File Charges With EEOC
If you are a victim of employment discrimination, you can file charges with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Filing a charge with the EEOC will open a case in which the EEOC will contact the employer in question and work toward a resolution regarding your situation. Filing charges with the EEOC can be done in person at an EEOC office in your local area or by mail.
Filing Your Charge
- Decide whether you are eligible. In the United States, only members of what are called "protected classes" are eligible for employment protection by the EEOC. All other employees are either "at will" employees, meaning that both the employee or employer can terminate the employment relationship for any reason, or employees under contract, where the contract would govern the terms of their employment.
- Protected classes include race, gender, religion, nationality, age (if you are over 40), disability, or genetic information.
- Employment discrimination could cover a variety of things--failure to hire, failure to promote, harassment or hostile environment while at work, discrepancies in pay scale. You will need to talk with your EEOC case worker or an attorney to be sure that what you've experienced qualifies, but that's what the initial interview is for.
- Determine the timeframe in which you can file charges. The EEOC, which investigates employment discrimination on the basis of race, sex, age, and disability, only knows what entities to investigate when you file a complaint alleging discrimination. However, there are some guidelines to follow when filing your complaint.
- You can file charges within 180 days from the day you experienced the discrimination; however, if your state or local area has anti-discrimination laws in place, that timeframe will be extended to 300 days.
- For charges regarding age discrimination, your timeframe will only be extended to 300 days if anti-discrimination is enforced at the state level. You will not be given an extension if anti-discrimination laws are only enforced at the local level.
- If you are a federal employee or job applicant, you will be required to file charges within 45 days of the initial discrimination incident.
- Collect any paperwork or evidence that supports your specific case. For example, if you were fired and told it was due to low performance, gather copies of all your performance evaluations and the documentation informing you that you were fired.
- Obtain the names of witnesses and their contact information. For example, if you have former co-workers that know details about your case, make a list of their names and telephone numbers.
- Gather general information about the employer you are filing charges against. You will need to know the employer's address, telephone number, and the number of total employees in the organization.
- Prepare a brief description of the incident that outlines how you were violated through discrimination. This must also include the type of discrimination that was demonstrated; such as discrimination against your religion or sex.
- Discrimination often takes place over a period of time, rather than just one incident. If you find this to be true in your own case, make preparations before you file the charge. Make a log detailing dates, places, and personnel involved in creating the discriminatory atmosphere, and of course, what they did to create that atmosphere. If you have paperwork that constitutes evidence of discrimination, all the better.
- Determine how you want to file charges. Charges can be filed in person at an office in your district or by sending information about the incident through mail to the main EEOC office located in your district.
- Locate an office in your district. Visit the EEOC website at http://www.eeoc.gov/field/index.cfm and select "Find Your Nearest Office" to find an EEOC office in your area. Details about how to arrange an appointment with the office will be provided on the corresponding web page.
- Call the EEOC at 1-800-669-4000. You cannot officially file charges over the telephone; however, the EEOC will consult with you about your case and provide you with office information if you do not have Internet access.
- Send your charges by mail to the district office. Write and send a letter that contains your full name, address, and telephone number, the documentation you were required to gather for the case, the dates the discrimination took place, and your signature.
- If you are a federal employee or job applicant, you must directly contact the EEO office of the federal agency that discriminated against you. Each federal agency is required by law to provide you with contact information for an EEO counselor when you inquire. The EEO counselor will then assist you with your charges and the complaint process.
Following Up On Your Complaint
- Keep track of the charges you filed and your case number. Unless you mailed in your complaint, you will receive this information immediately at the time you file the charge. If you did mail your complaint in, the district office will contact you directly with this information.
- A copy of the charges and the case number will be sent to the employer you filed charges against within 10 days. Be aware of this, and be on guard for any employer intimidation taken in retaliation for your complaint.
- Decide if you are willing to participate in mediation. Mediation is a process by which a professional mediator will try to come to an amicable solution to you and your employer's conflict. On one hand, mediation is non-binding, so you have nothing to lose other than time if you agree. On the other hand, the mediation process can take a long time (three months on average), and even if you are willing to compromise, your employer might not be. Only you will know if this solution is right for you.
- Prepare for a long investigation. Particularly if the discrimination is pervasive, it can take a long time for the EEOC to fully investigate any and all wrongdoing connected with your complaint. Although six months is typical, the investigation can certainly take longer. While you can always call the EEOC office with your case number to check on your case's status, this will not speed up the investigation itself. If you need timely relief, mediation may be a better option.
- Brace for the results. If the EEOC finds a violation of the law, then they will try to reach a settlement with your employer. Remember, the EEOC is trying to reach a settlement on behalf of all employees who could and would be affected by your employer's wrongdoing. Because they are negotiating for everyone, they may reach a settlement that is not as good for you personally as it is for the whole group.
- Decide if you want to sue. If the EEOC does not find a violation of the law and they cannot reach a settlement with your employer, the agency itself may sue your employer. However, if they find no violation, or they decide not to pursue a lawsuit on their own, then they will send you a "Right-to-Sue" letter. Although you should consult a lawyer, be aware that you and your employer can sometimes use the results of the investigation as evidence in your private lawsuit.
- Take into account the possible damages you might receive a lawsuit and the amount of time it might take for the lawsuit to come to a conclusion, which could easily be years.
- If you want to verify that the EEOC is the appropriate organization to file your case with, you can take an online assessment and intake questionnaire. You can then provide EEOC with the intake questionnaire to help them with your case. Visit the EEOC website in the Sources section of this article and click on the link for "online assessment tool" to get started.