Understanding Discrimination and the EEOC Discrimination Process
What is Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964?
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII)was passed to protect employees like you from employment discrimination. It is against the law for employers to discriminate against an employee (or even a job applicant) based on any of the following characteristics:
- sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation)
- national origin
- age (40 or older)
- genetic information
What is the EEOC?
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the agency that enforces the federal laws which make employment discrimination illegal. Most employers with at least 15 employees are subject to EEOC laws.
The EEOC can only become involved in your employment discrimination issue if you come forward and file a charge. A charge is a statement that is filed with the EEOC indicating that you believe you have been discriminated against and are requesting that the EEOC take remedial action. A charge of discrimination is also required before a federal lawsuit is brought against your employer.
Sometimes the EEOC requests that the employer and the claimant take part in mediation. If both parties agree, they will be assigned a mediator. Although a mediator does not ultimately determine who is right or wrong in the matter, they can help both parties reach a voluntary settlement.
Mediation isn’t always the answer, however. If the situation can not be resolved in mediation, then the EEOC will conduct an investigation.
The investigation can be a long process. On average, it takes 10 months to fully investigate a charge. The EEOC will start the investigation process by asking the employer to file a written response (Respondent’s Position Statement) to the charge. Once the position statement has been filed, you can also file a response within 20 days of receiving the position statement. All of these written statements gives the EEOC a better understanding of the situation from both parties.
Then EEOC may further the fact-finding process by questioning the employer, gathering documents, or conducting witness interviews. How a charge is investigated depends solely on the factors of the case.
At the end of the investigation, the EEOC makes a decision as to whether the claimant was discriminated against. It can go one of three ways:
- Letter of Determination – there is a reason to believe that discrimination occurred. Although a cause of determination does not guarantee that the employee will prevail in a lawsuit or that they are entitled to any money, it can be very helpful evidence in a lawsuit.
- Dismissal and Notice of Rights – based on the facts reviewed, the EEOC investigation does not establish a violation of law, however, the claimant has 90 days to file a lawsuit
- No determination – the agency was unable to determine whether discrimination occurred.
What is a Right to Sue Letter?
When the EEOC can’t make a determination as to whether the employer discriminated against you, they will issue a right to sue letter. This doesn’t necessarily mean that your claim is weak, but it does give you the right to file a lawsuit and an opportunity to have your case heard before a judge. One of the most important things to know about the right to sue letter is that you only have 90 days to file a suit or else you may never be able to try your case in federal court.
With the looming 90-day deadline, you have to make a rather quick decision if you think it is worth it to try your case in court. You should understand that employment discrimination cases are time consuming, slow, require a lot of resources, and are often ineffective if there isn’t enough evidence. It can be difficult to figure out what the right action is to take.
Before deciding on bringing a lawsuit against your employer, you need to take ask yourself the following questions.
Do you have enough evidence to support your case?
For example, if you were discriminated against because of your religion, do you have the proof to back up your claim? Do you have emails, text messages, video, or anything that can support your case? The burden of proof is on you in order to persuade those who are weighing the evidence.
Did something seriously bad happen to you because of the discrimination?
Workplace discrimination is actually very common. Many employees are exposed to derogatory comments, lost opportunities, and many other injustices. For an employment discrimination lawsuit to be successful, typically something bad would have had to happened as a result, like losing your job. It is important to weigh the severity of your potential discrimination claim.
Retaining an Attorney
Speaking to an experienced employment discrimination attorney can help you determine whether your case has merit. When trying your case in court, we always recommend that you retain an experienced attorney to help you. There are many attorneys out there who are willing to help you, but make sure that you hire one that specializes in employment discrimination. Of course, you are always able to represent yourself in pro per, but you need to have a good knowledge of the rules of civil procedure in order to have an effective case.
Employment discrimination cases rarely win at trial. While that sounds discouraging, it’s really not as bad as it sounds, and that is because most employment discrimination cases don’t ever end up going to trial because they are settled before they reach that step. Retaining an experienced employment discrimination attorney can help you in the process.
As you can see, the EEOC discrimination process is complex. It makes sense to have an experienced employment discrimination attorney by your side to help you navigate the laws. Contact the experienced employment discrimination attorneys at Swartz Swidler, LLC, today by filling out the online contact form!