How to File a Complaint Against an Employer: A Step-by-Step Guide for Colorado

At times, employees may find themselves in situations where they experience unfair treatment or witness workplace misconduct. If you’re facing workplace issues and believe your rights are being violated, filing a complaint against your employer can be an appropriate or even necessary step to seek resolution. Filing a complaint against an employer can be a daunting task, but it is a crucial step to protect your rights and promote a fair and respectful workplace.  This blog post aims to guide you through the process of filing a complaint against your employer in Colorado, ensuring you understand your rights and take the appropriate steps to address the situation effectively.

Step 1: Understand Your Rights:

Before proceeding with any complaint, it is vital to be well-informed about your rights as an employee. Research Colorado state as well as local and federal labor laws that protect workers in your industry and jurisdiction. These laws, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), and the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act (CADA) cover various aspects of employment, including anti-discrimination, harassment, and retaliation based upon protected categories (such as gender, race, color, religion, disability, age, pregnancy, and sexual orientation).  Colorado state, federal, and local laws also address wage and hour regulations, including minimum wage, overtime, employee classification, final pay, unpaid wages, and meal period and break requirements.  Federal laws also address workplace safety standards and whistleblower claims. Some Colorado laws are similar to federal laws and some provide workers with additional protection.  Understanding your rights will help you identify potential violations and ensure you have a solid foundation for your complaint.

Step 2: Gather Evidence:

Documenting incidents and situations is crucial when filing a complaint. Keep a detailed record of any relevant incidents, including dates, times, locations, involved parties, and a description of what happened. Collect supporting evidence such as emails, text messages, photographs, video recordings, or any other documentation that can back up your claims. Well-kept records will strengthen your case and provide a clear picture of the issues you are facing.

Step 3: Review Company Policies:

Consult your company’s employee handbook or policy manual to understand the procedures for filing complaints. Some companies may have specific protocols that employees must follow when raising concerns. The handbook may outline steps to escalate complaints through the chain of command or involve Human Resources (HR) or a designated representative. Familiarize yourself with these procedures to ensure you follow the correct channels.

Step 4: Internal Complaint Process:

If your employer has an internal complaint process, it’s generally advisable to begin there. Start by reporting your concerns to your immediate supervisor or the appropriate department, following the established protocol. Maintain a record of your interactions and the steps taken during this process. Many companies have a responsibility to investigate complaints thoroughly and take appropriate action to address the issues raised.  Throughout the complaint process, it’s essential to maintain professionalism. Focus on presenting your complaint with factual information and evidence, refraining from emotional or hostile language.

After filing your complaint, make sure to follow up regularly with your employer to track the progress of your claim. Stay updated on any developments and be prepared to provide additional information or cooperate with investigators if requested. Demonstrating your commitment to resolving the issue can show the seriousness of your complaint.

Step 5: External Options:

If your internal complaint is not adequately addressed, or you feel uncomfortable reporting internally, explore external options. Contact the relevant government agencies, such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the Department of Labor (DOL) or the corresponding Colorado state agencies such as the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE) or the Colorado Civil Rights Division (CCRD). These agencies can help investigate and mediate your complaint.  However, be aware that these agencies may have strict deadlines for bringing a complaint.  Depending on the nature of your concerns, filing a complaint with the appropriate state or federal agency may be even required before you are able to file a lawsuit against your employer.  If you believe you may want to file a lawsuit, make sure to determine whether an agency complaint is necessary—and the deadline for bringing it—to make sure that your claims are preserved.

Step 6: Consult Legal Advice:

Given the complexity of filing a complaint against your employer with the correct agency, as well as the deadlines that may apply, it is wise to consult an employment attorney to ensure that your complaint is handled correctly. An experienced lawyer with The Bourassa Law Group can provide you with professional advice, protect your rights, and guide you through the entire process, through filing a lawsuit and even appeal.

Step 7: File a Lawsuit:

There are instances where employees may face issues that cannot be resolved through internal channels or even complaints to a federal or Colorado state agency. In such cases, filing a lawsuit against your employer may be your only option to protect your workplace rights. However, taking legal action is a significant step that requires careful consideration and preparation.

The first step is to identify the legal claims that apply to your situation. Common employment-related legal claims may include discrimination, harassment, retaliation, wrongful termination, wage and hour violations, or a common-law claim of breach of contract or wrongful termination under Colorado law. Each claim may require different types of evidence and legal arguments, so it’s essential to be clear on the specific violations you are alleging.

The next step is to draft a complaint outlining your claims and supporting evidence. The complaint must then be filed in the appropriate court or venue, which depends on many factors, such as the type of claim you are making (such as under federal or Colorado law), and where you were employed and each party resides or transacts business.  You will then need to serve your employer with a copy of the complaint, officially initiating the lawsuit. It is vitally important that you ensure that all deadlines are met, as missing a deadline could harm your case or even result in your losing your ability to proceed with your claim forever.

During the discovery phase of the lawsuit, both parties will exchange evidence and information relevant to the case. Your employer will likely want to take your deposition, which involves giving verbal testimony in response to questions from your employer’s attorney.  You will also likely want to take depositions of any key witnesses, including your employer and colleagues, and gather further evidence to support your claims. It’s crucial to be truthful throughout this process to comply with court procedures and rules.

Many employment lawsuits are settled before reaching trial. Most Colorado lawsuits involve mediation, which is a process where a neutral third party helps facilitate a resolution between the parties involved. In a mediation the parties attempt to negotiate a resolution, and if a settlement is reached that all parties are agreeable to, the lawsuit can be resolved without going to trial. However, it is important to understand the potential value of your claims before agreeing to settlement offer, as a settlement will resolve your lawsuit fully and finally even if you determine later that you were owed more.

If a settlement cannot be reached, your case will proceed to trial. During the trial, which can be to a judge or a jury, both parties will present evidence and arguments, and the judge or jury will decide the outcome.


Filing a complaint against your employer is a critical step to protect your rights as an employee, and may be a prerequisite to bringing an eventual lawsuit. Remember that it’s essential to know your rights, gather evidence, and follow the appropriate procedures both internally and externally. If you encounter any difficulties during the process, or feel overwhelmed with determining the appropriate agency to file with or the best way to present your claim, consider seeking an experienced Colorado employment lawyer to advocate on your behalf and ensure that your rights are protected.

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