I am a California attorney and cannot give legal advice in your state. My comments are information only, based on federal law and general legal principles. YOUR STATE MAY HAVE ITS OWN LAWS THAT OFFER SIMILAR OR GREATER PROTECTION. If I mention your state’s laws, it only means I did a quick Internet search and found something that looked relevant. You MUST check with an attorney licensed in your state to learn your rights.
I'm sure this is a very frustrating situation for you, especially these days when it is so hard to find any work at all.
Yes, you can file an EEOC claim without knowing the real situation, and you can say you believe you have been discriminated against because you have not been hired even though you are qualified. But don't expect that claim to go very far. There are several parts to a discrimination claim and your facts only address the first (and easiest) parts. Please keep reading.
Many people misunderstand the meaning of employment discrimination. “Discrimination” does not mean an employer has to be fair, respectful or has to make good decisions. Workplace discrimination means the employer treats one person or group differently from others who are not in the same group, but are similarly situated.
The only workplace discrimination that is illegal is discrimination that is against public policy. Public policy refers only to things that are specifically prohibited by a statute (law) enacted by the legislature, or prohibited by a regulation promulgated (established) by a government agency. Under federal law, public policy includes statutes prohibiting discrimination against people in specific protected groups, which include sex, race, national origin, disability, age (40 years and older), religion, marital status, pregnancy and genetic information. Sexual harassment is considered a form of sex discrimination. There is no federal protection for sexual orientation discrimination, but many states provide this protection.
Public policy also protects people who blow the whistle on a matter of public concern, complain about improper wage and hour practices, and a few more rights protected by statute.
An employer cannot refuse to hire, refuse to promote, change terms of employment or fire an employee if the reason for the change is against the law (against public policy). For example, an employer cannot increase your workload because of your race, sex, national origin, religion, etc. or because you blew the whistle on safety violations.
There are various ways to enforce these rights, depending on the particular public policy involved. For more information on employment discrimination, please see my Avvo guide on this subject: http://www.avvo.com/legal-guides/ugc/what-is-unlawful-employment-discrimination--federal-law?published=true.
The harsh reality is employees and job applicants have very few employment rights, and employers have a lot of leeway in how they choose to run their businesses. In general, an employer can be unfair, obnoxious or bad at management. There are some limitations, mostly in the areas of public policy (such as discrimination law), contract law, union-employer labor relations, and constitutional due process. Please look at my Avvo guide to at-will employment which may help you understand employment rights: http://www.avvo.com/legal-guides/ugc/an-overview-of-at-will-employment-all-states.
After you take a look at the guide I linked to above, you may be able to identify actions or behavior that fits one of the categories that allows for legal action. If so, an experienced plaintiffs employment attorney may be helpful. Be prepared to discuss why you believe you should have been selected, given the probability that there were scores of other equally well-qualified applicants (given the economy) or even better-qualified applicants.
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*** All legal actions have time limits, called statutes of limitation. If you miss the deadline for filing your claim, you will lose the opportunity to pursue your case. Please consult with an experienced employment attorney as soon as possible to better preserve your rights. *** Marilynn Mika Spencer provides information on Avvo as a service to the public, primarily when general information may be of assistance. Avvo is not an appropriate forum for an in-depth response or a detailed analysis. These comments are for information only and should not be considered legal advice. Legal advice must pertain to specific, detailed facts. No attorney-client relationship is created based on this information exchange. *** Marilynn Mika Spencer is licensed to practice law before all state and federal courts in California, and can appear before administrative agencies throughout the country. She is eligible to represent clients in other states on a pro hac vice basis. ***
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