Best Ohio Employment Discrimination Attorney Replies: What should I include in my EEOC charge for national origin discrimination claims? What happens to my age discrimination and wrongful termination claims if I don’t file my EEOC charge out right? If my EEOC charge is defective, will it hurt my sexual harassment lawsuit?
Many times, when an employee believes that he or she is being harassed or discriminated against by an employer, the employee will pursue a charge of discrimination through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC“). However, many employees pursue and file these charges without consulting with an attorney first, without knowing the ins-and-outs of what should be in the charge (and what shouldn’t), and without knowing other important necessities such as:
- What happens with my gender discrimination charge after my charge is filed?
- How long will my race discrimination charge take to be investigated?
- What happens if my religious discrimination charge is dismissed?
- Can I file a disability discrimination lawsuit if I also file a charge?
- How are my employment discrimination charge and lawsuit interconnected or reliant on one another?
- How do long do I have to file with the EEOC before I lose my pregnancy discrimination claim?
- Does the EEOC take LGBT discrimination claims?
These are just some of the basic questions that usually an employment attorney can answer for the employee, especially if the employee is represented at the time an EEOC charge is pursued. In fact, in many cases, the attorney will know whether the employee should bother with an EEOC charge in the first place because the filing of a charge can and will likely affect a subsequent lawsuit, especially if the charge is defective in any way. Our employment lawyers have regularly blogged about some of the problems and traps that filing with the EEOC on your own can cause. (See Top Employment Law Attorney: Do Not File With The EEOC Without Doing This First; File With The EEOC Or Get A Lawyer? Call The Right Attorney; Should I Get A Lawyer To Help Me File An EEOC Charge?; and Should I File With The EEOC On My Own? Call The Right Attorney).
Let’s look at a recent example where an employee did not have an attorney to help her through the EEOC process and it ended up costing her dearly. In Ward v. STG International, Inc., the United States District Court District of Maryland was presented with a motion to dismiss filed by an employer against its former employee, Meana Ward, who filed a lawsuit after first pursuing a charge through the EEOC. Ward, an African-American employee, reported sexual harassment of one of her subordinates by another co-worker. Thereafter, Ward experienced what she felt to be racial discrimination, a hostile workplace, and retaliation for her protected activity. Thereafter, STG terminated Ward on June 27, 2006, which prompted her to file a charge of discrimination with the Maryland Office of Human Rights (similar to Ohio’s Civil Rights Commission). The charge was then automatically cross-filed with the EEOC.
The EEOC administrative process ended on September 30, 2014, resulting in the EEOC issuing Ward a Right to Sue letter. Thereafter, within 90 days of receiving the Right to Sue letter, but more than eight-and-a-half years after her termination, Ward filed a lawsuit against STG asserting claims for race discrimination, hostile work environment and retaliation (based both on federal law and Maryland law). Take a moment to consider that it took the EEOC over eight years to conclude its investigation and the only thing that the EEOC did was give Ward permission to sue. Had Ward been represented by the best employment lawyers that she could find, they would been able to get the Right to Sue Letter earlier and pushed the process along.
However, that did not happen and when Ward finally filed her employment discrimination, retaliation, and wrongful termination lawsuit, STG filed a motion to dismiss. After Ward was allowed to amend her complaint once, STG filed a second motion to dismiss. The Court points out in its opinion that, “at the time, she was unrepresented, and issues of exhaustion of administrative remedies and timeliness were evident on the face of her Complaint.”
The court first looked at Ward’s federal claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), noting that a federal court “lacks subject matter jurisdiction” over Title VII claims for which a plaintiff has failed to exhaust administrative remedies. The first problem for Ward was that her EEOC charge failed to allege that she was discriminated against (or subjected to a hostile work environment) based on her race. Rather, her EEOC charge was centered on a claim of retaliation after she complained about sexual harassment. As such, because the EEOC charge did not mention race discrimination, it was defective and incomplete. Therefore, Ward did not properly exhaust her administrative remedies regarding her race discrimination claim so the claim was dismissed.
The court then examined Ward’s retaliation claim, which had been properly pled from the EEOC charge; however, the court still dismissed the claim, finding that Ward failed to state a claim under the law based on the averments in her complaint. In total, the court dismissed Ward’s entire case.
The Ward case is one of many examples where an employee “goes at it alone” in filing an EEOC charge of discrimination, and it ends up costing the employee in the end, both in terms of time and money. In Ward, the employee committed several errors: (1) she waited too long before requesting the Right to Sue letter, allowing over eight years to go by before filing her lawsuit, which allowed the time limitations (statutes of limitations) to all expire regarding her state law claims, leaving her only with the federal law claims; and (2) her EEOC charge did not include a complaint of race discrimination nor did she amend the charge at any time to add the race discrimination component, which as explained by the court, resulted in the dismissal of Ward’s race discrimination claim in her lawsuit because she failed to “exhaust her administrative remedies” (meaning she failed to include the claim in her EEOC charge). So, instead of having several federal and state law claims at her disposal, Ward was left with a single claim, retaliation under Title VII, which the court dismissed for other reasons.
This is why employees should not “go at it alone.” Even though the EEOC process is free, it will end up costing the employee in the end if the process is not handled correctly and timely. The best course of action is to call the right attorney to schedule a free and confidential consultation. At the Spitz Law Firm, you will meet with an employment lawyer who will be able to assist you with the EEOC process and may even be able to decide whether the EEOC process if right for you in the first place.
If you are searching “I need a lawyer because I have been wrongfully fired or terminated;” or “I have been discriminated against or harassed based on my …” race, national origin, gender, age, religion or disability; or even think that you might need an employment lawyer, then it would be best to call the right attorney to schedule a free and confidential consultation at (216) 291-4744. The Spitz Law Firm and its attorneys are experienced and dedicated to protecting employees’ rights and solving employment disputes.
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