Violations of the laws administered by the EEOC (and State agencies which administer state employment laws) are a threat to employees everywhere. From retail to healthcare, workers are subjected to discrimination and retaliation in the workplace. But the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and their state equivalents is the first stop as you seek protection and strict, severe punishment for such violations.
Employment law is complicated, so it is important for workers to have a general understanding of the necessary processes involved with filing a claim — and what it takes to prove one.
Here is our guide to EEOC violations to help you understand how to do just that.
What Constitutes an EEOC Violation?
Under the laws administered by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the federal agency that handles claims against employers for discrimination and retaliation, a violation occurs when an employee (or applicant) is discriminated against “because of that person’s race, color, religion, sex (including gender identity, sexual orientation, and pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information.” The EEOC administers several laws, including but not limited to Title VII, The Age Discrimination Employment Act, and The Americans with Disabilities Act, among others.
Did you get fired for reporting violations of these laws? This is called workplace retaliation. The EEOC also handles cases of retaliation, which may include someone getting fired or demoted for reporting discrimination; losing benefits or getting a reduction in wages/salary; or not receiving a promotion, among other situations.
What Are Some Examples of EEOC Violations?
There are a wide variety of actions that can occur that would constitute an EEOC violation.
Some examples include:
- Not hiring someone for a job specifically due to their race
- Sexual harassment in the workplace
- Denying a woman for a promotion because she is pregnant or may become pregnant
- Not providing reasonable accommodations for a person’s religion/religious practices
- Forcing someone to retire or quit because of their age
- Not providing reasonable accommodations for a person with a disability
If you believe you have been discriminated against in the workplace and are covered by the parameters of the EEOC, it is recommended to consult an employee rights lawyer to determine your best legal options.
How Do You File an EEOC Claim?
A claim of discrimination or retaliation can be filed in several ways: in person at a local EEOC office, by mail, or online. You can even start the process over the phone. Timing is of the essence, though, because there are statutes of limitations on EEOC violations.
You do not have to quit or have been fired to file an EEOC claim. You can go to the EEOC if you are still employed at the job where it happened.
It is important to file a claim that is thorough, accurate, and explained in a convincing manner. An employment law attorney can help you through the process of filing a claim to ensure that your rights are protected and represented.
How Do You Prove EEOC Violations?
Winning a case takes diligence, strategy, and expertise. Know that you do not have to necessarily go to court. Often an employee rights lawyer will act on behalf of the employee in negotiations with the employer. This process may include mediation. Your employer will most likely have a lawyer or a team of lawyers, and having an employment lawyer to lead as your legal advocate drives the best possible outcome.
The more detailed information that you have to prove the EEOC violation, the stronger your case will be. Any documentation you have can be very useful: emails, texts, voicemails, memos, relevant employee records such as reviews, schedules, pay stubs, or personal documentation of what occurred with location, approximate time, and date. If you think you do not have enough documentation, it is still important to consult with an attorney. You may have more evidence than you think.
Other resources that may prove valuable include eyewitness testimony from co-workers who are aware of your situation. But this can be complicated, so be sure to consult your attorney prior to taking that step.
What Kind of Penalties Are There for EEOC Violations?
As we mentioned above, a violation of the laws administered by the EEOC is serious business. If a claim is proven, the EEOC may elect to file suit against the employer, although this occurs very rarely. The employee can receive compensation for what happened. There may also be additional damages awarded to the employee (or applicant) depending on the situation.
Other results can include the employee getting their job back or receiving the promotion that they should have if they had not been discriminated against.
How Long Does the EEOC Process Take?
There are several factors involved that can affect the time that the full EEOC process takes. First, it depends on the type of claim. Once the investigation starts, the company is required to provide documents and statements to the EEOC. There may also be interviews or inspections of the workplace. Some employers are more willing and timely in their cooperation with investigations into EEOC violations.
An important note: the EEOC contacts the company within ten days of the filing of the complaint. Many cases go to mediation and not to a court of law. If you and the employer choose not to use mediation, then the EEOC will continue its investigation.
The outcome options of the investigations: the EEOC may conclude that there is reasonable to cause to believe a violation occurred. They may conclude there is no reasonable cause to believe a violation occurred. If cause is found, they will attempt to resolve the claim through conciliation. Many times, however, the EEOC will not be able to make this determination within 180 days of the filing of the charge and you may proceed to litigation, a private action in the appropriate court. You do not need to wait for a finding which may take years, depending on the workload at the EEOC, the complexities of your case, and other factors. You can also seek a right to sue letter during the course of the investigation and proceed with litigation at that time. A finding by the EEOC either for you or against you does not mean the end of the road in every case. However, a finding of no-cause can be to your disadvantage if litigation is initiated after that finds are entered. If you think this process is confusing, you are correct. An employee rights lawyer can help guide you to make the best legal decision moving forward before a charge is even filed with the EEOC.
Important note: the typical time frame to file a lawsuit under the federal laws administered by the EEOC, if appropriate, after the EEOC decision is 90 days.
Taking the Next Step
This guide is intended to provide employees with general information about EEOC violations. If you believe you have been discriminated or retaliated against at your workplace, know you have legal rights to protection under the law. Taking the next step to pursue justice is your right as an employee, regardless of what a bullying employer might tell you.
Contact Wenzel Fenton Cabassa, P.A. today to set up a free consultation.
We fight hard for your rights.