Are there any steps that employees should take before filing a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”)? While I was mulling over topics for this blog entry, I asked a colleague of mine (a fellow employment attorney) her thoughts on this subject. She gave a curious side-eyed expression and asked, “What should you do before you file a charge with the EEOC?” At that moment, two things were quickly apparent: (1) although many people may easily recognize unfair or unlawful treatment in the workplace, they may not be aware of the best method of resolving these issues; and (2) filing a charge with the EEOC is not as intuitive as it seems.
The EEOC enforces federal laws that prohibit discrimination based on age, disability, equal pay/compensation, genetic information, harassment, national origin, pregnancy, race/color, religion, sex, sexual harassment, and retaliation. For the sake of brevity, this article will solely focus on discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”). Title VII prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin. Title VII also protects employees who raise claims under this law or who participate in harassment or discrimination complaints from retaliation from their employer.
Complain to Your Employer
This is an important step that is sometimes overlooked in discrimination cases. Complain through your employer’s formal complaint process, human resources, or your supervisor about the discrimination. Make sure your complaints are documented in written form (and that you have a copy). Some employees understandably may feel awkward complaining to the people they work with about discrimination in the workplace. However, taking your complaint to the EEOC is doing exactly that. Actually, it is worse because now your employer has to deal with a federal investigation and the headache that surrounds it. This additional step also adds another layer of protection from retaliation.
Contact an Attorney
This step goes hand in hand with the Complain to Your Employer section. Arguably, it is even more beneficial to have the attorney make the complaint on your behalf. This will force your employer to take your claim seriously. Although some employment attorneys prefer not to accept matters before the EEOC has issued a Right to Sue Letter; other firms like Madison Law, PLLC, prefer to get involved much earlier in the process. An attorney may also be able to obtain a positive outcome without going to the EEOC.
Contact the EEOC
If you are unable to achieve a favorable outcome from your employer, proceed directly to the EEOC—and fast. The EEOC imposes a strict deadline on filing discrimination charges. The charge must be filed no later than 180 days from the date of the discriminatory act. In cases where discrimination is of an ongoing nature, employees have 180 days from the date of the most recent discriminatory act to file their claim. However, the 180-day deadline is firm. There is no room for negotiation here. If you miss the deadline, then you lose out on your chance to file your claim. If you have already retained an attorney (provided they were unable to reach a settlement with your employer), then they may choose to file the charge on your behalf. At the very least, they should be willing to direct you to the EEOC and guide you through the process.
In short, discrimination in the workplace is stressful enough. Following these steps should provide protection, make the complaint process easier and allow for a better likelihood of a success. www.madlawpllc.com
 Discrimination by Type. Retrieved from https://www.eeoc.gov/laws/types/
 42 U.S.C. §2000e-2(a)
 The deadline may be longer in states other than North Carolina. Please check with a local attorney for guidance.
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