The EEOC, or Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, is a United States government agency that is in charge of investigating complaints of discrimination and retaliation and to enforce the anti-discrimination laws. In appropriate circumstances, the EEOC will file their own lawsuits against employers who discriminate against employees based on national origin, race, sex, religion, age, or disability. The agency derives its authority from such laws as:
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
Equal Pay Act
Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA)
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
Many employment discrimination laws, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, and the Equal Pay Act require that before a lawsuit is filed, the complaining employee file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC setting forth the facts supporting the claim. However, the complaint process can be confusing and difficult to understand for most people. There are strict time limits on the filing of EEOC charges. Further, if the charge of discrimination does not set forth all bases for the claim, it is possible for the employee to forfeit his or her right to pursue the claim in court. For these reasons, an employee who believes that he or she is the victim of unlawful employment discrimination or retaliation should consult an experienced employment lawyer before filing a charge with the EEOC and even before complaining to their employer. If you are considering filing a discrimination claim with the EEOC, you should contact our lawyers in Florida first. We can give you the invaluable advice you need to make your claim a success.
Similarly, the FCHR serves many of the same functions as the EEOC, except at the state level. If you have a cause finding from either the EEOC or FCHR, it is imperative that you contact us immediately.
The Discrimination Claim Process
If you feel that you have experienced discrimination at work, you may need to file a claim against your employer. It may be appropriate to file a claim with both state authorities and the EEOC; our lawyers are experienced in Florida law and will assist you every step of the way.
The complaint filed with the EEOC must be very detailed and include dates and descriptions of the discrimination that you experienced. Witnesses and additional documents are usually very helpful. The purpose of your claim is to convince the EEOC that your discrimination case has merit and should be pursued legally. The initial claim should be as complete and concise as possible; therefore, assistance from qualified EEO lawyers can be extremely beneficial.
Once the EEOC accepts your claim, it is supposed to investigate the matter by talking to your witnesses and your employer. Naturally, some employers become very upset in this situation and try to punish the employees bringing the complaint against them. This punishment, also known as retaliation, is illegal and can be the basis of further lawsuits brought against them.
The EEOC filing process can be complicated and confusing. It is very easy for employees to make significant errors and omissions in their EEOC charges which often lead to the employee forfeiting part, if not all, of his or her claim. For this reason, it is important that an employee who believes he or she has been discriminated against speak to an experienced employment lawyer as soon as possible, preferably before the employee attempts to file a charge with the EEOC or even before the employee has complained to his or her employer.
EEOC Settlement of Claims
After the EEOC has investigated your claim, it will issue a determination. If the EEOC finds that there is reason to believe unlawful discrimination has occurred, it will issue a “cause” determination. If it believes no such discrimination has occurred, it will issue a “no cause” determination. If a “cause” determination has been issued, the EEOC attempts to resolve the complaint through a mediation process called “conciliation.” This process is most effective when the employee’s claim is of low value (under $20,000). If the EEOC cannot broker a settlement, it will issue a “right to sue” letter to the complaining employee. In Florida, an employee must file his or her lawsuit based on the claims submitted to the EEOC within ninety days of receiving the right to sue letter. If the employee waits even one extra day, his or right to sue the employer for these claims is likely lost forever.
The Florida Commission on Human Relations
Section 760.10 of the Florida Statutes provides that it is unlawful for an employer to ” . . . discharge or fail or refuse to hire any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s . . . age.”
The Florida Legislature enacted the Florida Civil Rights Act of 1992 which took effect on October 1, 1992. This law provides for a trial by jury and permits a court to award compensatory damages, i.e., pain and suffering, mental anguish, etc. and punitive damages not to exceed $100,000.00.
To take advantage of this law, the party must initially file a charge of discrimination with the Florida Commission on Human Relations (FCHR) within 365 days of the last act of discrimination. After conducting its investigation, if the FCHR determines that there is reasonable cause to believe that discrimination exists, the employee may bring a civil action for damages against the wrongdoer and/or employer.