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FCHR 101: Summary of the Legal Process

Background: You are contemplating/litigating a Florida-based employment discrimination case
Problem: You are unfamiliar with the legal process
Solution: You read this explanation to get a high-level understanding of it


To put it briefly: Florida law covers discrimination on a lot of bases (eg, age, color, etc.). See §760.01(2) FS.

To put it bluntly: everyone is covered, but not every part of them is covered.
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Administrative Requirement (ie, the FCHR Process)

The law requires you to file your discrimination charge with the FCHR. Notably, you are not allowed to file a [Florida-based] lawsuit until the FCHR has handled your charge.
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In laymen’s terms, the FCHR is the little sister to the EEOC. The EEOC, of course, is a federal agency; while the FCHR is a state agency.

Here’s a very quick rundown of the two administrative agencies:
Duty:Investigate DiscriminationInvestigate Discrimination
Regulations:29 CFR 1600 through 29 CFR 169560Y-1 through 60Y-25
Statutes:ADA, ADEA, Title VII§760 FS
I encourage you to read through this short webpage to get better acquainted with the FCHR. Put briefly, the FCHR will investigate your charge of discrimination.
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Statutes of Limitation

According to state law (ie, §760.11(1) FS), the FCHR will only investigate your charge of discrimination if you file it within 365 days of the alleged violation. Additionally, the FCHR – as a state FEPA – will deem your charge to be “dual-filed” if you submit it within 300 days.

Here’s a quick breakdown of these time windows:
EEOCDual-FiledFCHR Only
Time Window:180 Days300 Days365 Days
These time windows are crucial. So please be very cognizant of your deadlines.
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Pursuant to state law (ie, §760.11(3) FS), the FCHR will have 180 days to complete its investigation of your charge.
Important Note: the FCHR loses the power to enter any determination on your charge if it fails to meet this 180-day stipulation (see Woodham v Blue Cross & Blue Shields, 829 So.2d 891 (Fla. 2002)).
Throughout the process, the FCHR will give you (and the respondent/defendant) an opportunity to mediate the charge.

Then, at the end of its investigation, the FCHR’s Investigative Unit will draft a report (called an “Investigative Memorandum”). They will send that report to the FCHR’s Legal Team; who will make an important determination...
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Determination (Cause vs No Cause)

Upon conclusion of its investigation, the FCHR will render a Determination. Primarily, the Determination will be either a “Cause” determination or a “No Cause” determination. The FCHR will send it to all parties (ie, you – the complainant; and the defendant/respondent, etc.).

That Determination, importantly, will dictate whether you will either:
  1. get immediate access to the courts (ie, the judicial branch); or
  2. have to resort to an administrative hearing (ie, the executive branch).
Historically, the FCHR’s Determinations have forced people into 'Scenario B' 86% of the time (ie, having to resort to an administrative hearing).

In other words – and statistically speaking – there’s an 86% chance that your only option will be to proceed with an administrative hearing.
In order to access that administrative hearing, you'll have to file a "Petition for Relief"...
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Petition for Relief

Upon receiving a “No Cause” determination you'll have 35 days to request an administrative hearing (see §760.11(6) FS). Your request will come in the form of a “Petition for Relief” ("PFR"). The FCHR will forward your request to DOAH (ie, Florida’s Division of Administrative Hearings) (see §120.57(1)(e)(2) FS).

Similarly, if you receive a “Cause” determination then you will still have only 35 days to request that administrative hearing. The difference here is that the “Cause” determination will also give you the option to file a civil suit – in a state court of Florida. You'll have 1 year to do so (see §760.11(5) FS). Nevertheless, if/once you file your PFR you'll proceed to DOAH...
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Once DOAH receives your Petition for Relief you'll be able to litigate your case. Therein, you'll get to submit motions, notices, responses, and discovery requests. The following rules/regulations/statutes will govern the proceedings: Towards the end of the case, DOAH will conduct a pseudo-trial (ie, the actual hearing). There won’t be a jury, but you will get to present your case (evidence, testimony, etc.) to a hearing officer (ie, an ALJ).

Then, in the subsequent days, DOAH will render a decision...
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Recommended Order

Your DOAH Administrative Law Judge will enter a Recommended Order (“RO”) to close out your DOAH case. The RO – in laymen’s terms – is the recommended verdict. It'll say whether or not you’ve won your case. The RO’s audience – for all intents & purposes – is the FCHR.

Thus, DOAH will send its RO to the FCHR; giving you 15 days to file any exceptions (ie, objections) to it.

The FCHR will be awaiting the RO (along with your exceptions - if any), in order to make its final decision...
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Final Order

Within weeks of receiving DOAH’s RO, the FCHR will decide whether to accept it. Doing so at a publicly-held case disposition meeting.

According to law, the FCHR’s meeting will be conducted by a 3-commissioner panel. This panel will vote on the written decision.

The decision, importantly, will be written by an FCHR staff attorney (ie, the “legal advisor”). Who – according to law – will consider:
  1. the record
  2. the RO itself
  3. precedent; and
  4. your exceptions (if any)
After voting's complete, the FCHR will render its Final Order (“FO”). At which point, you'll have a couple [non-mutually exclusive] options...

Historically, the FCHR’s panels have agreed with 99% of the Final Orders that the agency's legal advisors have written (see this analysis).

