If a person believes he or she has been discriminated against at work because of his or her race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information, he or she can file a Charge of Discrimination. A charge of discrimination is a signed statement asserting than an employer, union or labor organization engaged in employment discrimination. It requests the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) to take remedial action.
All of the laws enforced by the EEOC—except for the Equal Pay Act—require an employee to file a Charge of Discrimination with the EEOC before that person can proceed to file a job discrimination lawsuit against his or her employer. Additionally, an individual, organization or agency may file a charge on behalf of another person in order to protect the aggrieved person’s identity.
Time limits for filing a charge can differ by situation:
- In general, an employee must file a charge within 180 calendar days from the day the discrimination took place.
- The 180-day filing deadline is extended to 300 calendar days if a state or local agency enforces a law that prohibits employment discrimination on the same basis.
- The rules are slightly different for age discrimination charges.
- For age discrimination, the filing deadline is only extended to 300 days if there is a statelaw prohibiting age discrimination in employment and a state agency or authority enforcing that law. The deadline is not extended if only a local law prohibits age discrimination.
Regardless of how much time an employee has to file, it is best to file as soon as an employee has decided that is what he or she would like to do.
Time limits for filing a charge with EEOC generally will not be extended while an employee attempts to resolve a dispute through another forum such as an internal grievance procedure, a union grievance, arbitration or mediation before filing a charge with EEOC. Other forums for resolution may be pursued at the same time as the processing of the EEOC charge.
Holidays and weekends are included in the calculation, although if the deadline falls on a weekend or holiday, an employee will have until the next business day. Figuring out how much time is allotted to file a charge is complicated. Consulting with an attorney can be very important in these situations.
If More Than One Discriminatory Event Took Place:
If more than one discriminatory event took place, the deadline usually applies to each event.
For example: An employee was demoted and then fired a year later. The employee believes the employer based its decision to demote and fire the employee on his or her race, and he or she can file a charge the day after the discharge. In this case, only the claim of discriminatory discharge is timely. In other words, an employee must have filed a charge challenging the demotion within 180/300 days from the day he or she were demoted. If one was not filed, the EEOC would only investigate the discharge. There is one exception to this general rule and that is if an employee is alleging ongoing harassment.
In harassment cases, an employee must file his or her charge within 180 or 300 days of the last incident of harassment, although the EEOC will look at all incidents of harassment when investigating the charge, even if the earlier incidents happened more than 180/300 days earlier.
Equal Pay Act and Time Limits:
If an employee plans to file a charge alleging a violation of the Equal Pay Act (which prohibits sex discrimination in wages and benefits), different deadlines apply. Under the Equal Pay Act, an employee doesn’t need to file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC. Instead, he or she is allowed to go directly to court and file a lawsuit. The deadline for filing a charge or lawsuit under the EPA is two years from the day an employee received the last discriminatory paycheck (this is extended to three years in the case of willful discrimination).
Equal Pay Act, Title VII and Time Limits:
Title VII also makes it illegal to discriminate based on sex in the payment of wages and benefits. If an employee has an Equal Pay Act claim, he or she may also want to file a Title VII claim. In order to pursue a Title VII claim, the employee must file a charge with EEOC first. Filing a Title VII charge will not extend the deadline for filing an EPA lawsuit. Figuring out how much time an employee has to file a charge is complicated. It also can be difficult to figure out the pros and cons of filing a charge under the EPA instead of a lawsuit. Hoyer Law Group helps employees by explaining the different options for filing potential charges of discrimination with the EEOC.