Understanding The Role Of The EEOC In Employment Law

What Is The EEOC AND What Does The EEOC Do?

Many people think that for any problem in the workplace they can just go to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) for help. But that is not true.

The EEOC is a Commission established by U.S. federal law that is responsible for enforcing federal employment laws that prohibit certain types of discrimination. The EEOC does not have a direct role in the investigation or enforcement of state law violations, and is also not the place to go for other types of employment claims, such as workplace injuries or wage and hour violations, that do not involve discrimination.

Discrimination Laws Enforced By The EEOC

The federal laws investigated and enforced by the EEOC include those that prohibit employers from discriminating against job applicants or employees based on a person's race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information. These laws also prohibit discrimination against an individual in retaliation for complaining about discrimination, filing a charge of discrimination with the EEOC, or participating in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit.

Claims Covered By Discrimination Laws Enforced By The EEOC

The discrimination laws enforced by the EEOC include certain guidelines that determine whether the laws apply to an employer and, therefore, whether the EEOC has jurisdiction to enforce the law. Generally, employers with at least 15 employees are covered by EEOC discrimination laws, except for age discrimination cases where the employer must have at least 20 employees.

The discrimination laws apply to all types of work situations, meaning that an employer is prohibited from discriminating in decisions to hire or fire an employee, promote or not promote an employee, and/or provide promotions, training, wages or benefits.

What Does The EEOC Do?

The EEOC is authorized to investigate discrimination claims covered by the applicable federal laws. After its investigation the EEOC will make a finding. Importantly, even in cases where a finding of discrimation is made, the EEOC will not always file a lawsuit on your behalf. In those cases, and in cases where no finding is made, the EEOC will issue a Right to Sue letter, allowing you to file suit. The deadline for filing that suit is very short, however, so you should speak with a lawyer about your situation as soon as possible, even before a final EEOC determination is made.

If The EEOC Is Not Enough

Even if the EEOC has jurisdiction over your case, it often will not be able to help advance your claim to your satisfaction. Of course, you may have other employment-related claims as well. In order to ensure that all your claims are evaluated you should speak with an experienced employment attorney as soon as possible, even if the EEOC is investigating a Charge of Discrimination on your behalf.