Make an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) Complaint
Employment discrimination is a difficult situation to handle, both personally and professionally. Thankfully, there is a fairly straightforward process for filing a complaint of employment discrimination against an employer with the U.S. federal government. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) handles claims of discrimination against employers, labor unions, or employment agencies based on race, color, sex (including pregnancy), religion, national origin, age, or disability. This type of complaint is called a Charge of Discrimination. In order to file a private lawsuit against an employer for job discrimination based on any of the laws enforced by the EEOC except the Equal Pay Act, you must first file a Charge of Discrimination with the EEOC. This means that the first step to filing a job discrimination lawsuit is to file a complaint with the EEOC. There are very strict rules regarding when you must file a charge by, and failure to timely file a charge will disallow your claim.
- Determine if your filing is timely. It is always best to file a charge with the EEOC as soon as possible after the discrimination took place in order to preserve your rights. The rules for timely filing can vary slightly based upon the type of discrimination, but in general, most charges must be filed within 180 calendar days (including weekends and holidays) of the alleged discriminatory act.
- If the state or locality (e.g., town, city, village, etc.) where the discrimination took place has an anti-discrimination law and a process to file a complaint, you must file a charge with that agency. In that case, you may file a charge with the EEOC as well up to 300 days after the discrimination, or 30 days after hearing from the local agency that they have finished processing your charge, whichever is earlier. In the case of age discrimination, the filing deadline will only be extended to 300 days if there is a state law prohibiting age discrimination. Local laws are not sufficient to extend the filing deadline.
- Write a letter to the EEOC. There is not a special form to fill out to make an EEOC charge; you simply write a letter to the EEOC containing your contact information, the contact information for the employer, the number of employees that work for the employer, and a description of the alleged discrimination.
- Include your name, address, and telephone number.
- Include the name, address, and telephone number of the employer you wish to file a complaint against.
- State the number of employees of the employer, if known. EEOC laws do not cover employers with fewer than 15 employees. The EEOC assessment tool (linked below) gives information on how to count the number of employees. If your claim is not covered by EEOC laws, you may wish to consult an attorney about filing a private lawsuit or pursuing another legal remedy.
- Write a brief description of the alleged discrimination, including where the discrimination took place. Be sure to state whether you were fired, demoted, not hired, etc. because of the alleged discrimination. Include any statements that were made that you believe were discriminatory. Keep your description brief, but include all of the pertinent information that the EEOC would need to know.
- State why you believe you were discriminated against (race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age, disability, or genetic information. Did the employer make any remarks that were discriminatory? Did the employer take any physical actions that were discriminatory, including gestures or inappropriate touching? Is it known in the community that this employer discriminates against a certain class of people?
- Sign and send the letter. EEOC charges must include your name and signature. By law, the EEOC must send a copy of your letter to the employer in order for the employer to respond to the charge. The only other individuals that will see your letter are EEOC employees, who are bound by strict confidentiality rules. If confidentiality is an issue, another person or organization can file a charge on your behalf, in which case that individual or organization's name will be released to the employer. As a practical matter, however, the EEOC cautions that it may be difficult to remain anonymous even if a complaint is filed by another on your behalf, because of the circumstances of the complaint.
- Retaliation by an employer for filing an EEOC complaint is illegal. An employer may not fire, demote, or harass you because you filed a complaint. If your employer does, immediately contact the EEOC employee that handled your initial complaint.
- The EEOC website contains an assessment tool to determine whether the EEOC is the correct agency to assist you. The link is below.
- File a charge with the EEOC as soon as possible after you experience discrimination, as the time requirements are very strict.