Among the numerous confusing and misunderstood things in employment law concerns the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's "right-to-sue" notice. Many potential clients and callers think this means the EEOC is informing them that they have a good case and should file a lawsuit in federal court.
However, a right-to-sue notice letter does not mean the EEOC is communicating to you that you ought to file a lawsuit, rather, this notice is the EEOC's issuing you the requisite letter that allows you to file a federal lawsuit independently as they have concluded they cannot represent you in your case.
Federal law requires this notice of right-to-sue before an individual may file a suit in federal court though there are exceptions (i.e., If you plan to file an age discrimination lawsuit, you won’t need a Notice of Right-to-Sue to file in court. You can file anytime after 60 days have passed from the day you filed your charge (but no later than 90 days after you receive notice that our investigation is concluded).
If you plan to file a lawsuit under the Equal Pay Act, you don’t have to file a charge or obtain a Notice of Right-to-Sue before filing. Rather, you can go directly to court, provided you file your suit within two years from the day the discrimination took place (3 years if the discrimination was willful).
The right-to-sue letter is issued after the EEOC has concluded its investigation and then the charging party only has 90 days to file suit in federal court or loses their right to file. A charging party does not have to wait for the EEOC to conclude their investigation to request a right-to-sue letter but does have to wait at least 180 days after the date they filed their charge.
If you have received a right-to-sue letter and are considering filing suit in federal court, it is best to seek a private employment attorney as soon as possible so that an assessment of your case can be made and the suit can be drafted and filed timely and properly.