An EEOC lawyer such as our law firm will help guide you through the process of filing a claim for employment discrimination, whether it is with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), state courts, or federal courts.
As a general rule, any form of employment discrimination related to race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation), national origin, age, disability, genetic information, or retaliation, should first be filed with the EEOC before filing a federal lawsuit in court. Exceptions to this general rule are lawsuits related to age discrimination or under the Equal Pay Act. In both these cases, the complainant can file directly with the court without need of going through the EEOC.
Although you could file a claim in EEOC without a lawyer, it is recommended to get the services of an EEOC lawyer at the onset because the EEOC lawyer can evaluate your case and provide strategies on how to strengthen your claim to ensure that this claim can be successfully litigated in court. The EEOC lawyer can advise on whether to file with EEOC or whether such claim can be filed straight with federal courts, or whether it is more advantageous to file in state court based on state law because some state laws provide for more benefits. In addition, having an EEOC lawyer even before filing a claim with EEOC will make your employer take your claim seriously and may even facilitate a quick compromise without going through the stress of expensive litigation.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which covers employment discrimination, applies only to employers with at least 15 employees. Age discrimination applies only to employers with at least 20 employees.
Types of Discrimination Covered
Discrimination occurs when the employer refuses to hire, limits, or segregates his employees or applicants based on classifications such as race, age, pregnancy, disability, gender, and religion. There is also discrimination when the employer refuses to act on complaints made by employees who have suffered prejudice because of the above classifications.
There is racial discrimination when employees, whether actual or potential, are discriminated against because of race, personal characteristics associated with race (i.e., hair texture, skin color, or certain facial features), skin color complexion, national origin, ethnicity, accent, or ethnic background. This includes harassment made by co-employees such as racial slurs, offensive or derogatory remarks about a person’s race, color or the display of racially-offensive symbols.
Gender discrimination can occur even when an employee or applicant is treated unfavorably due to gender or sexual orientation, even if the harassment is not sexual in nature. Aside from unwelcome sexual advances or requests for sexual favors, other non-traditional examples are supervisors making frequent comments about how women are not unsuitable for leadership positions because they are too emotional. When allegations of gender discrimination (including sexual harassment) are made to management, management has the obligation to investigate and take prompt remedial action. Failure to do so can be construed as an act of gender discrimination.
In the same way, an employer is prohibited from discriminating against pregnant employees or employees with medical conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth and employees with disabilities. The employer may have to provide reasonable accommodation such as modified tasks, alternative assignments, disability leave, or unpaid leave for pregnant employees. For disabled employees, reasonable accommodation could refer to wheelchair accessibility or allowing the employee to telecommute or have a flexible schedule.
Age discrimination and lawsuits under the Equal Pay Act are exceptions to the requirement of exhausting the remedy of filing a charge first with EEOC before the courts. Age discrimination occurs when an applicant or employee who is over 40 is treated less favorably than the younger counterparts. Lawsuits under the Equal Pay Act involve situations where two jobs that are substantially equal are not paid the same because one is a man while the other is a woman.
When an employee has filed or been made a witness to an EEO charge, communicated to a supervisor about employment discrimination, resisted sexual advances, asked managers about salary information to uncover potentially discriminatory wages, or requested accommodation due to a disability or religious practice, the employer is prohibited from retaliating against the employee. Examples of retaliations are reprimanding the employee or giving a lower performance evaluation, transferring the employee to a less desirable position, or making the person’s work more difficult. Retaliation is a separate and independent charge from an act of employment discrimination.
When these types of discrimination occur, it is best to immediately consult with an EEOC lawyer. Proving discrimination can be difficult. Strong, credible evidence is required to successfully litigate and win a claim. For this reason, an EEOC lawyer, at the onset, will be able to guide and teach a complainant on how to strengthen the claim so there is documentation to prove the discrimination.
For federal employees who have experienced employment discrimination, they need to contact the EEO counselor in their agency within 45 calendar days from the day the discrimination occurred. The EEO counselor will give the complainant the choice of either participating in alternative dispute resolution or EEO counseling. If the dispute is not settled in this stage, a formal complaint may be filed with the federal agency’s EEO office, and not the EEOC, within 15 days from receipt of notice from the EEO counselor on how to file the claim.
For all other employees, a charge for unlawful discrimination should be filed with EEOC within 180 calendar days from the time the discrimination took place. This deadline is extended to 300 calendar days if a state or local agency enforces a law that prohibits employment discrimination on the same basis. This time limitation for filing a charge should be strictly followed.
A charge for discrimination is a statement signed by the complainant, asserting that the organization engaged in unlawful employment discrimination and requesting EEOC to take remedial action.
Sometimes, the EEOC might immediately dismiss the charge because the employer is too small to be covered by Title VII or the state’s discrimination law. In all other cases, the EEOC will contact the employer to request it to respond to the charge. EEOC has 180 calendar days to investigate the complaint, send the complainant and the employer to mediation to resolve the dispute, or to broker a settlement directly with the employer. If the dispute is not resolved, the EEOC will issue a Notice of the Right to Sue, which the complainant can use to formally file a claim with the courts.
One can request a Notice of the Right to Sue as a right if more than 180 calendar days have passed from the time of filing a formal charge and no resolution has been made by the EEOC. If less than 180 calendar days have passed, one can also immediately request a Notice of the Right to Sue so that a lawsuit can be filed immediately with the courts, but this terminates the investigation on the EEOC level. The benefit of filing a case immediately with the courts is the ability of the courts to help a complainant gather evidence through discovery procedures.
If you are a victim of unlawful employment discrimination, immediately consult an EEOC lawyer who can help advise you on what evidence is required to successfully litigate a claim with EEOC. Should you need assistance, we, at the Law Offices of Albert Goodwin, are here for you. We have offices in New York, NY, Brooklyn, NY and Queens, NY. You can call us at 718-509-9774 or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.