EEOC Complaint Process

Before filing an EEOC complaint, employees should understand the entire EEOC complaint process. This article answers many Frequently Asked Questions on the EEOC complaint process.

Author: Brad Nakase, Attorney

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What Is the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)?

The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the government agency that enforces federal laws concerning harassment or discrimination targeting an employee or job applicant. Congress formed the EEOC as a way to enforce Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The agency is based in Washington, D.C. As of 2021, the agency has 37 field offices located throughout the United States.

How Does the EEOC Operate?

The EEOC enforces federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against an individual for the following reasons:

  • Race
  • Color
  • Religion
  • Sex
  • National origin
  • Age
  • Disability
  • Genetic information

Also, it is unlawful to discriminate against an individual who files a complaint regarding the discrimination or has otherwise engaged in an employment discrimination lawsuit or investigation. In 2020, about 56% of charges filed with the EEOC related to retaliation.

What Is the EEOC’s Authority and Role?

The EEOC is granted the power to investigate any charges of discrimination levied against employers. Employers are typically subject to EEOC laws if they have at least fifteen employees. A number of labor unions and employment agencies are under its authority as well.

The EEOC is meant to fairly look into allegations and make a finding. If the agency determines that unlawful discrimination had occurred, then it will attempt to settle the charge. The agency also has the power to file a lawsuit to protect certain individuals, as well as the public interest.

EEOC laws apply to all kinds of workplace situations, functions, and processes. This would include the hiring and terminating of employees, harassment, job training, promotions, benefits, and wages. The EEOC is also supposed to prevent discrimination before it happens.

What To Do When Experiencing Discrimination at Work

If an employee has reason to believe that he or she has been discriminated against at their workplace due to their race, sex, color, religion, national origin, disability, age, or genetic information, then he or she can file a discrimination charge with the EEOC. The charge is a signed statement which details how an employer, union, or labor group committed employment discrimination. The statement requests that the EEOC take action. All of the EEOC’s laws, not including the Equal Pay Act, require that an employee file a discrimination charge before filing a job discrimination lawsuit against the employer.

There are relevant time limits of either 180 or 300 days. An employee can file a charge through the EEOC Public Portal after he or she submits an online inquiry and does an intake interview with a staff member from the EEOC.

How to File a Successful EEOC Complaint in the State of California

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the federal agency that creates and enforces workplace regulations, as well as anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policies for American employers, The EEOC is responsible for investigating employment harassment and discrimination claims. This means that if an employee works in California and experiences a form of harassment or discrimination, he or she has the ability to file a claim with the EEOC to receive justice.

The EEOC claim process is complicated and can take a long time, especially for someone who does not have experience filing claims in the past. That said, if an employee believes that he or she had legitimate reason to file an EEOC claim in California, it is important that they understand what the process involves so that they have a higher chance of success.

What to Expect From the EEOC

Every day, the EEOC manages thousands of workplace complaints from the American public. There EEOC complaint process that handle every kind of complaint. If an employee believes that he or she has legitimate grounds to file a complaint, then it is wise to contact an experienced employment attorney. A legal team can offer valuable advice and help with the different steps of the claim process.

An individual can look for various claim forms on the EEOC’s website, and there are other options for contacting EEOC representatives for assistance. An attorney can help an individual figure out which forms must be completed, as well as assist in gathering supporting paperwork that needs to be submitted. After the EEOC receives the complaint, an investigator will look at it, then contact the individual for any additional information before presenting the agency’s findings.

What Happens When the EEOC Reviews a Complaint?

After the EEOC has finished their review of an individual’s complaint, they will assess whether the individual has the grounds to sue the employer named in the claim. They may also determine that the plaintiff does not have a solid case. If there are grounds for a lawsuit, then the EEOC will issue a Notice of Right to Sue, which allows an individual to take legal action against their employer with the support of the EEOC.

If the EEOC determines there are no legitimate grounds to sue, then they may ask for additional evidence and documentation to improve the claim, or otherwise deny it. If an individual receives a Notice of Right to Sue from the EEOC, this allows them to take legal action against their employer.

What Are the Damages for Harassment and Discrimination?

When the EEOC issues an individual a Right to Sue, it significantly improves an individual’s chances of being successful in holding their employer accountable for their actions. For instance, some individuals want reinstatement and lost income after unfair termination or adverse treatment.

Other individuals prefer to seek greater damages, including lost income and benefits in addition to compensation for the intentional infliction of emotional harm. An employment law attorney can help an individual figure out what damages they can potentially get after the EEOC finishes its investigation of the claim and provides a Notice of Right to Sue.

By filing a successful EEOC claim, an individual can achieve fair compensation for their losses and suffering, while also preventing the same treatment from befalling others in the future. Also, the EEOC can penalize employers that commit harassment or discrimination, or those that fail to keep these things from occurring because of poor workplace policies.

How Can an Individual Win an EEOC Discrimination Complaint?

One of the best ways that an individual can improve their chance of success with an EEOC complaint is to contact an experience employment attorney who can help them complete the claim forms correctly and go through the following case proceedings. A lawyer will help an individual collect all the paperwork they need to submit the claim as well as help take the appropriate legal action once the individual has the Right to Sue.

What Is Reasonable Cause?

The EEOC might state “reasonable cause” when handling an individual’s complaint, which essentially means that based on the agency’s findings, it is believed that the negative behavior described in the claim did occur. If the EEOC states reasonable cause, then this usually means the individual will receive the Right to Sue.

What Qualifies as an EEOC Complaint?

The EEOC has the authority to investigate workplace discrimination and harassment complaints of whatever nature. This may include harassment or discrimination that is based on race, sex, sexual orientation, religion, nationality, age, or disability. This means that if an individual feels they are the victim of discrimination or harassment due to their protected status, he or she likely has the grounds to file an EEOC complaint.

How Long Does It Take the EEOC to Review a Complaint?

Individuals have 180 days to file an EEOC complaint after the date on which an alleged incident happens. Also, the EEOC has 180 days from the date they receive the complaint to finish their review and issue a Notice of Right to Sue to the claimant. That said, it may not finish its investigation in that timeframe.

Often, investigations take more than 10 months to a year to finish. That said, after the 180 days pass, the individual has the right to go ahead with a lawsuit. But it is important to note that a workplace discrimination lawsuit is much more likely to be successful if the EEOC has issued its support in the form of a Notice of Right to Sue.

What Are the Limits on Punitive and Compensatory Damages?

When it comes to compensatory and punitive damages, there are limits to the amount that may be awarded to an individual. These limits depend on the size of the employer:

  • Employers with 15 to 100 employees = $50,000 limit
  • Employers with 101 to 200 employees = $100,000 limit
  • Employers with 201-500 employees = $200,000 limit
  • Employers with more than 500 employees = $300,000 limit

Age or Sex Discrimination Exceptions

When there are cases involving intentional age discrimination or sex-based wage discrimination under the Equal Pay Act, individuals cannot receive compensatory or punitive damages. Rather, they may receive “liquidated damages.”

Liquidated damages may be awarded as a wat of punishing a particularly heinous act of discrimination. The amount of liquidated damages that can be awarded to an individual is equal to the amount of back pay awarded.

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