An employment discrimination claim is a charge filed by an employee or potential employee who believes he or she was harmed by employment discrimination. Filing an employment discrimination claim is often the first step a person takes when seeking relief from illegal employment practices.

Filing an employment discrimination claim

Any employment discrimination claim based on race, color, religion, sex, pregnancy, national origin, age, or disability should be filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC enforces the federal employment laws that prohibit discrimination in any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, advancement, pay, and benefits. Discriminatory practices such as harassment or retaliation for opposing discriminatory behavior are also illegal under federal laws. Most employers are required to uphold federal anti-discrimination laws.

You must include your name, address, and phone number; the employer's name, address, and phone number; and the date and description of the incident on your employment discrimination claim. You don't need a lawyer to make a claim. You may file by mail or in person, or another person or group can file on your behalf.

You have 180 days from the date of the incident to file your claim. The deadline is extended to 300 days if the charge is also covered by a state anti-discrimination law. For claims involving gender-based wage discrimination, there are no set time limits to file. For best results, claims should be filed as soon as possible.

State laws may offer additional anti-discrimination protections based on considerations such as sexual orientation or marital status. You must also file with the appropriate state agency if the incident was a violation of state law.

If you wish to file a private lawsuit, you must file a claim with the EEOC prior to going to court. This is mandatory in all cases except those involving gender-based wage discrimination charges (violations of the Equal Pay Act).

Resolving an employment discrimination claim

Once you have filed charges, the EEOC notifies the employer and starts an investigation. The EEOC may request information, review documents, interview people, and visit the workplace in the course of an investigation. At any stage of the investigation, the EEOC may attempt to resolve the claim through either its own investigators or through mediation if both parties wish to seek a settlement.

If the EEOC determines a violation hasn't occurred, your charge is dismissed and you can file a private lawsuit if you wish to do so. If the EEOC determines a violation occurred, the agency may attempt to settle the claim informally, file a lawsuit, or give you the right to file a lawsuit on your own. You must file a private lawsuit within 90 days of receiving notice from the EEOC.

Additional resources:

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission: Federal Laws Prohibiting Job Discrimination Questions and Answers

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission: Filing a Charge of Employment Discrimination