The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is a federal agency in the United States that enforces laws prohibiting employment discrimination based on a person’s race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation), national origin, age, disability, or genetic information.
An EEOC claim, also known as a charge of discrimination, is a complaint filed with the EEOC by an employee or job applicant who believes they have been subjected to employment discrimination by their employer based on one of the protected categories listed above.
The EEOC investigates the claim and determines if there is evidence of discrimination. If the EEOC finds evidence of discrimination, it may try to reach a settlement with the employer or file a lawsuit on behalf of the employee.
What Are Some Common EEOC Complaints?
Here are some common EEOC complaint examples:
- Hiring discrimination: An employer may be accused of discriminating against a job applicant based on race, gender, age, national origin, or other protected characteristic.
- Harassment: Employees may file a complaint if they have been subjected to sexual harassment, racial harassment, or other forms of harassment based on a protected characteristic.
- Retaliation: Employees may file a complaint if they have been retaliated against for complaining about discrimination or participating in an investigation.
- Unequal pay: An employee may file a complaint if they are being paid less than other employees who perform the same job and have similar qualifications based on a protected characteristic.
- Disability discrimination: Employees may file a complaint if they have been denied a reasonable accommodation for a disability or have been subjected to discrimination based on their disability.
- Age discrimination: Employees may file a complaint if they have been denied a job, promotion, or training opportunity because of their age.
- Pregnancy discrimination: Employees may file a complaint if they have been denied a job, promotion, or other employment opportunities because of their pregnancy or related medical condition.
What Is EEOC Mediation?
EEOC mediation is a process offered by the EEOC to help parties resolve employment discrimination complaints through an informal and confidential mediation process. Mediation is a voluntary process where a neutral third-party mediator helps the parties involved in the dispute to reach a mutually acceptable resolution.
In EEOC mediation, a trained mediator helps the employee and employer communicate their concerns and interests and works with them to explore possible solutions to the conflict. The mediator does not make any decisions but instead helps the parties to negotiate a settlement that both sides can agree to. If a settlement is reached, the agreement is typically put in writing and signed by both parties.
Compared to other types of mediation, EEOC mediation has a specific focus on resolving employment discrimination complaints. It is offered by a government agency and is free of charge.
Other types of mediation may be offered by private companies and may focus on a wide range of disputes, such as family law, business disputes, and personal injury claims. These mediations may be more expensive, and the mediator may not have specific training in employment law or discrimination.
How Do I File an EEOC Complaint?
To file a claim with the EEOC, you can follow these general steps:
- Contact the EEOC: The EEOC complaint process starts by filing a complaint online, by mail, or in person at an EEOC office. The EEOC has a time limit for filing a charge, usually within 180 days from the date of the alleged discrimination, although in some cases, it may be extended to 300 days.
- Provide Information: You will need to provide basic information such as your name, contact information, and a brief description of the alleged discrimination, including when and where it occurred. You may also be asked to provide additional details, such as names of witnesses or documentation.
- Investigation: The EEOC will review the information provided and may conduct an investigation to determine if there is reasonable cause to believe that discrimination occurred.
- Mediation: If the EEOC finds evidence of discrimination, they may offer mediation to resolve the dispute informally. If mediation is unsuccessful or not offered, the EEOC may pursue legal action on behalf of the complainant.
- Outcome: The EEOC may find that there is no evidence of discrimination, or they may find that there is sufficient evidence of discrimination to file a lawsuit against the employer. If the EEOC decides not to pursue legal action, the complainant may have the right to file a lawsuit on their own behalf.
To file a complaint, you may need to provide documentation that supports your claim, such as emails, text messages, or other written communications that show discriminatory behavior, witness statements, or employment records. Keep records of any incidents that you believe may be discriminatory, including dates, times, and any witnesses. The more documentation you have, the stronger your case will be.
What Happens If an Employer Does Not Respond to an EEOC Complaint?
If an employer does not respond to an EEOC complaint, the EEOC may assume that the employer is not interested in resolving the complaint through voluntary mediation or conciliation and may proceed with a formal investigation. The EEOC may also file a lawsuit against the employer if they believe that there is sufficient evidence of discrimination.
How Long Does an Employer Have to Respond to an EEOC Complaint?
Under the law, employers are required to respond to an EEOC complaint within a certain timeframe. The specific deadlines depend on the type of complaint and the location where the alleged discrimination occurred.
Here are some general guidelines:
- Initial contact: Within 10 days of receiving the complaint, the employer should receive a notice from the EEOC with information about the charge, including the name of the complainant, the basis of the charge, and the allegations.
- Responding to the charge: The employer typically has 45 days from the date they receive the charge to respond to the allegations. They may be asked to provide a written response, including a statement of their position and any supporting evidence.
- Mediation: If the EEOC offers mediation, the employer should respond within 10 days of receiving the invitation to participate.
- Conciliation: If the EEOC finds reasonable cause to believe that discrimination occurred, they may attempt to resolve the complaint through conciliation. The employer should respond to the EEOC’s proposed conciliation agreement within 14 days.
Employers must respond to EEOC complaints in a timely manner, as failing to do so can result in legal consequences.
What Happens If You Win an EEOC Discrimination Complaints Case?
If you win an EEOC discrimination complaint case, there are several possible outcomes depending on the specific circumstances of your case.
Here are some of the potential outcomes:
- Settlement: In many cases, the employer may choose to settle the complaint before it goes to court. If this happens, you may receive financial compensation for damages such as lost wages, emotional distress, and other related expenses.
- Court ruling: If the case goes to court and you win, the court may order the employer to take certain actions, such as changing discriminatory policies or practices, promoting you or reinstating your job, or paying damages.
- Reinstatement or Promotion: If you were terminated or not promoted as a result of discrimination, a successful EEOC complaint can lead to you being reinstated or promoted to the position you would have held if the discrimination had not occurred.
- Future Protection: A successful EEOC complaint can also help ensure that the employer does not engage in discriminatory behavior in the future. The employer may be required to implement new policies, training programs, or other measures to prevent discrimination.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Help With an EEOC Complaint?
If you have experienced discrimination in the workplace and are considering filing an EEOC complaint or pursuing legal action, seek the advice and guidance of a qualified discrimination lawyer. A discrimination lawyer can help you understand your legal rights and options, gather and present evidence to support your case, and advocate in negotiations or court.
Don’t let discrimination go unchallenged. Contact a discrimination lawyer today to discuss your situation and explore your options for seeking justice and fair compensation.