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The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is the lead agency in the United States tasked to handle all types of employment discrimination and to ensure that equal opportunity is given to employees. According to Henry N. Drewrey, the EEOC has become very influential in directing the employment discrimination laws, obtaining relief for millions of victims of discrimination in workplaces and educating employers and employees of their rights and responsibilities under the law. (p.1)
Under EEOC rules, there are two parties who can file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC. The first is the victim or the individual who believes that his or her employment rights have been violated or that he has been aggrieved by any discriminatory act or policy of his employer may file a charge of discrimination with EEOC. The second is the individual, organization, or agency may also file a formal charge of discrimination on behalf of the victim to protect the victim’s identity.
The charge of discrimination is filed with the EEOC by filling out an intake questionnaire which can be submitted by the victim or the victim’s representatives either by mail or in person at the nearest EEOC office. Under EEOC rules, the intake questionnaire shall suffice to constitute a charge of discrimination and constitutes a clear request for the EEOC to act so long as it contains all the information required by the EEOC. In order to constitute a sufficient charge, EEOC rules require the victim to provide information about the following: 1) his name, address, and contact number; 2) name, address and contact number of the employer; 3) a short description and details about the act of discrimination being complained of by the victim; 4) date and place of the commission of the alleged violation.
As a rule, the litigation process starts with the filing of a formal complaint in court. State and federal laws require that cases be filed directly in court. There are situations however when there are preconditions prior to the filing of complaint in court. Some of the common exceptions are discrimination case arising from employer-employee relationship. US laws require that discrimination cases be filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the “EEOC” as a precondition prior to the filing of a complaint in court. Thus any person who feels aggrieved because his employment rights have been violated as a result of an unfair and unequal treatment by his employer, whether because of gender, age of race, must first file an administrative complaint before the EEOC.
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Every victim, individual, organization and agency must comply with the time limits prior to the filing of a charge of discrimination against the company. Under EEOC rules, the victim must file a charge with EEOC within 180 days from the date of the alleged violation in order to protect the victim’s rights. This means that after the lapse of the 180-day period, the victim, as a rule, may no longer file a charge for discrimination. As an exception, the 180-day period may be extended when the charge is also protected or covered by a state or local anti-discrimination law. In theory, claims under the Equal Pay Act have no time limit and need not be filed directly with the EEOC. However, since most claims under the Equal Pay Act is based on violation of Title VII of the civil rights act, it is better practice for the victim to file charges within the limit of 180 days. In all claims of discrimination, it is always better practice for the victim, the individual, organization or agency to immediately contact EEOC when discrimination is committed.
There are situations when a complaint is not only covered by EEOC but is also protected by the state and local anti-discrimination laws and agencies. These agencies enforcing discrimination laws in the state level are called “Fair Employment Practices Agencies (FEPA). In these situations, the EEOC and the FEPA have work sharing agreements to avoid duplication of efforts on the part of the agency while at the same time ensuring that the rights of the claimants are fully protected under both the federal and the state law. Thus, if a victim or claimant files a charge with a FEPA but it is also covered under federal law, the FEPA also files a charge also with the EEOC. As a matter of procedure, however, the FEPA retains and handles the charge. On the other hand, if a charge which is filed with EEOC is also covered by state or local law, the EEOC filed a charge also with the state FEPA. Also as a matter of procedure the EEOC retains and handles the case.
Upon the filing of the complaint, EEOC will proceed to gather information about the administrative charge or complaint. This process is known as the Investigation stage where the EEOC makes a written request for information, reviews people, reviews documents and visits the facility, if necessary to complete the investigation.
If upon assessment of the results of the investigation, EEOC determines that there is no merit in the charge then the EEOC may dismiss the administrative charge upon sending a notice to the victim or claimant filing the charge. If EEOC finds merit in the administrative charge then the EEOC will attempt to reach a settlement between both parties known as conciliation or mediation. It is worth stressing that the EEOC has the discretion to dismiss a charge even at the time it is filed when the results of the in-depth interview shows that no evidence can be produced to support the claim. The claim or charge may also be dismissed at any point if the investigation shows that it will not establish a violation of the law.
Aside from dismissal of the charge, the EEOC may participate in the settlement of the charge if both the victim and the respondent corporation have expressed their interest in doing so. The EEOC may also recommend that the case be recommendation under its mediation program if both parties are amenable to this option.
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