How Do I File a Federal Claim?


Can I file a federal claim of employment discrimination?


Yes. You can file a claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The laws enforced by the EEOC require you to file a complaint with the EEOC before you can bring a lawsuit in court. Additionally, if you are alleging unfair pay, you can also bring a claim under the Equal Pay Act of 1963. An EEOC complaint is not required if you wish to bring suit under the Equal Pay Act, but as many of these cases also fall under Title VII discrimination, it is strongly advised that you file an EEOC charge.


What is the EEOC?


The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is an independent federal agency designed to enforce Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination in the workplace. The EEOC carries out enforcement, education and assistance through their 50 field offices throughout the country.


How do I file a claim with the EEOC?


You can file a charge in person, by mail, or by phone. You must contact your local EEOC office. It is located at Dr. A.H. McCory Federal Building, 100 West Capital St., Suite 207, Jackson, MS 39269. The phone number is (601) 965-4537. Additionally, if this is not in your immediate area, you can call toll-free, (800) 669-4000.


Who can I file a claim against?


You can file a claim under Title VII or the Equal Pay Act against your employer, provided your employer is covered under the relevant law. Title VII applies to both public and private employers who employ at least 15 people, though limited exceptions apply. Elected officials, their personal staff, and any political appointees are exempt from this definition. The Equal Pay Act covers virtually all employers.


If I choose to file a claim, what is expected of me?


You must file the claim within 180 days of the alleged discriminatory act. You must include your name, address, and telephone number. You must also provide the name, address, and telephone number of the employer, employment agency, or labor union against who you are filing your complaint against. You must also provide the number of employees, if known.


Your complaint must contain a short description of the discrimination and the dates these violations occurred. In order to be effective, your complaint must provide as much information as possible. You should also try to include any documents that may support your complaint, as well as the names and addresses of any witnesses who may be able to provide additional information.


It may be possible to remain anonymous by not including your name when filing the EEOC complaint. However, it may be impossible for the EEOC to investigate your complaint without knowing your identity. If you wish to remain anonymous, contact your local EEOC office for additional information about your options.


How long will the process take?


The process can take anywhere from a few months to a few years. The circumstances of your complaint and the caseload of the individual EEOC office can affect the time frame. Mediation may help speed up the claim.


Do I need an attorney?


No. You do not need an attorney to file a charge with the EEOC. If, after finishing the EEOC process, you decide to pursue a private lawsuit in federal court against your employer, you will need to retain the services of an attorney.


Where do I find an attorney?


There are many resources available to help you find an attorney. You can contact Mississippi legal services. In addition, you can also investigate the services offered by the Mississippi Volunteer Lawyers Project.


Do I have to contact the EEOC?


Yes. In order to bring a claim of federal discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, you must first file a charge with your local EEOC office. All laws enforced by the EEOC require you to file a charge before you are allowed to bring a private lawsuit.


What happens after I submit my charge?


After submitting your charge, the EEOC will notify the employer and investigate the complaints by interviewing witnesses, requesting documents, and gathering evidence. The EEOC may discuss evidence with the charging party (you) and/or the employer. They will then determine whether or not any illegal discrimination has occurred.


The EEOC can seek to settle the charge at any stage of the investigation. In addition, the EEOC may recommend that you try to resolve this dispute through their mediation program.


What happens if the investigators determine that no "reasonable" or "probable" cause exists to base a claim on?


If the EEOC determines, through their investigation, no discrimination has occurred, they will issue a notice to the charging party (you). This notice effectively closes the case and gives the charging party (you) the opportunity to file a lawsuit against the employer within 90 days.


What happens if the investigator determines that "reasonable" or "probable" cause exists on which to base a claim?


If the EEOC determines that discrimination has occurred, they will contact both the employer and the charging party (you) with a letter of determination that explains their findings. The EEOC will then work with the employer to attempt to remedy the discrimination.


If charge is successfully remedied, either through conciliation, mediation, or settlement, neither the EEOC nor the charging party may bring a lawsuit against the employer. If the employer does not honor the agreement reached with the EEOC, the EEOC and/or the charging party may file a lawsuit against the employer.


If the EEOC is not able to remedy the situation by reaching an agreement with the employer, it will decide whether or not to bring suit in a federal court. If the EEOC decides not to sue the employer, if will give the charging party (you) notice that you may bring a lawsuit in 90 days.


What is a "right to sue" letter?


A "right to sue" letter is the notice given to you by the EEOC when it has finished its work on your charge. This can be granted at the end of the investigation if it determines no discrimination was found. The EEOC can also issue the letter if the EEOC cannot reach an agreement with the employer or does not want to bring suit against the employer.


Can I appeal a decision of the Commission?


Yes. After the EEOC administrative judge issues a ruling, the agency has 40 days to issue a final order. The agency may also initiate an appeal of the judgment if it disagrees with the result. If you are unhappy with the EEOC's final action, you may appeal to the EEOC within 30 days of receiving their final decision.


What if I don't want to sue?


You can take advantage of the EEOC's mediation program.


How does EEOC mediation program work?


Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution. In other words, mediation is a process for resolving disputes without going to court. An EEOC mediator attempts to help you and your employer identify what the problem is and figure out how it might be solved. You may discover during mediation that your employer was unaware of an issue, or did not realize the seriousness of your concern, or did not know how to address the problem. In any of these cases, EEOC mediation can open the lines of communication and help you and your employer find a manageable solution.


Do I have a right to mediation?


Not always. The EEOC evaluates each charge and considers whether it is appropriate for mediation. The EEOC will not mediate charges it has found to be without merit.


How can I convince my employer to participate in mediation?


The EEOC highlights several aspects of mediation, which may be appealing to your employer:

(1) Mutual satisfaction. The EEOC employs trained mediators who know how to facilitate communication between people who disagree.


(2) Speed. On average, mediation is almost twice as fast as an EEOC investigation. For instance, the EEOC reports that, in fiscal year 2003, mediated cases took an average of 85 days to resolve, versus 160 days for the traditional investigative process.


(3) Confidentiality. The process is highly confidential. The EEOC mediator alone knows what is said during mediation. No transcript is made, and notes the mediator takes during sessions are destroyed at the end of mediation. Information revealed during mediation is not shared, even with other EEOC employees. EEOC investigators do not hear what happens in mediation, and so mediation cannot influence the outcome of an investigation.


(4) Cost. Besides the value to a business in addressing employee disputes, mediation is generally much less expensive than going to court. In addition to reducing legal fees, depending on the nature of the problem, mediation may make it possible to address a problem through policy changes that may have little financial cost to an employer.


To watch a free video on the mediation process, see Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.


How does mediation start?


After you file a charge with the EEOC, you or your employer may request mediation or EEOC may suggest it. Mediation may happen at the same time as an EEOC investigation, or it may follow an investigation.


What if I try mediation and the dispute is not resolved?


The case returns to the investigative unit or, if the investigation is complete and you have been offered the right to sue, you may sue.


What does mediation cost?


There is no charge for mediation.


How do I find out more about mediation?


See, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.




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