Although job discrimination is common in today’s workplaces, many employees are not fully informed about filing a discrimination complaint against an employer. Such knowledge can mean the difference between suffering irreparable damage to your career and successfully obtaining the justice you deserve in an employment discrimination case.

Most employees have heard about the foremost agency involved in employment discrimination cases, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Employees may also be familiar with the federal law governing most employment discrimination cases, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. However many employees are not aware that other federal laws and amendments to Title VII exist offering further protection from discrimination while on the job.

Additionally, state laws protect workers from discrimination as well. The filing process for discrimination complaints under state laws differ in a number of ways from filings under federal law. It is important that employees stay abreast of these differences in order to obtain the best remedies possible in a job discrimination case.

Filing a Discrimination Complaint Begins With a Competent Attorney

If you’ve experienced discrimination while on the job, the first step toward rectifying the situation is to locate a qualified attorney with experience handling employment discrimination cases. Filing a discrimination complaint contains several nuances and gray areas that only an experienced employment law attorney can handle. Therefore, it is critical that an attorney be brought into the filing process as early on in a case as possible.

Starting a Discrimination Complaint Within Your Company

Some laws governing job discrimination require that the employer be made aware of the discrimination at some point before a complaint is filed. This is because the law aims to hold employers responsible only for the discrimination they know about or should have known about rather than forcing them to be accountable for discrimination that they had no reason to be aware of. In these instances, starting a discrimination complaint within your company is best.

Employees should check with the human resources department of their company to learn about the policies and procedures for complaining about discrimination. Further, employees should make sure they follow these procedures throughout the complaint process. Many employees are hesitant to let supervisors or managers know about discrimination or are reluctant to complain formally due to fear of losing a job or causing damage to a longstanding career. However, employees should keep in mind that federal and state law prohibits such retaliation as a result of discrimination.

Bringing discrimination to a company’s attention could also work in an employee’s favor. If the discrimination leads to litigation, a company’s lack of response to internal complaints of discrimination or harassment could help prove that the employer is indeed liable for discrimination and in violation of civil rights laws.

Filing a Charge with the EEOC Against an Employer

After an employee has made internal complaints, he or she may wish to pursue filing a formal charge against an employer with the EEOC. Filing a charge of job discrimination with the EEOC contains a number of details that every employee should understand and know before pursuing an employment discrimination case.

First, employees should be aware of deadlines for filing. Under federal laws, an employee generally has 180 days from the last date of discrimination to file a charge with the EEOC. The EEOC has over 50 field locations across the country and must be contacted before litigation in a court of law can be pursued for every type of federal discrimination law except the Equal Pay Act.

EEOC investigators will explore the details of the charge once it is filed. The agency will also contact the employer to notify it that a charge has been filed against it and to investigate the allegations of the charge. If the EEOC decides to pursue the case, it may attempt to settle the case with the employer by requesting that the employer stop the violations on its own. The EEOC may also decide to pursue litigation on behalf of the charging party.

If the EEOC decides not pursue the case, it will issue a Notice of Right to Sue to the charging party. This notice gives the employee the right to sue his or her employer for job discrimination and could lead to a court hearing in which damages can be awarded based on the laws and facts of a case.

Filing a Job Discrimination Complaint Under State Laws

In addition to federal laws which prohibit job discrimination, states also have laws prohibiting employment discrimination. An employee can file complaints under either federal law or state laws and, in some instances, can have both a federal claim of job discrimination and a state claim as well.

Under state law, charges must be filed through the EEOC similar to federal law. However, states have a number of offices that may or may not be related to the EEOC  called Fair Employment Practice Agencies (FEPA’s), located throughout the state. FEPA’s may have separate rules for filing charges under state law. For instance, in most cases, the deadline for filing a charge with an FEPA is 300 days from the last date of discrimination rather than 180 days for federal law cases.

If the FEPA you file a charge with is related to the EEOC by contract, your charge will be dual filed with the EEOC, and it is possible to have the EEOC review your case as well. An employee has 15 days from the date a charge is filed with an FEPA to request EEOC review. If there is no relation by contract between your FEPA and the EEOC, review will not be possible.

If You Need to File a Complaint Against Your Employer…

If you feel you have experienced discrimination on the job and need to file a complaint against your employer, contact an attorney as soon as possible. Filing a complaint can be a complicated process that depends heavily on knowledge and expertise within the area of employment discrimination law. To get the justice you deserve, file your discrimination complaint with the help of a competent attorney with a proven track record of employment law success.