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Employment Discrimination: Filing a Charge of Discrimination in the US

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Filing a Charge of Discrimination

Employees can file a charge of discrimination because they believe that they have been discriminated against by their employer, employment agency, or union. Your boss might discriminate against you because of your color, race, religion, national origin, disability, age, i.e., 40 and above, or sex, i.e., gender identity, sexual orientation, or pregnancy.

The charge of discrimination comprises a signed statement asserting that your employer, labor organization, or union engaged in employment discrimination. It’s a formal request to the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to take remedial action.

The EEOC laws require you to file a charge prior to filing an unlawful discrimination lawsuit within the strict time limits. Here is how you can proceed with a charge of discrimination.

Time Limits to File a Charge

A person that believed they were discriminated against should file a charge within 180 calendar days based on the anti-discrimination laws. It’s recommended that the person who decides to take this path should file as soon as possible.

The EEOC time limits for filing a charge are not extended as you try to resolve the dispute by other means like union grievance, internal grievance procedure, mediation, or arbitration.

However, this can be extended to 300 calendar days depending on whether the local agency or state has enforced employment anti-discrimination laws on the same basis. The calculation includes the weekends and holidays, but you will have to file the next business day when the deadline falls on a holiday or weekend.

Age discrimination charges are only extended to 300 days when the state has endorsed laws prohibiting discrimination due to age, and there exists an authority or state agency enforcing the law. Otherwise, there is no extension when it’s only the local law that prohibits age discrimination.

When You Have More Than One Discrimination Claim  

The deadline for a discriminatory event that happened more than once is based on each occasion. Here is how you can proceed if your employer demoted you this month and fired you 9 months later, and probably you believe that the company based its decision on your race.

First, the only discriminatory charge that you can file at present is the dismal one because 180/300 days will have elapsed since you were demoted. Otherwise, you should have fired a discriminatory charge within 180 days after the demotion. The only exception to this law is when you are alleging ongoing harassment.

In a harassment case, you should report the last harassment incident within 180 or 300 days. However, EEOC will consider all the incidences, even those that happened more than 180/300 days.

An Equal Pay Act violation charge applies a different deadline. First, this applies when you are discriminated against in wages and benefits because of your sex. The law allows you to file a lawsuit in court instead of filing a charge of discrimination with EEOC.

The deadline for filing an EPA lawsuit is two years based on the last paycheck, but it can extend to three years if it touches on willful discrimination.

Additionally, Title VII prohibits discrimination on sex when making wages and benefits payments. Therefore you can make both the Equal Pay Act claim and Title VII claim.

However, you have to file a charge with EEOC when pursuing a Title VII claim, and this will not extend your EPA lawsuit deadline.

How to File the Charge of Discrimination

Online System: It’s possible to file a charge of discrimination online via the EEOC public portal after first submitting an inquiry and scheduling an appointment for an interview. The reason for this procedure is to determine the right federal agency for your case.

The EEOC staff member will listen to your case, discuss your concern and then determine whether filing a charge of discrimination is the right path for you. Next, the staff will prepare a charge if that is the appropriate path using the provided details. You can then review the information online and sign by logging into your account.

So carry your papers or information that will help you prove your claim as well as the names and details of individuals that are aware of this case.

Phone Call: You can get the process started over the phone. However, EEOC staff will not take your charges on the phone, but they will take basic information to establish whether your claim is covered under its laws and then advise you on how you can file your charge of discrimination.

By Mail: You can also file your charge of discrimination by sending a letter. Your letter should have the following information:

  • Personal details such as name, address, email, and telephone number
  • Employer, employment agency, or union’s details such as the name, address, email, and telephone number
  • The size of its workforce
  • A brief description of the discriminatory action (s), i.e., demotion, fired, or harassment
  • When it took place
  • The reason why you believe you were discriminated against, i.e., race, color, sex, religion, age, national origin, genetic information, disability, or retaliation

You should sign this letter, and the agency will contact you for more information after the review.

I'm a passionate full-time blogger. I love writing about startups, how they can access key resources, avoid legal mistakes, respond to questions from angel investors as well as the reality check for startups. Continue reading my articles for more insight.

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