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The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) is a United States federal agency tasked with enforcing laws that prohibit workplace discrimination. Its primary role is to investigate and address complaints related to discrimination, harassment, or wrongful termination based on factors such as race/color, gender, national origin, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, and disability. However, like most government run programs, the EEOC process is anything but perfect. Let’s take a closer look at this flawed governmental process.

What are the steps in the EEOC process?

  1. Filing a Charge:
    • To begin the EEOC process, an employee must timely file a charge with the EEOC. This involves providing details about the discrimination you faced, such as dates, events, and the people involved. Because a clerical failure to check a specific box or include certain terms could doom a claim, employees are encouraged to get assistance from a qualified employee’s rights law firm.
    • According to the EEOC’s 2023 Fiscal Report: “In fiscal year 2023, the EEOC received 522,132 calls to its 1-800 number (an almost 10% increase from fiscal year 2022) and 86,008 emails to its general information email inbox (an over 25% increase from fiscal year 2022).” This means that the EEOC does not have the resources to help employees fill out charges.
    • According to the EEOC’s Charge Statistics, 73,485 charges were directly filed with the EEOC with another 48,000 being filed dually through state agencies.
    • The EEOC will notify the employer about the charge.
  2. Mediation:
    • If the EEOC has resources available and both sides agree, the EEOC will offer the parties the opportunity to mediate the charges.
    • The EEOC will not provide assistance to the employee during the mediation process.
    • Approximately, 86 percent of employers hire attorneys or have inhouse attorneys to best handle the EEOC process, including mediation.
    • The EEOC provided mediation 6,272 times in the last reported year. This means that according to the EEOC’s statistics only approximately 13 percent of charges filed will be given the opportunity to mediate. According to our internal statistics, our employment discrimination attorneys reach EEOC mediation in about 17 to 20 percent of the cases.
  3. Investigation:
    • The EEOC will gather information from both the employee and employer. This may include interviews, documents, and any relevant evidence.
    • The goal is for the EEOC to determine if it believes there’s enough evidence to support your claim of discrimination.
    • There are 57 EEOC full-time investigators in the entire country, which means that they each average about 1,289 cased per year.
    • According to the EEOC, the average investigation will take about 10 months and then will be submitted for a decision. However, investigations regularly last over a year and our employee’s rights lawyers have had individuals ask for help after their charges have been pending for two or three years.
  4. Decision:
    • The EEOC will issue either a Reasonable Cause Finding or No Reasonable Cause Finding.
    • The EEOC will issue a No Reasonable Cause Finding when it believes that insufficient evidence was presented during the investigation to support a discrimination or retaliation claim. In such cases, the complainant receives a Right-To-Sue Letter, allowing the employee to pursue a discrimination or wrongful termination case in court.
    • The EEOC will issue a Reasonable Cause Finding if it believes that there is currently sufficient merit to the claim. Only about 25 percent of charges that are submitted for determination will receive a Reasonable Cause Finding. In those cases, the EEOC may do one or more of the following: (a) return the case to mediation in an attempt to negotiate a resolution; (b) issue a Right-To-Sue Letter; or (c) opt to directly sue the employer.
    • According to the EEOC’s End Litigation Round-Up for Fiscal Year 2023, the EEOC “filed 143 new employment discrimination lawsuits in fiscal year 2023.” This means that the EEOC will only choose to litigate 0.19 percent of charges. These daunting numbers get even worse when you consider that 41.7 of the cases chosen for litigation by the EEOC involve large groups of employees. This means that individual charge filers have only a 0.08 percent chance of the EEOC actually moving forward into litigation with their claims,
    • Inverting this calculation demonstrates that there is a 99.92 percent chance that any individual filing a charge of employment discrimination or retaliation will eventually receive a Right-To-Sue Letter, requiring the employee to hire a private attorney and proceed to litigation.
    • Regardless of how the EEOC process ends, whether it be with a Reasonable Cause or No Reasonable Cause Finding, the EEOC’s determination has absolutely no impact on the eventual litigation. Essentially, this means that employees will likely wait a year or more to get a determination that has absolutely no bearing at all on the litigation.
    • It is important to further understand that should the EEOC opt to prosecute the claim, the EEOC takes over all decision-making authority, including when to settle and on what terms.

Do I have to wait for the investigation to be complete to get the Right-To-Sue Letter?

No. Requesting a Right-To-Sue Letter from the EEOC is a crucial step when an individual wants to pursue their discrimination claim in court. A Right-To-Sue Letter can be requested 180 days after the initial charge was filed. Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), and  Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (“ADEA”), an employee will have 90 to sue once the EEOC issues the Right-To-Sue Letter.

When the EEOC issues the Right-To-Sue Letter, the EEOC will close its investigation into the workplace discrimination and administratively dismiss charge. The administrative closure of the charge is procedural; is not determination on the merits; and, again, has no impact on future litigation.

Should I request a Right-To-Sue Letter early?

In almost all circumstances, the answer is yes, but because every situation is different, it is best for each employee to consult with an employment discrimination law firm. Generally, there are several benefits for requesting a Right-To-Sue Letter early, including:

  1. Faster Resolution: The EEOC process can be time-consuming. Requesting the right to sue allows you to move forward more quickly, especially if you want to pursue legal action promptly.
  2. More Control: When you request the right to sue, you and your attorney gain more control over the timeline and strategy. You are not bound by the EEOC’s schedule, giving you the flexibility to pursue legal action when it makes the most sense for your case. Additionally, you get to control the settlement parameters – not the EEOC.
  3. Preservation of Evidence: Waiting for the EEOC process to conclude may result in the loss of crucial evidence over time, such as the retention of documents or electronically stored information. Likewise, delays caused by the EEOC may cause you to lose access to witness or for those witnesses to be less reliable. Requesting the Right-To-Sue Letter ensures that evidence is preserved and remains relevant for legal proceedings.
  4. Strategic Considerations: Your attorney might have strategic reasons for requesting the Right-To-Sue Letter. For example, the lawyers may believe that a court setting provides a better chance of success or settlement than continuing forward with the EEOC process.
  5. Limited EEOC Remedies: The remedies offered by the EEOC, such as reinstatement or back pay, might be limited. By going to court, you may have access to a broader range of remedies, including compensatory and punitive damages.

In summary, requesting the right to sue offers a more expedited and controlled path for resolving discrimination claims. It allows for strategic decision-making and can lead to a more comprehensive resolution through legal avenues.

Can I submit an EEOC charge on my own?

You can – but you should not. The EEOC process, while seeming simple on the surface, is very complicated. One false step may cause you to lose your claims entirely, but not taking the appropriate action may cause your charge to languish is EEOC limbo for years. You best legal option is to call the right attorney to schedule a free and confidential consultation. (Read: What is the Spitz No Fee Guarantee?). Call our top employment lawyers in Ohio, Michigan, North Carolina, and Kentucky to get help now. Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm and its experienced attorneys are dedicated to protecting employees’ rights and solving employment disputes.

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This employment law website is an advertisement. The race, gender, and national origin discrimination materials available at the top of this page and at this wrongful termination and retaliation website are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. If  you are being  discriminated because you Black or sexually harassed, it would be in your best interest to contact our top attorneys to obtain advice with respect to any particular employment law issue or problem. Use and access to this employment law website or any of the links contained within the site do not create an attorney-client relationship. The legal opinions expressed at or through this site are the opinions of the individual lawyer and may not reflect the opinions of The Spitz Law Firm, Brian Spitz, or any individual attorney.

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