EEOC Complaints

For many victims of employment discrimination or retaliation, filing a written complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) is the first step in their journey to remedying the harms and losses they have suffered.  The EEOC complaint process is not as straight-forward as one might expect. Moreover, the law imposes strict, short filing deadlines that are traps for the unwary. The following are common questions that complainants have regarding the EEOC complaint process. 

Should I File an EEOC Complaint?

If you have suffered employment discrimination or retaliation and wish to pursue the remedies available under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, then you should seriously consider filing an EEOC complaint. Title VII prohibits employers from discriminating against job applicants and employees on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, and national origin. It also prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who assert their rights under the Act. 

Importantly, before a victim of employment discrimination or retaliation may bring a Title VII claim in court, they must first file a written complaint with the EEOC. An EEOC complaint is known as a “Charge of Discrimination.” In 2018, the EEOC received approximately 7,482 charges of discrimination in the State of Texas alone. 

Is There a Deadline for Filing My EEOC Complaint?

Yes. Complainants generally must file a written charge of discrimination with the EEOC within 180 days after the date on which the alleged unlawful employment practice occurred. 

For complaints concerning a practice occurring in a state or political subdivision that has a fair employment agency of its own empowered “to grant or seek relief,” Title VII requires the complainant to file his or her charge first with the state or local agency. The complainant then has 300 days following the challenged practice, or 30 days after receiving notice that state or local proceedings have ended, “whichever is earlier,” to file a charge with the EEOC. 

If, however, the state or local agency has a “work-sharing” agreement with the EEOC (as the Texas Workforce Commission does), a complainant ordinarily need not file a separate charge with the state or local agency. Instead, there is a blank line at the top of the EEOC’s Charge of Discrimination form labeled “State or local Agency, if any” on which a complainant may write the name of the appropriate state or local agency and then file their Charge with the EEOC. The EEOC will then forward a copy of the Charge to the state or local agency. 

To be on the safe side, complainants should file their charge with the EEOC well ahead of the 180-day deadline. If a complainant fails to file their charge with the EEOC within the required period and then later asserts a Title VII claim in a lawsuit against their employer, the court may dismiss the claim. 

Where Do I File My EEOC Complaint? 

A complainant may fill out and file a written charge of discrimination with the EEOC either online or in person at an EEOC office. Complainants who file their charge in person will be asked to fill out, sign, and file a 2-page document known as “EEOC Form 5: Charge of Discrimination.”  

There is a three-step process for filing EEOC complaints online. First, the EEOC requires that a complainant submit an “online inquiry” through the EEOC’s Public Portal. Second, the complainant must schedule and participate in an interview with someone from the EEOC. After completing the interview, the complainant may file their charge of discrimination with the EEOC online. 

Since the EEOC’s online filing process requires you to schedule and participate in an interview, complainants who live near an EEOC field office are generally better off meeting with an employment lawyer and filing a Form 5: Charge of Discrimination in person. This is particularly true if you are approaching the filing deadline. Submitting an online inquiry with the EEOC and then waiting for your interview does not count as filing an actual charge of discrimination with the EEOC.     

What Information Should I include in My EEOC Complaint? 

If you intend to file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC, you will be asked to provide the following information: 

  • whether you wish for the EEOC to present your charge of discrimination to a state or local agency (this is sometimes referred to as “dual filing” because the charge is treated as though it were filed with both the EEOC and the state/local agency); 
  • your name, home phone number, date of birth, and address;
  • the name of the employer(s) that you believe discriminated or retaliated against you, their street address, an estimate of how many employees they have, and their phone number; 
  • whether your employer discriminated against you based on race, color, sex, religion, national origin, age, disability, and/or genetic information;
  • whether your employer engaged in retaliation;  
  • the earliest and latest dates that discrimination or retaliation took place; and
  • whether the unlawful employment action is a “continuing action.” 

Additionally, the EEOC Charge of Discrimination Form 5 includes a space where complainants must describe the particulars of their complaint. Complainants should be as thorough and descriptive here as possible. The instructions on Form 5 state that a complainant may attach additional sheets of paper to the Charge of Discrimination if they run out of space on the form itself. 

When describing the particulars of your complaint, it’s best to do so in as much detail as possible. It’s also better to be over-inclusive when checking the boxes for the types of discrimination that you are complaining about. Courts generally will not let you bring a claim for age discrimination in a lawsuit unless you checked that box and described your basis for claiming that in the charge that you filed with the EEOC. 

If you are unsure whether the discriminatory actions against you were based on your race, color, or national origin, for example, it may be in your best interest to check all three of the boxes to preserve the claims and then allow the EEOC or your attorney to investigate the matter and then later narrow the scope of your claim accordingly.

What Will Happen After I File My EEOC Complaint? 

When the EEOC receives a new charge of discrimination, it will normally assign a twelve-digit number to your case known as the “Charge Number.” If you filed your Charge in person, the EEOC will normally stamp your Charge with the date on which the EEOC received your Charge and the field office at which you filed it.

The EEOC will then assign one of its staff investigators to your case. The EEOC investigator assigned to your case may send a letter to you in the mail that explains the investigation process and provides you with the investigator’s contact information. The EEOC will provide a copy of your Charge to the employer(s) that you named in your Charge within ten days from the date on which the EEOC received your signed Charge. 

The EEOC sends the majority of Charges to its “Alternative Dispute Resolution Unit” for mediation before investigating the allegations in your Charge. The EEOC will assign a mediator to your case who will then contact you and the responding party or parties to schedule an in-person, confidential mediation session. Prior to the mediation, the EEOC mediator may contact the parties to gauge their expectations and willingness to settle the claim at mediation. On the day of the mediation, the EEOC mediator will often begin the mediation with what is known as a “joint session” in which both sides sit down together with the mediator in a conference room. The mediator may go over the rules of mediation and ask each side to explain their version of events to the other side and what they hope to accomplish.

