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. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is a federal government organization tasked with enforcement remedies of these laws. The EEOC will investigate charges of personal characteristic discrimination as long as the employer is covered by the law.
Most employers who staff 15 or more employees are covered by the EEOC, but for age discrimination issues, the employer must staff 20 or more employees. The EEOC also investigates 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.
The EEOC will investigate claims and attempt to settles in most cases where discrimination is found. If settlement cannot be negotiated, the EEOC may file a lawsuit, but is not obligated to do so.
The first step is to file a complaint. This will commence an EEOC investigation. The EEOC does not file lawsuits in all cases where it finds discrimination. It weighs factors such as 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 after 180 days after your complaint was filed. 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 reach a settlement.
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.
EEOC is unable to file lawsuits in all discrimination cases. If Notice of Right-to-Sue is granted before its investigation is complete, the EEOC will end its investigation. While individuals can sue without EEOC representation, they should be aware of any potential overlap with an EEOC investigation. If they want the EEOC to finish its investigation, they should wait until the investigation is complete to file their own lawsuit.
Yes. Wrongful termination suits can be complicated and can rely on witness testimony. An employment lawyer can represent you in court if settlement efforts are unsuccessful.