EEOC stands for Equal Employment and Opportunity Commission. The EEOC is an agency created by the federal government. Its purpose is to investigate claims involving workplace discrimination. As a regulatory agency, it has the power to enforce and uphold several anti-discrimination statutes. In some states, such as Mississippi, the EEOC is the only agency that protects employees from workplace discrimination.
In most cases, employees cannot file a federal lawsuit for discrimination unless they have first filed a complaint with the EEOC (or a state equivalent). The worker must first “exhaust their remedies” through the EEOC before they can file a civil lawsuit.
The EEOC investigates and hears all kinds of different discrimination complaints. These may include:
- Sex and gender discrimination cases
- Cases involving pregnancy discrimination
- Various disability-related claims
- Discrimination based on race, age, national origin, and other “protected class” designations
- Reverse discrimination claims
The EEOC has several different branches that are spread out geographically. The types of complaints filed may have slight differences and variations based on regional demographics, the type of industry involved, etc.
The EEOC sometimes also conducts mediation sessions. Here, the EEOC may appoint a professional mediator to act as a third party facilitator between the conflicting parties. This may help the parties reach an agreement regarding the dispute. Mediation can help the parties save time and costs on a full-blown investigation. However, mediation does not always work in cases where the parties cannot come to a mutual agreement.
In such cases, other avenues for relief may be needed. For instance, the EEOC may conduct a vote on whether or not a lawsuit is necessary. Again, the parties must exhaust all their options through the EEOC before they can pursue a lawsuit.
EEOC complaints can sometimes involve some very complex employment law issues. They often require the help and representation of an employment lawyer, even if they do not yet reach the stage of a lawsuit. You may wish to hire a lawyer if you need help filing a claim. Your attorney can help review the evidence and may be able to inform you of what remedies are available to you.