatory act occurred to make a complaint or request an investigation.
Helpful information to gather and state in your complaint includes:

  1. The protected activity (for example, assisting or participating in an investigation, proceeding or hearing, or filing a complaint or hearing request)
  2. The specific allegation describing what happened (who, what, when)
  3. County and program involved

How to File a Discrimination or Retaliation Complaint

To submit a discrimination complaint, you may file with your (1) local county Civil Rights Coordinator or the (2) state CDSS Civil Rights Unit.

Contact information to reach your local Civil Rights Coordinator is listed here: https://cdss.ca.gov/inforesources/civil-rights/county-coordinators

You may file a discrimination complaint with CDSS by writing, calling, or via e-mail:

Write Call Email
California Department of Social Services
Civil Rights
744 P Street, M.S. 9-7-041
Sacramento, CA 95814
(916) 654-2107

You may call toll free at (866) 741-6241;
collect calling at (800) 688-4486;
or you may call via the California Relay Service operator at (800) 735-2929.

If you need help or assistance to file a complaint you may contact us.

You may also submit a "Complaint of Discrimination" form by clicking on your preferred language below.

The form cannot be completed online.  Please print the form, fill it out, then mail it to the address above.  The use of this form is not required.  You may also fax your complaint to (916) 653-9332 or email it to crb@dss.ca.gov.

You may also file a discrimination complaint with another state or federal agency:

If your complaint involves race, color, national origin, political affiliation, religion, sex, age, or disability discrimination in the Food Stamp Program, contact:

U.S. Department of Agriculture
Office of Assistant Secretary of Civil Rights
1400 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington D.C. 20250-9410
(866) 632-9992 (Toll-free Customer Service)
Email: program.intake@usda.gov

If your complaint involves race, color, national origin age, or disability in other public assistance programs, contact:

Office for Civil Rights
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
90 7th Street, Suite 4-100
San Francisco, CA 94103
Customer Response Center: (800) 368-1019
Fax: (202) 619-3818
TDD: (800) 537-7697
Email: ocrmail@hhs.gov

If your discrimination complaint involves discrimination by a state operated or state funded entity (like a county welfare department or state agency) contact:

California Department of Fair Employment and Housing
DFEH headquarters
2218 Kausen Drive, Suite 100
Elk Grove, CA 95758
Communication Center: 800-884-1684 (voice)
800-700-2320 (TTY) or California's Relay Service at 711
Email: accommodations@dfeh.ca.gov or call 844-541-2877 for disability accommodations