In other words – and statistically speaking – there’s a 99% chance that the FCHR will rubber-stamp whatever the legal advisor writes (even in the face of outright perjury - read | watch).
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Substantial Weight Review

Upon receiving the Final Order, you'll have 15 days to Request a Substantial Weight Review. You'll have to send that SWR to the EEOC. Who will send you a “Notice of Right to Sue Letter” ("RTS Letter"). This letter, importantly, will be your ticket to federal court.
Crucial Note: the SWR option is available for dual-filed charges. Chances are slim that the EEOC will entertain such a request from non-dual-filed charges.
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Federal Court

Upon receiving the RTS Letter, you'll have 90 days to file a lawsuit in federal court. If you opt to do so, your federal proceeding will be governed by the following rules/statutes:
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State Appeal

Upon receiving the Final Order, you'll have 30 days to file an appeal (§120.68 FS). If your Florida Court of Appeal overturns the FO then you'll just have to follow its mandate. A mandate, notably, that might require you to re-convene your DOAH/FCHR proceeding (ie, you might have to do this process again - or at least parts of it).
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State Court

Upon receiving a Final Order which rules in your favor, you'll have 1 year to file a lawsuit in state court.
Crucial note: this option is only available to you if the FCHR finds that employment discrimination did occur (see §760.11(7) FS) (ie, this option is only available if the FCHR rules in your favor).
Of course, this State Court path might develop for you after/if the appellate mandate dictates such a possibility for you.
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Based on historical statistics, your FCHR discrimination case will likely take the following path:
  1. You’ll receive a “no cause” determination. Thereby funneling you into DOAH. [86% chance]
  2. At DOAH, there’s:
    • a 44% chance that you’ll go to trial/hearing;
    • a 25% chance that you’ll settle your case; and
    • a 31% chance that something else will happen (ie, dismissal, withdrawal, etc.)
  3. In the event you go to trial, the DOAH ALJ will rule against you. [92% chance]
  4. The FCHR staff attorney will ratify the RO. [95% chance]
  5. The panel of commissioners will agree with whatever the FCHR staff attorney writes. [99% chance]
  6. After the FCHR enters its FO, you’ll be able to appeal it.
  7. If your charge was dual-filed (ie, filed within 300 days of the last discrete act of discrimination), then you’ll be able to request a substantial weight review.
    1. According to regulation (see 29 CFR 1601.76), you'll be virtually guaranteed to receive an RTS Letter from the EEOC.
      1. Upon receipt of that RTS Letter, you'll get to file suit in federal court.
All in all, your chance of getting into state court is very unlikely. Your chance of getting into federal court, on the other hand, heavily depends on whether your charge is dual-filed.
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Based on historical data, it’ll take 619 days (on average) for you to complete the FCHR Legal Process (from COD to FO). If you get through this gauntlet, then you might have a chance to enter the courts.

Crucial note: this number (ie, 619 days) can decrease dramatically if:

(1) the FCHR issues you a “Cause” determination (as opposed to a “No Cause” determination); and

(2) You opt to go directly to court (ie, you forego an administrative hearing).
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State Agenda

As disclosed in its annual reports, the FCHR's agenda is to save defendantsmillions” of dollars when faced with discrimination charges. The agency also aims to save the courts from having to adjudicate these cases (see page 8 of the FCHR's Most Recent Annual Report - or the similar section from any of its other reports). The FCHR, however, does not set any objective criteria/benchmarks/goals for civil rights plaintiffs (ie, you).

Moreover, the FCHR deploys some unique methods in order to accomplish these unilateral goals. One of which is to use its statutory ability to accept bribes. Another of which is to delay/obstruct proceedings. Plus – when faced with the opportunity – the FCHR will even ratify perjury to cover for defendants.

So, when you navigate through the FCHR process, be very aware of the agency’s agenda.


In short, your FCHR Charge of Employment Discrimination will go through an administrative gauntlet.

One that'll take roughly 2 years to complete.

It’ll likely funnel you into a DOAH proceeding, before returning to the FCHR’s clutches [for disposal]. From there, you might be able to enter into the court system.

Additional Note

You can also file a federal employment discrimination complaint under 42 USC §1981. §1981 cases feature different statutes of limitations. Plus, they don't require you to go through the FCHR (and/or the EEOC beforehand).

Detailed Walkthrough

Lastly, you can find a more detailed walkthrough of this process by navigating through each phase:
Phase 0Contemplating/Getting Representation
Phase 1Charge
Phase 2Laws
Phase 3Regulations
Phase 4Rules
Phase 5Investigation
Phase 6Determination
Phase 7Petition for Relief
Phase 8DOAH Proceeding
Phase 9Recommended Order
Phase 10Final Order
Phase A-1Substantial Weight Review
Phase A-2Federal Case
Phase B-1Appeal
Phase B-2State Case
Congratulations! You're now booked up on the FCHR Legal Process!

It should help you as you navigate through your Florida-based discrimination case.

Also, please keep in mind the FCHR's statutory ability to accept bribes (as well as its documented self-discrimination).

Lastly, keep your constitutional right to a trial-by-jury in mind (the 7th Amendment of the US Constitution).

As always, please get the justice you deserve.


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