Civil rights complaint language

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has updated its appeal language for civil rights complaints. There are three main changes to the appeal language. The first of these changes increases the amount of time CalFresh complainants have to file civil rights appeals to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to 90 days from the previously set 30 days.

The next two changes were implemented because of the Supreme Court’s decision in Bostock v. Clayton County which established that discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity is also considered discrimination based on sex. The second change establishes that complainants may appeal Cal Fresh complaints to USDA based on  gender identity and sexual orientation. It has also added reprisal or retaliation for prior civil rights activity as a protected category. The third change establishes that complainants may file discrimination complaints with the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) based on  pregnancy, sexual orientation, and gender identity.

Counties must use the provided language from the USDA when informing people of their right to appeal to the USDA. Additionally, the requirements to inform of the right to appeal to CDSS or the USDA do not apply when the complainant fails to participate or withdraws the complaint and no County Welfare Department (CWD) decision was made. However, complainants must be informed of their right to file their complaint with the HHS. Mail or email can be used to inform complainants of complaint outcomes.  (ACL 23-98, November 27, 2023.)