How Do I File a Claim?
How do I file a state claim with the Arizona Civil Rights Division?
You can file a discrimination claim with either the state through the Arizona attorney general's Civil Rights Division (ACRD), or with the federal administrative agency, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The two agencies have a work-sharing agreement, which means that the agencies cooperate with each other to process claims. If you indicate to one of the agencies that you want to file an additional claim with the other agency, the first agency will take care of it for you.
How do I contact the Arizona Civil Rights Division?
The ACRD has four offices throughout Arizona. You can access phone numbers, addresses and complaint filing forms through the ACRD website. You can also contact your local chapter of the EEOC for more information.
Against whom can I file a claim?
You can file a claim against your employer, employment agency, labor organization or any committee controlling training or re-training programs.
If I choose to file a claim, what is expected of me?
You must file your state claim within 180 days of the date you believed you were discriminated against. If you wish to make a federal claim in court after you get a "right to sue" letter, you must do so within 300 days of the date of discrimination.
How long will the process take?
Once you file a complaint, the ACRD will serve a notice of the charge and a copy of the charge to your employer, employment agency, or labor organization within 10 days and the ACRD will begin to investigate your complaint. If 180 days have passed since you filed your complaint with the ACRD and the commission has not completed its investigation or conciliation or settlement, you may write the commission requesting a "right to sue" letter. The commission will usually issue a right to sue letter within 30 days of receiving your request. Once you receive your right to sue letter you will have 90 days to file a claim in state or federal court, and must do so no later than 2 years of the alleged date of discrimination. Once you have filed a claim in a court, it is not uncommon for cases to last a number of years.
Do I need an attorney?
If your case is resolved by an administrative agency like the ACRD or the EEOC, it is not necessary to hire an attorney or file a lawsuit. If your case is not resolved by the ACRD or EEOC, however, you may need to pursue your claim in court after you receive a right to sue letter, in which case you would need to hire an attorney.
Where do I find an attorney?
You can find an attorney through the State Bar of Arizona, which provides information on attorney referral services. You can contact the State Bar at phone number: 602-252-4804.
What if I can't afford an attorney?
The State Bar provides information about legal services for people of varying income levels. You could also get a referral for free legal service from Community Legal Services. You can contact Community Legal Services at 602.258.3434.
What will my attorney need from me?
Regardless of whether you file a claim with the ACRD, with your own attorney, or both, you will be expected to provide specific information regarding the alleged incidents. Names, numbers, and addresses of your employer and those involved in the incident, along with detailed accounts of the events, including dates and specifics, are usually expected of an employee seeking to file a claim of sexual harassment or discrimination.
Do I have to contact the Arizona Civil Rights Division?
Yes. You must file charges with either the ACRD or the EEOC before taking your claim to court.
Can I sue my employer directly without going through the Arizona Civil Rights Division?
No. You must go through the ACRD first, or your will not be able to pursue a claim under ACRA.
Who will investigate my complaint?
The ACRD will make a determination as to whether there is "reasonable cause" to believe your claim is true as promptly as possible and no later than sixty days from when you file your charge unless it is impractical to do so. If more than two years have elapsed since the alleged discrimination occurred, and if you have received a notice of right to sue, then the division may stop investigating the charges without reaching a determination. During this process, it is important to keep in mind that once you have received a right to sue letter, it is your responsibility to file a claim in court against your employer if you so choose. You cannot bring this action if more than two years have passed since the discrimination occurred.
What do I do after my initial contact with the Arizona Civil Rights Division?
After you contact the ACRD, it will determine whether or not to proceed with your claim. If it decides that there is reasonable cause to believe that your claim is true then it will try to eliminate the discrimination through conference, conciliation, or persuasion. If this occurs, you will need to consider whether you want an attorney present during the proceedings. If these proceedings fail, the ACRD may bring suit against your employer in court. If this happens you may intervene as a plaintiff.
If the Division decides not to pursue your claim it will send you a right to sue letter. At this point you will have 90 days to bring your suit in court.
If you are in need of some immediate relief from the actions of your employer, you may file for preliminary injunctive relief (which prevents your employer from continuing its discriminatory practices) prior to receiving a right to sue letter from the ACRD.
What happens after I submit my claim?
After you submit your claim, the ACRD and/or the EEOC will investigate your claim to determine whether there is "reasonable cause" on which to base the claim. This investigation into "reasonable cause" is a determination of whether or not the ACRD or EEOC feels that they have enough evidence on which to base an adequate claim of discrimination against your employer. They ARCD and/or the EEOC will make this determination as soon as possible, but no later than 60 days from the date of your filing.
What happens if the investigators determine that no "reasonable" cause exists on which to base a claim?
If the ACRD determines after investigation that no "reasonable cause" exists to believe your charge is true, then it will enter an order dismissing the charge and notify you and your employer of its action. This will happen no later than 60 days from the date you file your complaint. If reasonable cause exists, but you wish not to have the ACRD resolve the discriminatory action through conciliation, you may write the commission requesting a "right to sue" letter in order to sue in court.
What happens if the investigator determines that "reasonable" cause exists on which to base a claim?
If the division determines after investigation that there is reasonable cause to believe that the charge is true, it will enter an order containing its findings of fact and will attempt to negotiate a resolution. The ACRD must attempt to eliminate the alleged unlawful employment practice by conference, conciliation, and persuasion.
What is a "right to sue" letter?
Within 90 days after the ACRD has determined that it will not bring suit and you have not reached a resolution with your employer, you may bring a civil action against your employer. The 90-day notice given to you by the ACRD when it decides not to pursue your claim is commonly referred to as the "right to sue" letter, and you cannot file a claim in federal or state court may be brought without your receipt of such letter.
Can I appeal a decision of the Division?
You may apply for reconsideration of a dismissal of a charge within 20 days from receipt of the ACRD's decision. The ACRD may also reconsider a dismissal of the charge or any findings of fact it has issued even if you do not apply for reconsideration.
Can I file a federal claim of employment discrimination as well? If so, how?
Yes. You can file a discrimination claim either with the state, through the ACRD, or with the federal administrative agency, the EEOC. The two agencies have a work-sharing agreement, which means that the agencies cooperate with each other to process claims. If you indicate to the ACRD that you want to file an additional claim with the EEOC, the ACRD take care of it for you. Although, ultimately only one of the agencies will investigate your claim, both federal and state laws protect you against sex discrimination.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of filing a federal claim over a state claim?
Unlike federal sex discrimination law, Title VII, under ACRA you will not be able to recover punitive damages or damages for emotional distress. Emotional distress claims and claims for punitive damages can cause million-dollar verdicts. Because recovery from a federal claim is often more substantial than a state claim, you may choose to sue in state court using federal law. However, an advantage of using the ACRA is that if you win you may recover reasonable attorney fees, whereas a federal action under Title VII disfavors recovery of attorney fees.
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