The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is an administrative agency, meaning it is part of the executive branch of the U.S. government. EEOC leaders are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate.
The purpose of the EEOC is to enforce the various anti-discrimination laws passed by the federal government, such as the Civil Rights Act and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.
The EEOC leadership consists of five commissioners, 2 of which are also named chair and vice-chair. Commissioners set EEOC policy and vote on whether or not to file lawsuits.
In addition, there is a general counsel who acts as the chief attorney for the EEOC. The general counsel reviews all current lawsuits and advises attorneys in regional offices on employment law.
The EEOC headquarters are located at:
131 M Street NE
Below the commission, there are several offices:
- The Office of Inspector General (OIG) works closely with the EEOC to ensure efficiency and accuracy. The OIG investigates, audits, and inspects all EEOC projects.
- The Office of Federal Operations (OFO) reviews EEOC equal employment opportunity policies and is a legal resource for administrative judges and other agencies.
- The Office of Research, Information, and Planning (ORIP) looks into how well the EEOC has been meeting its goals and prepares the EEOC’s annual performance report.
Other offices include the Office of Communications and Legislative Affairs, Office of the Chief Financial Officer and Administrative Services, and many more.
Federal laws prohibit the discrimination of employees or potential employees based on personal characteristics such as race, gender, religion, nationality, disability, or age. Employees may not be fired, blocked from advancement, promoted, trained differently, or paid differently based on personal characteristics. If they are, employees can make an EEOC claim.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is a federal government organization tasked with enforcing the remedies of these laws. An EEOC investigation may include charges of personal characteristic discrimination as long as the law covers the employer.
The EEOC covers most employers who staff 15 or more employees, but the employer must staff 20 or more employees for age discrimination issues. An EEOC investigation may include complaints of discrimination that arise out of currently pending or previously filed discrimination allegations. The EEOC also offers an education, training, and assistance program to teach employers and employees about discriminatory practices to avoid an EEOC claim.
How Do I File a Complaint with the EEOC?
The EEOC will investigate claims and attempt to settle in most cases where discrimination is found. If a settlement cannot be negotiated after an EEOC complaint, the EEOC may file a lawsuit but is not obligated to do so.
The first step is filing an EEOC complaint. Filing an EEOC complaint will commence an EEOC investigation. The EEOC does not file lawsuits in all cases where it finds discrimination. It weighs factors such as the strength of the case, potential social impact, and available resources.
If you want to file a lawsuit before the investigation is complete, you must obtain a Notice of Right-to-Sue from the EEOC 180 days after your EEOC complaint. If you request the Notice of Right-to-Sue before 180 days have passed, the EEOC may deny the notice if they think they can settle.
The request for a Notice of Right-to-Sue should be sent to the EEOC director of the office where your charge was filed. Age discrimination suits and suits filed under the Equal Pay Act do not require a Notice of Right-to-Sue. These can be filed directly in court.
How Do the EEOC Administrative Procedures Work?
The EEOC complaint process begins with the employee contacting an EEOC counselor within 45 days of the alleged discrimination. The counselor will ask about the details of the incident and will be the first gateway through which the story of discrimination must pass. The counselor will advise the person of their rights and try to resolve the matter informally.
If the matter cannot be resolved within 30 days, a formal complaint must be lodged at an EEOC field or district office. Instructions on how to file with the EEOC can be found here. The charge must be filed within 180 days of the discrimination. The EEOC may make available Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) to try to solve the problem.
If this does not work, the EEOC will analyze the complaint to see if the law supports the charge. The EEOC may dismiss a claim if, from the given facts, there is no chance of discrimination.
The next step of the EEOC complaint process is to launch an investigation into the incident. This includes interviewing witnesses, requesting documents, and collecting any other evidence of discrimination. The EEOC may present an offer or solution to the employee.
If the employee does not accept the offer, they have the right to request an “administrative hearing,” which is like a trial. An EEOC administrative judge will decide what kind of compensation the person deserves. If the employee disagrees with the decision, they can appeal to the EEOC.
If the employee still does not agree, they have the right to file a “civil action” in a state or federal court. The employee must have a “right to sue” letter from the EEOC to proceed with this civil action. From here, the case follows the traditional process of civil procedure.
How Long Does It Take to Get an EEOC Settlement?
On average, the EEOC takes approximately ten months to investigate a charge. They can often settle a charge faster through mediation (usually less than three months). You can check the status of your charge by using EEOC’s Online Charge Status System.
What if I Don’t Hear Back From the EEOC Even Though I Filed a Complaint?
By law, the EEOC must reply to a complaint within ninety (90) days of receiving the complaint. After ninety days, the EEOC must investigate the complaint, dismiss it, or give the employee a letter permitting them to go to federal court to resolve the dispute.
Although the EEOC gives employees the right to sue in federal court and the EEOC can bring its own claims against employers, the EEOC itself does not represent employees. Only experienced discrimination lawyers can adequately represent an employee in these complex litigation matters.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with the EEOC Process?
Should the EEOC find reasonable cause to believe that discrimination has occurred, they may initiate a lawsuit on your behalf. They may also cover the costs of their legal actions.
Although the EEOC enforces the nation’s anti-discrimination laws and has the power to bring such cases to court, the EEOC does not represent employees. Local discrimination lawyers can help an employee navigate anti-discrimination law’s complex bureaucracy.
There are many benefits to hiring a employment discrimination lawyer. An experienced and local discrimination lawyer can help you gather sufficient evidence to support your claim and can help guide you through the EEOC process.
If you feel you are facing employment discrimination, you must consult with a local discrimination lawyer. An attorney in your area will best understand your state’s laws regarding discrimination and how those laws may affect your legal options. Finally, your attorney will also be able to represent you in court as needed.