How Do I File a Claim?
Do I have to go through the Maine Human Rights Commission (MHRC) in order to sue my employer for workplace discrimination?
Yes, you must file with the MHRC in order to pursue a private lawsuit against your employer if you want to recover monetary damages and attorney fees. However, if the MHRC has not filed a private lawsuit on your behalf or arbitrated an agreement with your employer within 180 days, you may request a right-to-sue letter from the MHRC that will allow you to pursue your claim in court and be awarded with damages and attorney fees.
When must a claim be filed?
A claim must be filed as soon as possible after the alleged act of discrimination occurs, but no later than 6 months after the discrimination occurs.
How must a claim be filed?
A claimant must submit a form in person or by mail. FAX and internet submissions are not accepted.
Where must the claim be filed?
A claim must be filed at the office of the Maine Human Rights Commission, 51 State House Station, Augusta, ME 04333-0051.
How do I start the charge process?
The charge process can be started by calling, writing, or visiting the Commission office where an intake questionnaire can be completed and submitted. An intake officer will then assist in the preparation of the charge.
What information should the charge contain?
The charge should contain a brief statement of the facts and circumstances surrounding the alleged act of discrimination. The charge must be submitted under oath in front of a notary public or other person authorized to administer oaths.
Must I file a state claim with the Human Rights Commission and a federal claim with the EEOC?
No. The Human Rights Commission and EEOC have a work-sharing agreement. You can file one complaint with either agency and request a cross-claim with the other agency. If your employer has less than 15 employees, you should file your complaint with the Human Rights Commission, because the EEOC only applies to employers with 15 or more employees.
The nearest EEOC office is located in Boston at the John F. Kennedy Federal Building, 475 Government Center, Boston, MA 02203. Their phone number is 1-800-669-4000.
What happens after I file a charge?
After you file a charge and before an investigation is undertaken, the Commission will offer you and your employer the opportunity to resolve the alleged unlawful discrimination through settlement.
What is Settlement?
Settlement is when you and your employer agree on ways to resolve the issues raised in your charge. Settlement allows parties to tailor an agreement that addresses their specific issues and is a relatively quick and inexpensive way to secure a desired outcome. The Commission strongly encourages both you and your employer to settle a case before a formal investigation into your charge begins. If you are able to reach a settlement, the Commission will dismiss your charge and your employer will be held to the terms of the settlement agreement.
What if my charge is not settled?
If your charge is not settled, the Commission will conduct a preliminary investigation to determine whether there are reasonable grounds to conclude that an act of unlawful discrimination has occurred.
What happens during the investigation?
The Commission can investigate the employment premises, review records and documents, and interview individuals who are necessary for determining whether there are reasonable grounds to conclude that an act of unlawful discrimination has occurred. The investigation may also include a fact-finding conference during which both you and your employer, along with any necessary witnesses, will meet with the investigator to lay out the facts surrounding the alleged act of unlawful discrimination.
The investigator is an impartial evaluator and will make a determination based on the facts and evidence he or she discovers during the course of the investigation.
Do I need an attorney?
You may choose whether you wish to be represented by an attorney. If you decide to retain counsel, you should notify the commission so that they will forward all relevant documents directly to your attorney.
What happens at the conclusion of the investigation?
When the Commission has concluded its investigation it will take one of two steps. If it determines that there are no reasonable grounds to conclude that an unlawful act of discrimination has occurred, it will issue a letter dismissing the complaint. On the other hand, if the investigator believes there are reasonable grounds, the complaint will be listed on a published commission meeting agenda.
What actions will the Commission take when there are reasonable grounds to conclude that an act of unlawful discrimination has occurred?
The Commission will review the investigator's report and hear oral arguments during a public meeting of the Commission.
There are two methods that the Commission uses to addresses charges where reasonable grounds are established. First, when there are no extenuating circumstances, such as threatened loss of employment, severe financial loss, or threat of personal injury, the Commission will attempt to resolve the charge through informal means. These informal means include conferences, persuasion, and conciliation agreements.
What if informal means fail?
If the Commission is unable to resolve the charge through conciliation, or if there are serious extenuating circumstances, the Committee will file a lawsuit in Superior Court.
Who pays for the lawsuit?
The Commission brings a civil action in its own name and provides counsel.
What is a right to sue letter?
If you want to file a civil action directly in Superior Court, and if your charge has been filed with the Commission for 180 days or more, you can request a right to sue letter. The Commission will immediately stop investigation of your claim and dismiss your charge.
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