Before you can file a lawsuit for discrimination under federal laws such as Title VII, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, or the Americans with Disabilities Act, you must file what is known as "a charge of discrimination" with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which is a federal agency that interprets and enforces federal laws that prohibits discrimination in the workplace.
Soon After a Charge is Filed
When a charge is filed against an employer against the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the EEOC, the agency will notify the employer within 10 days. A charge does not automatically mean that the employer has been engaged in discrimination. The EEOC has the authority to investigate whether or not there is reasonable cause to believe that discrimination occurred.
In a number of cases, employers may choose to resolve a charge through settlement or mediation. When the investigation begins, the EEOC will usually advise both the employer and the employee if the charge is eligible for mediation. Mediation and settlement are both voluntary resolutions.
The Investigation Process
During the investigation, employer and employee will also be asked to provide information relating to the charge. The EEOC investigator will assess the information both parties provide and make a recommendation as to whether there is a reasonable cause to believe that unlawful discrimination has taken place.
During the investigation, employers may be asked to submit a statement of position, which is the company's opportunity to tell its side of the story. The agency may ask the employer to provide additional information such as personnel files, personnel policies, etc., permit an on-site visit or provide contact information to other employees available for witness interviews. EEOC will be able to answer questions about the investigation and respond to inquiries about the status of the investigation. They should also be able to tell you about your rights and inform you when they have concluded the investigation and made a finding.
If the EEOC is not able to conclude that there is reasonable cause that the discrimination occurred, the employee will be issued a notice called a Dismissal and Notice of Rights. This notice informs the employee that he or she has the right to file a lawsuit within 90 days from the date of its receipt. If the EEOC determines that there is reasonable cause to believe that discrimination has in fact occurred, both parties will be issued a Letter of Determination stating that there is reason to believe that discrimination occurred.
Both parties will then be invited to resolve the charge through an informal process known as conciliation. If that is not successful in resolving the charge, EEOC has the authority to enforce violations of its statutes by filing a lawsuit in federal court. But, if the agency decides not to litigate, the employee will receive a Notice of Right to Sue and may file a lawsuit in federal court within 90 days.
How a Lawyer Can Help You
If you are considering filing an EEOC charge, it is important that you talk to an experienced discrimination lawyer. Your lawyer can help you complete the charge form, deal with the agency's process, and protect your rights every step of the way. The knowledgeable employment lawyers at Kingsley & Kingsley are passionate about the pursuit of justice for our clients. Call us today to schedule a free consultation and case evaluation.