How to File an EEOC Lawsuit
Employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability, and/or genetic information is illegal. Additionally, retaliation against anyone who participates in a discrimination complaint, charge, investigation, or lawsuit is illegal. If you have experienced discrimination in the workplace and plan to file a lawsuit, there are certain rules you should know.
Before You File an EEOC Lawsuit
Before you can file a lawsuit against an employer, you typically must file a Charge of Discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), a federal agency that enforces civil rights laws. If you file a charge with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (“PHRC”), you can request that it be automatically filed with the EEOC as well. The EEOC will investigate your charge and eventually dismiss it. Upon dismissal, you will receive a “Notice-of-Right-to-Sue.” This Notice allows you to file a lawsuit in a court of law. Upon receiving this Notice, you will have 90 days to file the lawsuit.
Exceptions apply in cases involving age discrimination and lawsuits filed under the Equal Pay Act. If you are suing because of age discrimination, you can file a lawsuit after 60 days have passed from the date you filed the charge with the EEOC. You do not need to obtain a Notice. Keep in mind, though, once the EEOC dismisses your charge, you will only have 90 days to file the lawsuit.
If filing under the Equal Pay Act, you do not need to file a charge with the EEOC or obtain a Notice-of-Right-to-Sue. You can go straight to court after experiencing the discrimination. You have 2 years from the date of the discrimination to bring the suit, or 3 years if the discrimination was willful. If you also choose to file under Title VII, however, you will need to file a charge and obtain a Notice-of-Right-to-Sue. You may file under Title VII if your charge involves discrimination based on sex in the payment of wages or benefits.
Requesting a Notice-of-Right-to-Sue Before the Investigation Concludes
Suppose you file a charge with the EEOC and are waiting for your Notice. If 180 days have passed since you filed the charge, you can request a Notice. This request should include the names of the parties and, if you have it, your charge number. The EEOC is required to release your charge, if requested, after 180 days have passed. Once you receive your Notice, the EEOC will conclude its investigation and you will be allowed to file your lawsuit in a court of law.
EEOC’s Role in Filing Lawsuits
Typically, the EEOC does not file a lawsuit for the charges it receives. This agency will grant you the permission to file a lawsuit upon conclusion of its investigation. In deciding whether to file a lawsuit on your behalf, the EEOC considers:
- The seriousness of the violation
- The type of legal issues in the case
- The wider impact the lawsuit could have in their efforts to combat workplace discrimination
Again, it is most likely that it will be left up to you, and your employment lawyer, to file.
It is important to consider all rules and timelines when it comes to filing an employment discrimination lawsuit. An employment lawyer can guide you through this process and help you understand both your options and your responsibilities.