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How to File for Employment Discrimination

Updated on October 1, 2012
There is a way to end employment discrimination.
There is a way to end employment discrimination. | Source

Employment discrimination occurs more regularly than we think. We are fortunate in America to have hard-won legal systems in place that prevent scheming and flagrant discriminatory practices. But, again, violations still occur and it may become necessary for workers to file a charge for employment discrimination.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 brought the crackdown on discrimination. Types included, at the time, race, color, national origin, sex, religion, and retaliation. Today that list has grown to include age, disability, sexual harassment, equal pay, sexual orientation, pregnancy, and genetic information.

In fact, Title VII led to the creation of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which enforces federal laws, implements rules, and issues charges of discrimination.

The EEOC is led by a Commission comprised of five members appointed by the President. A General Counsel, also presidentially appointed, supports the Commission.

The following steps detail how to file a claim for employment discrimination. If you are a federal employee or applicant, however, steps are slightly different and you should visit the EEOC website for further information.

Have you ever filed a charge for employment discrimination?

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Filing for Acts of Discrimination

  1. The first thing one should do is visit the EEOC website and take their assessment to see whether the EEOC is the right agency to work with, which might seem strange to hear. But other routes may exist. For instance, charges about equal pay and compensation are covered under the Equal Pay Act and persons are allowed to go directly to court and file a lawsuit.
  2. Determine when the discrimination occurred and make a decision about filing a charge. This is important because there is a deadline to how long one may file a charge. This is usually 180 calendar days from the occurrence. It is extended to 300 days, however, if a state or local agency enforces a state or local law that prohibits employment discrimination on the same basis. Extension is different for age discrimination: 300 days if a state law prohibits age discrimination and a state agency or authority enforces that law (not extended for local laws).

    Some important things to understand here: Time limits are strict. If you’re trying to resolve the matter through another process, like arbitration, additional time will not be granted beyond the 180/300 days. Also, if deadlines fall on weekends or holidays, claimants are given to the next business day.

    If more than one event occurred, the deadline applies to each event unless ongoing harassment is occurring, in which case the deadline begins from the last incident of harassment.

    Understand dual filing. Many states have state and local agencies that enforce employment discrimination laws. The EEOC refers to them as Fair Employment Practices Agencies, or FEPAs, and a work-sharing agreement exists between the two. Thus, a file charged with one agency is automatically filed with the other and helps protect a person under federal, state, and local law.
  3. File the charge in person or by mail. This cannot be done online or by phone. The process can be started by phone and one would be contacted by an EEOC officer for further information. But charges must be made in person at one of 53 EEOC field offices. Be sure to follow office procedures. Bring helpful items that will support your case. You may also bring any person with you to your meeting, and no lawyer is needed to file a charge.

    If filing by mail, send a letter with your name, address, and phone number; the same for the employer; the number of employees (if known); a description of the discrimination; date of events; type of discrimination you feel was made against you; and your signature. If the letter is not signed, no investigation can happen.

    Work is too important to have to deal with bigotry or injustice. But should you ever have to, you’ll know how to file a charge for employment discrimination and, hopefully, win.

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