Many employees may be unsure what to do if they discover they have been treated unlawfully by their employer. Going straight into a lawsuit can be a scary step, and is not always the right one. If you thought “there must be some government agency that can investigate and fix what happened,” often you would be right. However, that is not always the case, and sometimes the existence of that agency can complicate things. This article gives a basic overview of the “exhaustion of administrative remedies,” so that if you find yourself in that situation, you might know to avoid some pitfalls in the law and take advantage of opportunities to right how you were wronged.
Not all employment laws are created equal. Some, like the laws that prohibit things like sex, race, or age discrimination, are “administered” by agencies like the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the Texas Workforce Commission—Civil Rights Division (for equivalent Texas laws). That means that you can file a complaint with those agencies to be investigated and (ideally) resolved before any lawsuit needs to be filed. Similarly, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration administers OSH Act retaliation claims, the Department of Labor administers unpaid overtime claims, and the National Labor Relations Board administers claims (like for anti-union activities) under the National Labor Relations Act. There are lots of agencies like those.