What Employees Need to Know about the EEOC

If you have had the misfortune of being the victim of employment discrimination or harassment, you need to know a few things about the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or “EEOC.” This is a federal agency that is tasked with enforcing federal protections for employees across the country. The EEOC was created in 1965, the year after Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was one of the first major federal laws for employees. It applies to all employers with at least 15 employees (with some exceptions) and prohibits workplace discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, or national origin. Other notable laws that the EEOC regulates and enforces include: 

  • The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), which applies to employers with at least 20 employees and protects employees at least 40 years of age from ageism. 
  • The Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which clarifies that discrimination against employees on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, and related conditions constitutes sex discrimination. 
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which provides an array of legal protections for individuals with qualified disabilities. 

Filing a Claim with the EEOC

If an employee suspects that their employer is engaging in discrimination, the employee is usually required to file a complaint with the EEOC before filing a lawsuit under federal law. There are other steps that an employee can, and should, take before going to the EEOC, such as notifying the employer’s human resources department. If the complaint rises to the level of the EEOC, then the agency will send a letter to the employer notifying them of the complaint. 

The EEOC investigates charges of discrimination if the charge falls within the agency’s jurisdiction. The employer that’s under investigation will usually be asked to provide testimony and/or produce documents or otherwise counter your allegations. If, after the EEOC’s investigation, it determines that discrimination likely occurred, all parties will be gathered in order to mediate and settle the dispute. The EEOC may try to compel the employee and employer to meet with a neutral third party (mediator) in this situation. 

If mediation is unsuccessful, the EEOC might file a lawsuit on behalf of the employee. This is exceedingly rare, though. Either during or after the EEOC’s investigation, the employee may request a right to sue letter, which is needed before you can file a lawsuit under federal law.

You Must Act Quickly

In most cases, you only have 300 days – or for federal employees, as short as 45 days – from the date the discrimination occurred (termination, demotion, failure to promote, harassment, etc.) to file a discrimination complaint with the EEOC, keeping in mind that claims brought under state law may provide you with more time.  

However, without prompt action, you could severely jeopardize your chances of obtaining justice. Our firm has years of experience working with the EEOC and clients who have been wronged by their employer. We’d be honored to speak with you soon about your case and help you with the next steps. Please contact us soon to take advantage of a free initial consultation.