Throughout the mediation process, it’s important to remember that the EEOC mediator is not your advocate and does not have your best interests in mind. The EEOC mediator’s main objective is to make the dispute go away by convincing the parties to settle their dispute through compromise. It’s therefore important to have an attorney with you at mediation who can protect and advocate for your interests.

After the parties’ “joint session,” the mediator may split the parties into separate rooms and then shuttle back and forth with demands and counter-offers in an effort to move the parties closer toward a settlement with each new demand/counter-offer. If the parties reach an impasse and are unable to reach a settlement agreement, the EEOC mediator will end the mediation.

If the EEOC decides not to hold a mediation in your case or if you are unable to reach a settlement agreement at your mediation, the EEOC will begin investigating your Charge. The EEOC investigator who has been assigned to your case will typically begin their investigation by contacting your employer and requesting a response to the allegations that appear in your Charge. The investigator may also contact you, your coworkers, and other witnesses to gather facts and additional details about your allegations. 

The EEOC generally has 180 days to investigate the allegations in your Charge. In most cases, the EEOC will not make a determination on the merits of your Charge within 180 days of the date on which you filed your Charge. If the EEOC has not made a determination on the merits and 180 days have passed since you filed your signed Charge, you may request (in writing) that the EEOC provide you with a letter known as a “Notice of Right to Sue” letter. If you request a Notice of Right to Sue letter from the EEOC and your Charge has been on file with the EEOC for at least 180 days, the EEOC will close its investigation of your Charge, take no further action on your case, and send the letter to you. 

Once you receive a Notice of Right to Sue letter from the EEOC, you may bring a lawsuit in federal district court raising claims under Title VII. Importantly, you must file your lawsuit asserting Title VII claims with the correct court within 90 days of receipt of the EEOC’s Notice of Right to Sue letter. If you fail to file a lawsuit within the 90-day period, you may permanently lose your right to assert your Title VII claim in a court of law. 

When Can I File a Lawsuit for Discrimination or Retaliation Under Title VII?  

Once you receive a Notice of Right to Sue letter from the EEOC, you may bring a lawsuit in federal district court raising claims under Title VII. Importantly, you must file your lawsuit asserting Title VII claims with the correct court within 90 days of receipt of the EEOC’s Notice of Right to Sue letter. If you fail to file a lawsuit within the 90-day period, you may permanently lose your right to assert your Title VII claim in a court of law. 

When Can I File a Lawsuit for Age Discrimination Under the ADEA? 

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1964 (ADEA) provides that, after 60 days have passed after you file your Charge with the EEOC, you may file your ADEA claim in federal district court. 

When Can I File a Lawsuit for Pay Discrimination Under the Equal Pay Act?  

Unlike Title VII, the Equal Pay Act of 1963 (EPA) does not require that you file a complaint with the EEOC before filing a lawsuit under the EPA with a court. The EPA generally requires that you file a lawsuit within two years from the date of the alleged violation. If you can prove that your employer “willfully” violated the EPA, the time period extends to three years from the date of the alleged violation. If you file a Charge with the EEOC alleging that your employer violated the EPA, the EEOC will typically handle your Charge in the same way that it handles Charges alleging Title VII violations. 

Will My Employer Find Out if I File an EEOC Complaint?

Yes. The EEOC will provide a copy of your Charge to the employer(s) that you named in your Charge within ten days from the date on which the EEOC received your signed Charge.

What if My Employer Fires Me or Retaliates Against Me for Filing an EEOC Complaint?

Federal law protects individuals who file an EEOC Complaint or cooperate in an investigation or lawsuit from employer retaliation. Title VII prohibits an employer from discriminating against an employee or job applicant because they have opposed an unlawful employment practice. Title VII similarly prohibits an employer from taking adverse action against an individual because they filed an EEOC complaint or testified, assisted with, or participated in an investigation, legal proceeding, or hearing under the law. The Equal Pay Act has similar provisions prohibiting employer retaliation. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) similarly prohibits employer coercion, intimidation, threats, or interference with anyone for exercising or enjoying, or aiding or encouraging others in their exercise or enjoyment of, rights under the ADA.

The Benefits to Hiring an Employment Lawyer to Help You With Your EEOC Complaint 

Properly completing and filing an EEOC Complaint may be challenging for someone who has never done so before. Having an experienced employment lawyer on your side can relieve stress and help you achieve the best outcome possible in your case. A knowledgeable and experienced employment lawyer may help you in a variety of ways, including advising you on your rights, helping you prepare your EEOC complaint in a manner that preserves your rights, ensuring that your filing deadlines are met, gathering the evidence you will need to prove your claims, coordinating with the EEOC after your complaint has been filed, negotiating favorable terms of settlement during the EEOC’s mediation process, helping the EEOC investigate your allegations, and representing you in a subsequent lawsuit. 

If you need help with, or have questions about, an EEOC Complaint, contact the Wagoner Law Firm without delay for a free case evaluation. 

Call Now for a Free Case Evaluation (469) 810-0473

Whether you live in Dallas, Fort Worth, or elsewhere in Texas, the Wagoner Law Firm will examine your claim and may advise you on the best way to proceed. When you contact the Wagoner Law Firm, you will receive a free case evaluation from a knowledgeable and experienced lawyer during which you may learn whether you have grounds to recover monetary damages and how much your case may be worth.