Having your employment discrimination claim fully investigated and fairly adjudicated requires following the procedures spelled out by the agency that enforces your rights as a worker or job applicant. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) handles most discrimination complaints. The EEOC’s guidelines are summarized here.
If you have questions about how your case should be handled, schedule a free consultation with a Columbus employment discrimination lawyer at the Friedmann Firm to discuss the details.
Know What Constitutes Discrimination
Federal and Ohio laws make it illegal for employers to treat workers and job applicants unfairly due to race, religion, national origin, age, pregnancy, disability, genetic information, military service, or sex (including LGBT status). Employment discrimination can take many forms, including:
- Refusing to hire
- Assigning dirty, dangerous tasks that other co-workers never have to perform
- Denying promotions and raises
- Making demotions
- Denying leave and other benefits
- Harassing physically or verbally
- Retaliating by doing any of the above after a discrimination complaint is filed
The EEOC must be shown evidence that the alleged discrimination is pervasive, persistent, and/or egregious. For instance, overhearing a person utter a single racial slur probably will not suffice to support an employment discrimination claim. Listening for weeks or months to a supervisor use derogatory terms to refer to members of an ethnic group could give an employee grounds to pursue a discrimination case.
Note that anyone who observes discrimination in the workplace has a legal right to file a complaint. A person does not need to be the victim of illegal employment actions in order to blow the whistle.
Follow the Employee Handbook
Laws enforced by the EEOC require companies and agencies to have their own procedures for receiving, investigating, and resolving complaints of employment discrimination.
Someone who suspects or observes discriminatory actions should first file a complaint with a supervisor or human resources representative. Exceptions to this are permitted, such as when an assault occurs and it makes sense to alert police.
File a Charge of Discrimination with the EEOC
When an employer will not or cannot fix the problem, it is time to file an official complaint with the closest EEOC office. The agency has offices in Columbus, Cincinnati, and Dayton.
A complaint can be made by mail or in person, and consulting with an employment discrimination attorney beforehand will pay dividends. With a few exceptions, the claims made in the Charge are the only claims a judge or jury will be allowed to consider if the case goes to trial.
The agency needs the following information to begin an investigation into an employment discrimination complaint:
- The complainant’s name, address, and telephone number
- The name, address, and telephone number of the employer, employment agency, or union against whom the complaint is being made
- How many employees work at the company or agency because very small employers are exempt from certain anti-discrimination laws
- Short descriptions of each instance of discrimination
- Dates on which discriminatory behavior occurred
- A statement on why the discrimination occurred (e.g., based on sex or age)
- The complainant’s signature
Giving the EEOC negative annual reviews, a termination letter, contact information for witnesses, and other pieces of evidence that support claims of discrimination will also help. An attorney and witnesses can accompany someone who makes a complaint in person.
Generally, the Charge must reach the EEOC within 180 calendar days of the most recent discriminatory act listed in the complaint, though sometimes this deadline is extended to 300 days. Exceeding this deadline typically results in the inability to pursue those claims because the statute of limitations has run.
Wait for a Notice of Right to Sue
The EEOC does not directly resolve discrimination cases typically. Rather, the agency investigates and alerts the person who filed the Charge as to whether it believes the law has been violated.. When the EEOC finds that a Charge has merit or it has not had enough time to investigate, it issues a Notice of Right to Sue. Receiving that notice generally gives a person 90 days to file a civil lawsuit against the company or agency named in the Charge.
You can learn more by calling a Columbus employment discrimination lawyer with The Friedmann Firm at 614.610.9755.
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