Federal and state laws make it illegal for employers to discriminate against persons based on certain characteristics. Laws such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Americans with Disabilities in Employment Act are examples of laws which prohibit employment discrimination.
Federal anti-discrimination laws are enforced by a government agency known as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC is responsible for handling employment discrimination claims. A person seeking to file a discrimination lawsuit in federal court against an employer usually must first file their claim with the EEOC.
Basic Information on Employment Discrimination
To begin with, the employee must be able to prove that the employer had the intent to treat them differently due to certain characteristics. For example, intent may be proven if the employer has demonstrated similar unfair treatment of members of the protected group.
An employment discrimination claim will usually require proof of the following:
•The employer believed they had some control over an aspect of the person’s employment
•The employer identified the employee as a member of a legally protected group based on certain characteristics
•The employer used their control to treat the employee unfairly because they belonged to the group
Employers may not discriminate on the basis of the following characteristics or groups:
•Nation of origin
•Religion or religious background
Common Situations wherein Employment Discrimination May Occur
Discrimination in the workplace often happens regarding the following matters:
•Retirement/Health/Vacation and other types of benefits
•Wages and compensation issues
•Job advertising and recruiting tactics
Furthermore, employers are prohibited from harassing employees on the basis of their characteristics. They may not retaliate against employees who file a complaint, i.e., withhold wages or fire them.
Filing a Complaint with the EEOC
If you believe that you are the victim of employment discrimination, your first avenue of relief will be filing with the EEOC, which is often required before a lawsuit may be filed. Formal complaints must be filed within 180 days of the alleged misconduct.
Here is an outline of the major steps in the EEOC filing process:
•Informal complaint: The employee must contact the EEOC within 45 days of the incident. The EEOC will provide a counselor who will discuss details of the claim with the employee. They will inform the victim of their rights and attempt to informally solve the dispute.
•Formal Complaint: If the dispute has not been resolved after 30 days, the employee must lodge a formal complaint at the EEOC office. The formal complaint must be filed within 180 days of the occurrence.
•Investigation: After analyzing the formal complaint, the EEOC will investigate the alleged discrimination. An investigation includes reviewing documents, obtaining witness testimonies, and collecting any other information related to the case.
•Relief: If the EEOC determines that discrimination has occurred, they will suggest possible solutions and remedies to relieve the situation. This may include changing company policies, or providing back wages, re-hiring the person, etc.
In the event that a solution does not occur or is not possible, the EEOC may suggest that the employee consider the following options:
•”Administrative Hearing”: This is similar to a trial, but is conducted in front of an administrative judge rather than in a traditional court of law. The administrative judge may prescribe additional courses of action.
•Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR): The EEOC might suggest that the company and the employee resort to a third-party mediator who can attempt to facilitate negotiations between the parties.
Civil Action in State or Federal Court
Only after the above remedies and procedures are deemed inadequate may the person file suit in a federal or state court.
In some instances, the EEOC may decide to provide a “right to sue” letter. This will be issued only if a settlement is not available or if the EEOC has dismissed the case. After obtaining the right to sue letter, the employee has 90 days to file suit against the employer. “Right to sue” letters are commonly issued because the EEOC can be backlogged with several types of cases.
Some Tips for Filing Your Claim
Filing your claim is very important. Here are some pointers to make filing as efficient as possible:
• Be sure to file as early as possible once an incident has occurred. There are many deadlines involved, so get things moving right away.
• Your complaint to the EEOC should be as clear and specific as possible so that they can arrive at an informed decision and avoid delays in investigation.
• Make a written description of the facts of the event while it is still fresh in your memory
• Include all relevant documents, witness information, and evidence that will support your case. More information is better than less.
• Remember that your employer is not allowed to retaliate if you file a claim against them.
• Visit the EEOC office or website and familiarize yourself with the employment discrimination laws
Filing with the EEOC can be a complex and drawn-out procedure. Consider hiring a lawyer who can help you prepare the necessary information. Remember the following points when preparing your claim:
• Employment discrimination is based on an employer using their control to treat an employee unfairly due to their membership in a protected group
• The discrimination can occur in a variety of situations. Also, check your employer’s history of treatment of other employees and employee groups
• File as early as possible
• A lawsuit is usually only available after filling with the EEOC
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