How Do I File A Claim?
How do I file a state claim with the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, Equal Rights Division ("Equal Rights Division")?
If you believe you have been discriminated against you can file a complaint with the Equal Rights Division by filling out a complaint form within three hundred (300) days of when you were last discriminated against. If you filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), that enforces federal employment discrimination law; this date will count as if you filed with the Equal Rights Division. You can either download a form from the Division's website, or request one by mail. Once completed, you must mail your complaint form to the equal rights division. Follow the links below for forms and contact information.
How do I contact the Equal Rights Division?
You can contact the Equal Rights Division by telephone, mail or TTY if you are hearing impaired. Click here to contact the Equal Rights Division.
Against whom can I file a claim?
You can file a claim against your employer, labor organization, employment agency or licensing agency if you were discriminated against during the course of you work.
If I choose to file a claim, what is expected of me?
To fill out the complaint form you will need to give contact information for yourself, a friend or family member who will know how to contact you, and your employer. You will also need to indicate what form of discrimination you suffered and give a brief description of the events that motivated you to file a complaint. After you file your complaint you may be asked to provide further information or to speak with someone from the Equal Rights Division.
How long will the process take?
It may take longer than one year for your case to be resolved, particularly if you cannot work out a settlement with your employer.
Do I need an attorney?
You do not need an attorney to file your initial complaint with the Equal Rights Division. Although you are not required to have an attorney for the formal hearing it might be a good idea to obtain legal counsel to help you to protect your rights.
Where do I find an attorney?
The Wisconsin State Bar Association offers a Lawyer Referral and Information Service to help you find an attorney to match your needs.
What if I can't afford an attorney?
The Wisconsin State Bar Association (WSBA) maintains a list of legal services agencies that may provide free or reduced rate legal services. Most legal aid organizations will ask you to prove your financial need. You can contact WSBA by visiting their website.
What will my attorney need from me?
Your attorney will require your patience, trust, honest, and candor. Your attorney will need to know all the details about the discrimination you have faced from your employer. She has an ethical obligation to maintain attorney-client confidentiality -- that means, everything you say to your attorney remains private. Your attorney may also ask you to recall names, documents, dates, and even times as you reconstruct the events surrounding the discrimination. The more you can help in this effort, the easier it will be fore her to ultimately help you.
Do I have to contact the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, Equal Rights Division?
You must file your complaint with either the Equal Rights Division or the EEOC before you can take your claim to court.
Can't I sue my employer directly without going through the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, Equal Rights Division?No. You cannot sue your employer directly for sex discrimination. You can only pursue the administrative remedies offered under the Fair Employment Act by filing a complaint with the Equal Rights Division.
Who will investigate my complaint?
Your complaint will be investigated by an equal rights officer of the Equal Rights Division who will determine if there is enough evidence to bring your case before an administrative law judge for adjudication.
What do I do after my initial contact with the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, Equal Rights Division?
After you file your Discrimination Complaint Form with the Equal Rights Division you may be asked to provide additional information to the investigator who is looking into your complaint. If the investigator discovers that you have failed to include important information in your complaint, you can still add by amending your complaint.
What happens after I submit my claim?
After the Equal Rights Division first receives your complaint form, it will make a preliminary decision about whether your complaint should be investigated or dismissed. If it is dismissed, you have twenty (20) days to make an appeal to an administrative law judge who will either affirm the dismissal of your case or instruct the Equal Rights Division to investigate your claim. Otherwise, an equal rights officer of the Equal Rights Division will start to investigate your complaint to determine if there is enough evidence of discrimination to merit a hearing before an administrative law judge.
A copy of your complaint will be sent to your employer who must respond with a written answer. The investigator may also contact your employer to obtain information about your claim and may interview witnesses.
What happens if the investigators determine that no "reasonable" or "probable" cause exists on which to base a claim?
If the investigator determines that there is not enough evidence of discrimination for a hearing you will receive notification that there is "no probable cause" on which to base a claim. This does not mean that the investigator found no discrimination, only that the evidence was not adequate to move forward with the case.
You can appeal the investigator's decision if you act within thirty (30) days. If you do not, your case will automatically be dismissed. Your appeal will be heard by an administrative law judge who will determine if there is enough evidence to grant your claim a full hearing on the merits. If the judge rules that your case lacks enough evidence to warrant a hearing on the merits, you can still appeal to the Wisconsin Labor and Industry Review Commission for a second, and final, opinion.
What happens if the investigator determines that "reasonable" or "probable" cause exists on which to base a claim?
If the officer decides that there is "probable cause" on which to base a claim and you don't reach a settlement with your employer, you will have a formal hearing before an administrative law judge. Any and all information relevant to your claim and your employer's defense will be presented at the hearing. You may want to get a lawyer for your formal hearing, although it is not required.
Can I sue my employer?
You cannot sue your employer directly under state law. However, you may be able to sue your employer under federal law if you first file with the EEOC and request a notice of right to sue. You have ninety (90) days after you get a right to sue letter to start your federal lawsuit.
Can I appeal a decision of the Division?
Yes. If you are granted a full hearing but are unhappy with the outcome, you may also appeal to the Wisconsin Labor and Industry Review Commission if you file within twenty one (21) days of when the courts decision was mailed to you.
Can I file a federal claim of employment discrimination as well? If so, how?
The EEOC and the Equal Rights Division have a work sharing agreement. If you file a complaint with the both the EEOC and the Equal Rights Division, the EEOC will investigate your claim. If you have enough evidence of discrimination, the EEOC will take you claim to court; if not it will issue you a "right to sue letter." If the EEOC gives you a right to sue letter, you can either pursue a private claim in federal court or ask the Equal Rights Division to investigate your claim.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of filing a federal claim over a state claim?
The complaint process under Wisconsin law and requirements of proof are similar to those for a federal claim. However, state law provides several advantages. You may file a claim under state law regardless of the size of your company, while federal law only applies to employers with fifteen (15) or more employees. You also have three hundred (300) days after the last event of discrimination to file a claim under state law and only one hundred eighty (180) days for a federal claim. Federal law also includes a limit on damages based on the number of employees that do not apply to state claims.
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