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Do I have to file with the EEOC before I can go to court?

When it comes to filing a claim of discrimination, retaliation, or harassment in the workplace, it is important to understand the proper steps to take to protect your rights and ensure that your case is handled most efficiently and effectively as possible. One of the key questions that many individuals have is whether or not they must file with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) before they can go to court.


The short answer is that, in most discrimination and retaliation cases, an individual must file a charge of discrimination (complaint) with the EEOC before pursuing a lawsuit in court. The EEOC is a federal agency that is responsible for enforcing laws that prohibit discrimination in the workplace. This includes discrimination based on factors such as race, sex, gender, age, national origin, sexual orientation, disability, religion, pregnancy, etc.


Filing a Claim With the EEOC


When an individual believes they have been the victim of discrimination, retaliation or harassment in the workplace, they can file a charge with the EEOC. There are different deadlines to file the charge depending on the law the employer violated. Most charges need to be filed within 180 or 300 days of the alleged incident. If the charge is filed after the deadline, the employee may have lost the ability to pursue their claim further. Once the charge is filed, the EEOC may give the parties the opportunity to participate in voluntary mediation. If mediation fails or doesn’t occur, the EEOC may investigate the claim and determine whether or not there is sufficient evidence to support the allegations in the charge.


If the EEOC finds enough evidence to support the claim, they may attempt to reach a settlement with the employer or file a lawsuit on the employee’s behalf. If the EEOC does not file a lawsuit, they will issue a Dismissal and Notice of Right to Sue.


Dismissal and Notice of Right to Sue


A Dismissal and Notice of Right to Sue typically means that the EEOC has determined there is not enough evidence to support the allegations in the charge. It also means that the EEOC will not take any further action on the case and will not file a lawsuit on the individual’s behalf.


However, receiving a Dismissal and Notice of Right to Sue does not mean the individual’s legal rights are extinguished, nor does it mean that there is no claim. They still have the right to file a lawsuit in federal court within 90 days of receiving the Notice. The individual must prove that the discrimination or retaliation has happened, and the burden of proof is on them.


Letter of Determination and Right to Sue


The EEOC may issue a Letter of Determination if they find evidence of discrimination or retaliation during their investigation. This letter is sent to both parties, and the EEOC will attempt to reach a settlement out of court. If a settlement cannot be reached, the EEOC will issue the employee a Right to Sue letter, allowing them to file a lawsuit in federal court within 90 days.


Exceptions


It is important to note that there are some exceptions to the rule that an individual must file a claim with the EEOC before going to court. These exceptions include but are not limited to, instances where the EEOC does not have jurisdiction over the case, the claim is filed under a state or local law, or the employer has fewer than 15 employees.


Robinson Law Offices Can Help


In conclusion, it is generally required to file a claim with the EEOC before going to court for discrimination, retaliation, or harassment in the workplace. However, there are some exceptions. If you believe you have been the victim of discrimination or retaliation, it is crucial to speak with an experienced employment law attorney who can advise you on the proper steps to take and help you navigate the legal process.


Don’t let discrimination or retaliation go unresolved. Contact Robinson Law Offices today to schedule a consultation with an experienced employment law attorney and learn about your rights and options for seeking justice.

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