The first step that must be taken when you believe you have been subjected to discrimination, harassment, or retaliation in the workplace, is to file a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commissions (EEOC). By filing this charge, employees are able to protect their rights under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. More importantly, filing this charge is considered a prerequisite to filing a lawsuit. That means, before your lawyer is able to file a complaint in court, the EEOC has to have an opportunity to investigate your claims. If the EEOC makes the determination that your claim has merit, the agency may choose to file a lawsuit on your behalf. However, that is not something you should expect to happen every time a charge is filed.
The EEOC has published its 2017 performance report, which provides some interesting statistics regarding how EEOC charges of discrimination are handled and resolved. Generally speaking, the EEOC reported that 99,109 charges were “resolved” during the fiscal year 2017. While that may sound impressive, it only means that the EEOC ultimately made a decision as to whether or not there was probable cause to say unlawful discrimination occurred. It does not mean that those charges were resolved in the employee’s favor.
In 2017, the EEOC filed 184 merits lawsuits, 124 of which were filed on behalf of individuals. So, out of the more than 87,000 charges that were resolved, only 124 resulted in lawsuits being filed on behalf of employees. In light of these numbers, employees should not go into the EEOC’s administrative process expecting that the agency will automatically file a lawsuit on their behalf. But, why is that?
There are more important problems to consider
Though the chance of the EEOC going forward with a lawsuit on your behalf might not be that great, that should not necessarily be a great 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. 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, denied 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.
If you feel you have been the victim of discrimination or retaliation in the workplace, or if you have any other questions regarding your employment rights, please contact the experienced employment law attorneys at Michel | King. You can contact us either online or by calling us at (205) 265-1880. We are here to serve you!