Recently, I worked with an HR Client who wanted to file a case against their employer (and rightfully so). As a HR Practitioner, I have always been on the side of fighting/advocating for the employer, but never the charging party filing on behalf of myself. Let me be clear, I know that most people believe that human resources “is on the employers side”, but I assure you that many times HR will due their due diligence and advise the employer of a potential mitigated risk and either ignorance or arrogance on behalf the employer can tie the hands of the HR Practitioner. However, his happens long before the we get to the “EEOC case” In my 30 years of being in the People and Culture (HR) space, of course, I have worked with employers to fight EEOC cases and lawsuits (as it is also my job), but I had not worked with or been the charging party. I am not a lawyer, and I did not provide legal advise to my clients, but as their HR Compliance Coach, I did walk through the EEOC process with my client as they went through the EEOC case or stood up for their violated rights. It was educational for me, so I thought I would share the process with you.
I posed a “have you ever filed an EEOC case against your employer?” question to a group of other HR practitioners on FB and found that their experience was the same as mine. They had gone through the process advocating for their employers, but most had never actually filed a case on behalf of themselves. After a few posts, I realized that we have not had this conversation enough and there needs to be a little more education around this process. But let’s start with a quick overview of the who the EEOC is and their purpose.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces laws that make discrimination illegal in the workplace. The commission oversees all types of work situations including hiring, firing, promotions, harassment, training, wages, and benefits. What I found is many people confuse the “EEOC process” with “Suing the Employer”. But the EEOC is actually a confidential option to suing your employer, if you can resolve the case before it goes to court. This may be a good route for both parties, because once you go to court, the outcome becomes a public record.
I found it interesting that in this particular facebook group, many had made “I’ve been let go” posts and they came to the group for support and of course to ask “if they know if anyone is hiring”. While I had seen responses where people had stated they felt they “were unjustly terminated”, I had never seen anyone say, “Today, I filed a case with EEOC against my employer because I was unjustly terminated”. Fear plays a major part in why I suspect people don’t file a case, mis-education of the process is yet another.
About 10 years ago, I fought a very public employment case with my husband (and we won – – when it was over, his union president offered me a job on the spot, but I declined as I was happy where I was). When my client first contacted me, she mentioned that she followed the case with my husband and she could not afford a lawyer, so she wanted to know if I could help her. After she shared her experience with me, I was compelled to try to help her as she had absolutely beed wronged. When she contacted me, she was about 3 weeks away from missing her deadline to file. When I asked her why she waited so long to file, she simply said, “I was scared and didn’t know what to expect”. So if you are like my client and feel that you have been wronged and you are considering filing an EEOC case, here is what to expect.
What to expect when you file an EEOC Case:
1. File a case online (1000 words for the charging party to tell their side)
2. Schedule an in-take interview (this can be a delay due to the volume of cases the EEOC receives but once past this, the process is speedy and this may take some time, but they will get back to you).
3. In-take interview is scheduled (EEOC will tell the charging party “on the spot” if their is grounds for a case to proceed. This is a timed interview (60 minutes), so it’s important to have your documents, dates, times, names and actions well thought out and written down).
4. EEOC prepares the case for you (you can amend any changes that you want made)
5. EEOC notifies the employer of the charge (the employer responds to the charge)
6. Employer can opt to fight or go to mediation (most will want to go to mediation, especially if they know/suspect/fear they have wrong you. The employers lawyer can be present, but they cannot speak on the Employers behalf as this is not where the case if fought) This is also technically when you obtain a “right to sue” notice, though you don’t need to sue at this point.
7. Mediation meeting is set (Both parties will sign a confidentiality clause before proceeding)
8. The charging party will be asked to prepare a 30 minute proposal of what they want from this mediation and here is where you can ask for monetary compensation or your job back if you desire (It’s important to note, mediation IS NOT where you “fight your case”. This intended to be a non-confrontational meeting of the minds to avoid going to court. The EEOC does not represent either party, they are there to mediate the process.
What happens after mediation?
If both parties agree to a settlement during mediation, the case if over! If there is a monetary agreement, it must be paid out by the employer within 21 days. If mediation is unsuccessful, then the long process of suing the employer begins. (this is where most HR Practitioners enter the process)
If you’re ever worried about the cost, just remember those federal taxes that come out of your check every payday goes into the federal bank to help pay the salaries of those who work for the EEOC. If you truly feel that you have been discriminated against “based on or because of ” <Insert protected activity> Let your tax dollars work for you!
If you want to hear those steps with some commentary, view the video here.
If you enjoyed this video, also see my tiktok video on how the EEOC is part of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s Dream!