The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the agency of the United States that enforces federal employment discrimination laws. The EEOC will investigate into allegations of discrimination. Depending on the severity of the case, the EEOC has the right to file a lawsuit against employers who discriminate.
What is a "Right to Sue" letter?
You cannot file a lawsuit under Title VII against an employer for discrimination unless you first obtain a "right to sue" letter from the EEOC. Prior to engaging in formal legal proceedings, the EEOC performs an investigation to ensure that discrimination claims are valid.
How to Obtain a Right to Sue Letter
After the EEOC is notified of the discrimination, you can receive a "right to sue" letter one of two ways:
When the EEOC investigates and believes there is no reasonable cause for discrimination, then the EEOC will issue a Dismissal and Notice of rights that allows you to file a lawsuit within 90 days of receiving the letter. Although you do not have support from the EEOC, you are able to file a lawsuit.
The EEOC investigates and believes there is a reasonable cause for discrimination. The EEOC will then award you with a letter of determination. The EEOC has the right to file a lawsuit on your behalf, but will rarely exercise this right. Upon receiving this letter, you can file a lawsuit within 90 days.
Requesting a Letter
If you feel the investigation is taking too long, you can request a letter from the EEOC after they have had 180 days to investigate. The EEOC is obligated to provide the letter even if the investigation is not complete, at which time they will close the investigation. You will still only have 90 days from the time of receipt to file the lawsuit.
Do I Need Legal Representation?
If you decide to proceed with a lawsuit, you can receive a copy of the EEOC investigation findings. It is best to find an experienced employment lawyer before the EEOC has completed its investigation.