When employees are subjected to harassment or discrimination in the workplace, the first step required to protect their rights to file a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Filing a charge of discrimination is a prerequisite to filing a lawsuit in court. So, before an attorney can file that lawsuit for you, the EEOC has to investigate your claims. Under certain circumstances, however, the EEOC may choose to file a lawsuit on your behalf.
Statistics Showing EEOC Involvement in Discrimination Claims
The EEOC has published its 2014 performance report, which provides some interesting statistics regarding how EEOC charges of discrimination are handled and resolved. Generally speaking, out of the 88,778 private sector (non-government) charges filed, 87,442 were "resolved" by the EEOC. That sounds impressive; however, it only means that the EEOC made a decision as to whether there was probable cause to say unlawful discrimination occurred or not. It does not mean that those charges were resolved favorably.
The EEOC engaged in mediation for 10,221 of the 87,442 charges that were resolved, with as many as 7,846 actually being resolved by mediation. Out of the remaining charges, 105 of them lead to litigation in the courts, brought by the individual claimants themselves. The EEOC filed lawsuits in 133 of the cases not resolved by mediation.
Why Doesn't the EEOC File More Lawsuits?
It is the opinion of some that an aggrieved employee has a higher chance of being struck by lightning than having the EEOC file a lawsuit on their behalf. If that is true, then employees should not go into the EEOC's administrative process expecting the EEOC to take their cases all the way. But why is this the case?
It has been said that the EEOC has been the victim of budget cuts for the last 14 or more years. Some say there are political interests at play, as big businesses do not want to be targeted by EEOC lawsuits, so encouraging politicians to reduce funding to the agency may be an incentive. Indeed, there seems to be an overall desire by some to curb employment discrimination litigation, and tying the hands of the EEOC through lack of funding would accomplish that.
There Are Bigger Problems for Employees
Though the chance of the EEOC filing a lawsuit for you may be slim, that fact should not be your greatest concern. It is more crucial that you hire an attorney before you file an EEOC charge. Why? Because the language that is used in your charge of discrimination will, no doubt, be used against you in court.
When a discrimination charge is drafted, certain elements are required in order to protect your legal rights. If these elements are omitted, you may lose your right to bring certain claims. You must identify the issues and basis for your charges.
Defining the Basis and Issue of Your Charge
The "basis" identifies the protected class you claim to be a part of, which is protected by the anti-discrimination laws (race, sex, age, religion, etc.). The "issue" is essentially the conduct of your employer about which you are complaining. For instance, termination, suspension, denied accommodation, denied sick leave, harassment, and many other adverse employment actions, would constitute the issue(s) you raise in your charge of discrimination. Again, if these elements are not included, and properly worded, in your charge, your legal rights may not be protected.
Take the Next Step: Work with an Attorney
As an employee, you have the right to take a stand against discrimination. If you feel you have been the victim of discrimination, our firm is at the ready. Contact Michel | King Michel & Kingtoday to schedule an initial consultation and discuss any questions regarding your employment rights. Our Birmingham employment lawyers can be contacted online or by calling (205) 265-1880.