The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is a federal law enforcement agency that enforces laws against workplace discrimination. In order to file a lawsuit against an employer you first have to file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC. This guide will help you do exactly that.
Time Limits for Filing a Charge
Anti-Discrimination laws give you a limited amount of time to file a charge of workplace discrimination. While there are specific rules for different workplace discrimination charges, the rule in general is that it is 180 days from the date the discrimination took place. It is extended to 300 days if a state or local agency enforces laws that prohibit employment discrimination on the same basis. If more than one discriminatory event took place, the deadline usually applies to each separate event. In on-going harassment cases, you must file your charge within 180 [or 300] days of the last event that happened. Regardless of how much time you have to file, it is best to file as soon as you have decided that is what you would like to do.
Online Assessment System
Before filing a charge with the EEOC, you might want to take the EEOC online assessment. The assessment will tell you exactly how long you have to file the charge based on the information given. You also can print out the questionnaire and bring it in with you to the EEOC office when filing a charge as more information.
Filing in Person
There are 53 EEOC locations around the U.S. and the EEOC site has a comprehensive list that you can search out your local EEOC office on. Each office has their own guidelines on appointments and walk-ins so you may want to call them first before heading over to the EEOC field office. Also if you require an interpreter of any sort, make sure the EEOC knows ahead of time so they can accommodate you. The EEOC asks that you bring all important documents with you, and if you have witnesses that they can contact to bring in a list of their names and numbers.
Filing over the Phone
While the EEOC does not let you file the charge over the phone, you can still get the process started with them. You can call 1-800-669-4000 to submit basic information about a possible charge, and they will forward the information to the EEOC field office in your area. Once the field office receives your information, they will contact you to talk to you about your situation.
Filing by Mail
The only way to file a charge outside of filing in person is to file the charge by mail. The EEOC accepts USPS letters as a way of filing with the office, although they have some strict guidelines on what you’ll need to include in the letter before they will file it for review. Firstly, the letter is going to need your name, address, and telephone number. This is so they can contact you. After your information they will need the name, address and telephone number of the employer (or employment agency or union) you want to file your charge against. They will also need: the number of employees employed there (if known); a short description of the events you believe were discriminatory (for example, you were fired, demoted, harassed); when the events took place; and why you believe you were discriminated against (for example, because of your race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information). Lastly they are going to need your signature. Do not forget to hand sign your letter. If you don’t sign it, the EEOC cannot investigate it. Your letter will be reviewed and if more information is needed, the EEOC will contact you to gather that information or you may be sent a follow up questionnaire.
The Charge Handling Process
After your charge is filed, the EEOC will give you a copy of your charge with your charge number. They will also send a notice and a copy of the charge to the employer in question. From there on, the EEOC with be investigating the claim of discrimination. Each case has different investigations depending on the facts of the case. How long the investigation takes depends on a lot of different things, including the amount of information that needs to be gathered and analyzed. On the EEOC website, they averaged 6 months in 2004 for a charge to be completed, and averaged 3 months if mediation was attempted. Just stay patient and after the investigation is concluded, the EEOC will let both you and the employer in question know the result.
After the investigation
When the EEOC completes its investigation it will tell you what they found. Should they not find a violation of the law, they will send you a Notice-of-Right-to-Sue, which will then allow you to continue with a lawsuit on your own in a court of law. If the EEOC has found a violation, they will attempt to reach a voluntary settlement with the employer on your behalf. If they are unable to reach a settlement, the case will be referred to the EEOC’s legal staff, or the Department of Justice, who will decide on whether or not the agency will file a lawsuit. Should they decide not to file a lawsuit, they will give you a Notice-of-Right-to-Sue.
To contact the EEOC or to find your closest EEOC Field Office click this link: http://www.eeoc.gov/contact/