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RE: EEOC charge letter:Are you limited to suing only based upon written charge filed or can other info be entered into lawsuit?

Los Angeles, CA |

I work for a government agency and I received eeoc "right to sue" letter after filing a charge against my employer. I don't know if when suing, I can only bring up the written info entered on the eeoc charge letter or if any other evidence and information can be brought up to prove my claim of discrimination and harassment during a trial, lawsuit, hearing

Attorney Answers 2


A person who wants to make a discrimination or harassment claim under most federal protective statutes must first exhaust their administrative remedies by filing a complaint with the EEOC. As you apparently know, you can request the EEOC to either investigate your claims which it will do and decide whether it will prosecute your claim, or you can request an immediate right to sue letter. Procuring that right to sue letter is proof that you exhausted your administrative remedies with the EEOC.

The purported purpose for the filing of an administrative complaint is to put the employer and any other possible defendants on notice of the claim. A failure to include a claim in the EEOC complaint can result in a finding that you failed to exhaust your administrative remedy as to that claim. However, there are several factors that must be considered on this issue.

First, you are not required to state all of your evidence in the EEOC complaint. You merely need to identify the wrongdoers and the claims you are making (i.e. gender discrimination, race discrimination, harassment based on religious affiliation, etc.) All of the details of those claims need not be in the complaint in order to allow you to use them to prove your case at trial.

Second, there is a rule of substantial compliance with EEOC complaints whereby if you put enough information in the complaint such that a reasonable investigation would disclose the omitted claim, it is still considered enough to exhaust the administrative remedy as to that claim. For instance, if you indicate racial harassment but don't also include a racial discrimination claim, but in your explanation of the racial harassment claim you disclose facts that would lead any reasonable investigator to find evidence of racial discrimination, a court can find that you substantially complied with the exhaustion requirement.

Third, unless the statutory time period has passed to file an EEOC complaint about the omitted claim, you can simply file another EEOC complaint with that claim in it. Unfortunately, under most federal discrimination statutes the time period is very short to file complaints with the EEOC.

Finally, there may be some remedies available to you that do not require the filing of an EEOC complaint to exhaust administrative remedies. For instance if you have a claim for race discrimination you can proceed under Section 1981 of the Civil Rights Act of 1866. You do not get some of the heightened remedies available under Title VII, but it is far better than no claim at all.

As you can probably tell, this is a very complicated area of law and I do not have enough space to explain all the ins and outs of the law on this. You should really consult with an attorney well-versed in these types of claims right away. That attorney can look at all the facts and circumstances of your claim and give you far better advice than anyone on this site can do with limited facts and space.

One final warning: You have a very short time period to file a lawsuit after getting a right to sue letter from the EEOC. If you do not file a complaint within that time period, you lose your rights to sue. Please hurry.

I wish you the best of luck.

Pedersen Heck McQueen, APLC is an employee rights law firm assisting employees in all Southern California counties.

This answer should not be construed to create any attorney-client relationship. Such a relationship can be formed only through the mutual execution of an attorney-client agreement. The answer given is based on the extremely limited facts provided and the proper course of action might change significantly with the introduction of other facts. All who read this answer should not rely on the answer to govern their conduct. Please seek the advice of competent counsel after disclosing all facts to that attorney. This answer is intended for California residents only. The answering party is only licensed to practice in the State of California.

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If you intend to sue for things that could result in an award of money that are not covered by discrimination laws, then you may well need to put the governmental agency on notice by filing an administrative claim under the appropriate tort claims act. Statutes of limitations for such claims can be short and the laws can be confusing. I recommend that you see an employment lawyer immediately, lest you forfeit rights without consciously doing so.

This answer is made available by the above lawyer for educational purposes only. It is also offered as a public service to give you general information and a general understanding of the law. This answer is not intended to give you specific legal advice. By using or participating in this site you understand that there is no attorney client privilege between you and the attorney responding. And, no attorney-client relationship has been formed. This site should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state. The information and materials provided are general in nature, and may not apply to a specific factual or legal circumstance. Only when a complete interview takes place is it reasonable to rely on legal advice.

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