The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) is a federal agency charged with investigating and enforcing the federal anti-discrimination workplace laws, such as Title VII, ADA, ADEA, and GINA. These laws prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, sex, national origin, religion, pregnancy, disability, age, and genetic information. These laws also prohibit employers from retaliating against employees who complain about discrimination.
The EEOC can start an investigation when an employee files a charge of discrimination with the agency. The charge must contain the employee’s name and contact information, the employer’s name and contact information, the total number of employees employed, a description of the discrimination including when the events took place, the basis of discrimination (i.e. race, religion, age), and a signature. The charge can be filed in person, by phone, or by mail. In New York, the EEOC charge must be filed within 300 days of the event which gave rise to the discrimination. This deadline can vary between states so if you are not in New York, you should check with your local EEOC office. New York’s EEOC office is located on Whitehall Street in Manhattan.
Filing a charge with the EEOC is a prerequisite to filing a federal discrimination lawsuit in a court. This is not necessarily the case if you want to file a discrimination case in a New York State court. You should consult a New York employment lawyer to assess your case and determine the best place to file your case of discrimination.
After the charge is filed, the EEOC may investigate the claim of discrimination. The EEOC may also try to mediate the claim. Mediation is a voluntary process where the employer and employee try to find a resolution of the claim.
If the the EEOC investigates, it may request that the employer respond to the allegations in the charge of discrimination, sometimes referred to as a position statement. Once received by the EEOC, the employee has an opportunity to submit a rebuttal to the position statement.
After the investigation, the EEOC will make a determination as to whether it believes discrimination took place. If it finds discrimination, the EEOC will try to help the employee reach a voluntary settlement with the employer. If settlement cannot be reached, the EEOC will decide whether to sue the employer on the employee’s behalf.
If the EEOC cannot determine whether discrimination took place, it will issue a right to sue letter. The employee can also request a right to sue letter from the EEOC at any time, although the EEOC is not always required to issue a right to sue letter. The right to sue letter permits the employee to sue the employer in court.
Most anti-discrimination statutes allow employees who have been discriminated against to recover several types of damages. Compensatory damages may include economic damages incurred because of the discrimination such as lost wages. Compensatory damages can also include damages for emotional distress. Punitive damages may be available were the discrimination was particularly willful and egregious. Employees can also recover attorneys fees and costs incurred with prosecuting the lawsuit.
In New York, the EEOC is not the only option for filing a claim of discrimination. The New York State Division of Human Rights is New York’s state agency which investigates claims of discrimination and retaliation. In New York City, the New York City Commission of Human Rights similarly can investigate claims. Further, some cases can or should be brought directly in a court without first filing in an agency. The decision of where to file a claim of discrimination can be complicated as there are many factors. Victims of employment discrimination in New York should consult with an employment lawyer in New York.
Famighetti & Weinick PLLC are employment discrimination lawyers in New York. We can be reached at 631-352-0050 or on the internet at http://linycemploymentlaw.com.
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