Who Can File a Charge of Discrimination?
- Any individual who believes that his or her employment rights have been violated may file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC.
- In addition, an individual, organization, or agency may file a charge on behalf of another person in order to protect the aggrieved person's identity.
Individuals who need an accommodation in order to file a charge (e.g., sign language interpreter, print materials in an accessible format) should inform the EEOC field office so appropriate arrangements can be made.
What Information Must Be Provided to File a Charge?
- The complaining party's name, address, and telephone number.
- The name, address, and telephone number of the respondent employer, employment agency, or union that is alleged to have discriminated, and the number of employees (or union members), if known.
- A short description of the alleged violation (the event that caused the complaining party to believe that his or her rights were violated).
- The date(s) of the alleged violation(s).
All laws enforced by EEOC, except the Equal Pay Act, require filing a charge with EEOC before a private lawsuit may be filed in court. There are strict time limits within which charges must be filed:
- A charge must be filed with EEOC within 180 days of the date of the alleged violation, in order to protect the charging party's rights.
- This 180 day filing deadline is extended to 300 days if the charge also is covered by a state or local anti discrimination law. For ADEA charges, only state laws extend the filing limit to 300 days.
- To protect legal rights, it is always best to contact EEOC promptly when discrimination is suspected.
The employer is notified that the charge has been filed. From this point there are a number of ways a charge may be handled:
- A charge may be assigned for priority investigation if the initial facts appear to support a violation of the law. When the evidence is less strong, the charge maybe assigned for follow up investigation to determine whether it is likely that a violation has occurred.
- EEOC can seek to settle a charge at any stage of the investigation if the charging party and the employer express an interest in doing so. If settlement efforts are not successful, the investigation continues.
- In investigating a charge, EEOC may make written requests for information, interview people, review documents, and, as needed, visit the facility where the alleged discrimination occurred. When the investigation is complete, EEOC will discuss the evidence with the charging party or employer, as appropriate.
- The charge may be selected for EEOC's mediation program if both the charging party and the employer express an interest in this option. Mediation is offered as an alternative to a lengthy investigation. Participation in the mediation program is confidential and voluntary and requires consent from both charging party and employer. If mediation is unsuccessful, the charge is returned for investigation.
- A charge may be dismissed at any point if, in the agency's best judgment, further investigation will not establish a violation of the law. A charge may be dismissed at the time it is filed if an initial in depth interview does not produce evidence to support the claim. When a charge is dismissed, a notice is issued in accordance with the law, which gives the charging party 90 days in which to file a lawsuit on his or her own behalf.
A charging party may file a lawsuit within 90 days of receiving a notice of a "right to sue" from EEOC, as stated above. Under Title VII and the ADA, a charging party also can request a notice of "right to sue" from EEOC 180 days after the charge was first filed with the Commission and may then bring suit within 90 days after receiving this notice. Under the ADEA, a suit may be filed at any time 60 days after filing a charge with EEOC, but not later than 90 days after EEOC gives notice that it has completed action on the charge.
Under the EPA, a lawsuit must be filed within two years (three years for willful violations) of the discriminatory act, which in most cases is payment of a discriminatory lower wage.
What Remedies Are Available When Discrimination Is Found?
The "relief" or remedies available for employment discrimination, whether caused by intentional acts or by practices that have a discriminatory effect, may include:
- Back pay
- Front pay
- Reasonable accommodation
- Other actions that will make an individual "whole" (in the condition s/he would have been but for the discrimination)
- Attorneys' fees
- Expert witness fees
- Court costs
An employer may be required to post notices to all employees addressing the violations of a specific charge and advising them of their rights under the laws EEOC enforces and their right to be free from retaliation. Such notices must be accessible, as needed, to persons with visual or other disabilities that affect reading.
The employer also may be required to take corrective or preventive actions to cure the source of the identified discrimination and minimize the chance of its recurrence, as well as discontinue the specific discriminatory practices involved in the case.