EEOC: Who, What, and Why?

Who is the EEOC? The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 gave enforcement authority to the Commission to investigate Charges of Discrimination in the workplace. Additionally, the EEOC can negotiate or use mediation with employers to settle disputes and when negotiation fails, the EEOC may refer the case to the Department of Justice or give the claimant a right to file a civil suit.

The EEOC is your place to start in the case of an employment conflict regarding any kind of discrimination or harassment. Title VII created the EEOC to manage employment law applications pertaining to employment discrimination. Since 1964, many amendments, Supreme Court rulings, and Executive Orders reshaped the Act. How the EEOC acts to correct discrimination has changed many times as well.

Title VII initially provided protections for employees against discrimination based on religion, race, color, national origin, and sex. In later years, discrimination based on age (over 40), disability, pregnancy, genetic information, sexual orientation, and gender identification were added.

Although the Equal Pay Act (EPA) of 1963 preceded the Civil Rights Act and Title VII, the EEOC was given oversight; the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) (over 40) was added in 1967; the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was added in 1990; and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) of 2008 were added to give executive management to discrimination matters in these areas of employment law, as well.

Therefore, a few time-limits and the minimum number of workers employed mandates differ depending on the regulation that pertains to that particular area. State and municipal ordinances may differ as well.

Although, it may be confusing to have different time limits, the EEOC is the place to begin your search for resolution of employment conflicts pertaining to discrimination. For example, in many cases of discrimination, the law requires you to file a Charge of Discrimination with EEOC and allow them to investigate before making a decision about a civil lawsuit. However, Equal Pay matters are an exception. You can request civil trial resolution without ever contacting the EEOC.

The time limit of two years from the last disputed check accepted is the date enforced in a court, at the Department of Justice (DOJ), or in the EEOC.

When you should file

A worker who has a complaint must contact an agency EEOC counselor within 45 days of the conflict or discrimination. After receiving notice from the EEOC, you have 15 calendar days to file. When there is a National Holiday on the 15th day, or if it is a weekend, your deadline is at the end of the next business day. Your employer must give you time to fill out your complaint.

Required information for your complaint

You must include the following in your complaint:

  • Your name, complete address, and telephone number.
  • A description of the event or events you thought constituted discrimination or harassment (you did not receive a promotion, you were harassed, bullied, or terminated).
  • Describe the basis of the discrimination, age (if over 40), religious, pregnancy, or perceived sexual orientation, or etc.
  • Injuries or loss suffered (emotional distress, amount of lost wages if you were not promoted, or when terminated etc.).
  • And your signature.

What action can I expect from the EEOC?

The EEOC has 180 days to investigate your complaint, which can be extended an additional 180 days if you add an extra charge. Also, you have the option to prolong the time for investigation 90 days. After the investigation is complete, the agency will ask you if you wish to have your case heard by an EEOC administrative judge or let the EEOC determine whether the discrimination happened. At any time during the process, your employer can offer you a settlement, which is optional. However, once you agree to the settlement, the case is closed, and you and your employer must fulfill the agreement. If your employer does not comply fully with the agreement, you must notify the EEOC immediately or within 30 days of noncompliance.

You are entitled to hire an attorney at any time, but it is not advisable to hire a lawyer during the investigation phase unless there is a settlement offered. It is desirable to consult with a lawyer when a settlement has been offered, before filing an appeal, or if you wish to file suit when you believe you were not treated fairly.

Why the EEOC?

Except in the case of equal pay disputes, employees must contact the EEOC about their discrimination or harassment conflicts with fellow workers, supervisors, or employers to seek help from the EEOC prior to filing a civil lawsuit. These restrictions make sense to rescue the courts from petty lawsuits. Many times, what someone perceives as harassment or discrimination and what a judge sees as discrimination or as a dispute are entirely different.

Remember, the EEOC is your subject matter expert when it comes to workplace discrimination or harassment disputes and is your first stop to resolve your complaint.