This is a general guide about the process of filing a charge with the EEOC. It is always advisable to obtain legal counsel prior to filing a charge.
Timeliness of Initial Charge
After being subjected to discrimination at work, and probably after overcoming the shock of what just occurred, you may be wondering what are your options. The best option is always to contact an attorney and request a consultation so that he or she can help guide you in the right direction.
One direction you may go in is filing a charge with the EEOC. Just like any other lawsuit, there are deadlines or time restraints that you need to be aware of. As a general rule of thumb, you have 180 days to file a charge with the EEOC after the last discriminatory act by your employer. Sometimes that can be extended to 300 days, but only if certain qualifications are met so it's better to always shoot for getting the charge filed within 180 days.
Assignment of Charge Number
After you file your charge, you will be assigned a charge number. It's important to keep track of these number because it is the reference point moving and what you will have to provide to the EEOC if you call in to ask about the status of your case. The only issue with calling in is that the lines for the EEOC generally get extremely busy, and it's not uncommon to experience wait times well over an hour before you can speak with a representative. To help alleviate these wait times, the EEOC has recently debuted an online status checker, so it would be more beneficial to use that for quick status checks.
After you receive your charge number, the EEOC will eventually notify your employer about your charge. Sometimes, your employer will agree to mediation through the EEOC. Mediation is a great tool and can be used to resolve your claim early in the process, prior to any lawsuit actually being filed. In mediation, you will have the chance to present your version of facts to the mediator, and your employer will present their version of events. The mediator acts as a neutral party whose main goal is to try and get the parties to resolve their claims.
Post-Mediation and Investigation
If mediation fails, or is rejected by the employer, you may receive a response from your employer rebutting your claims. After that response, your charge will generally be assigned to an investigator who looks into the facts surrounding your EEOC charge.
Notice of Right to Sue
At some point, you may receive a notice of dismissal or notice of right to sue. This does not mean that all of your claims should be filed in federal court, but it does give you the right to do so. When you receive your right to sue, it is important to contact an attorney immediately, if you have not done so already. After you receive a right to sue, you only have 90 days to file a lawsuit in federal court, or you forfeit that right. With that said, I can not stress enough how important it is for you to retain an attorney as early in the process as possible.
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