Have you ever wondered about what the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) actually does? You are not alone. Every week, I speak to my clients or potential clients about the EEOC’s role in employment disputes. This article briefly explains the EEOC process, common questions, and why you may want to hire an employment attorney to assist you through the EEOC process.
What is the EEOC?
The EEOC is a federal agency established in 1965 to enforce federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee because of the person’s race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability or genetic information. Its role is to investigate charges of discrimination and to determine if a federal violation has occurred in the workplace.
I believe my employer discriminated or retaliated against me – what now?
Generally, the first step in the EEOC process begins by filing an EEOC charge of discrimination against the employer for discrimination, harassment, or retaliation. The charge must be filed within 300 days to protect any federal law claims. Under state law, an individual must file his or her claim within 180 days of when the discrimination occurred. The filing of the charge can be completed on your own or with the assistance of an attorney.
Will the employer be notified regarding my charge of discrimination?
Yes. After your charge has been filed, the EEOC usually sends a copy of the charge to the employer. It may take a while for the employer to receive their copy of the charge because there has been a significant increase in the number of charges filed.
Will the EEOC quickly resolve my employment dispute?
It depends. After its initial review of your charge of discrimination, the EEOC may decide that your case is eligible for mediation. Mediation is a mean to resolve a dispute without involving the courts and the expense of litigation. We strongly encourage mediation because it frequently produces positive results. However, it is important to know that a mediator is not your advocate; the mediator is a neutral third-party facilitating settlement discussions. That being said, I encourage every employee to hire an attorney before attending mediation to increase your chances of receiving a favorable outcome. An attorney may also be able to expedite a resolution through private negotiations with your employer.
What if mediation does not resolve my employment dispute; am I out of luck?
Not necessarily. If mediation does not resolve your employment dispute, you can continue the EEOC process. After a failed mediation or if the employer does not agree to mediation, the employer will be requested to submit a position statement. A position statement is the employer’s response to the allegations submitted in the initial charge of discrimination. After the employer has submitted its position statement, you may be asked to submit a rebuttal statement.
Once both parties have submitted the required documents to the EEOC, the case will be assigned to an investigator to investigate the employment dispute. Unfortunately, the investigation process can last longer than a year, due to a significant increase in the number of cases filed with the EEOC.
If the EEOC finds discrimination or retaliation, can I sue my employer?
Yes, you can. In some cases, it may be best to see if the EEOC will pursue a resolution on your behalf. If the EEOC makes a cause finding and is not able to obtain a favorable resolution on your behalf, you can then sue your employer in court.
Conversely, if the EEOC is unable make a finding of illegal discrimination or retaliation or it takes the EEOC longer than 180 days to complete its investigation, you can request the right to sue. Upon receipt of the right to sue, you will have 90 days to sue your employer. Failing to timely file your suit in court will prevent you suing your employer in the future.
When is the right time to hire an attorney?
You can represent yourself through the EEOC process, but I strongly recommend that you hire an experienced employment attorney to represent you. I have represented many employees in the EEOC process and I am ready to do the same for you. If you have been subjected to illegal discrimination or retaliation, please contact my office to schedule an initial consultation with a Dallas Employment Lawyer. I will walk you through the EEOC process and discuss ways I may be able to help resolve your employment dispute.