Workplace discrimination can be demoralizing, abusive and illegal. But discrimination victims often fear retaliation and losing their jobs, and so they don’t know what to do about it. Most cannot afford to live without their income. Fortunately, there are options to get justice. For some employees, the path to justice is through the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
After filing a charge through the EEOC, the first step is registering for the EEOC Public Portal. Since January 1, 2016, the EEOC has used this portal to allow aggrieved parties and the alleged perpetrators to follow the investigation and participate online. This system is meant to foster openness and transparency, and makes participating in your investigation much easier than in years past.
After you file your case and register with the portal, you can then upload all of your documentation. All documentation you have that proves or substantiates your discrimination claim should be uploaded. In addition, you need to keep your contact information up-to-date at all times. Any perceived unresponsiveness on your part could be a reason for the EEOC investigator to drop your case.
Next, within 10 days, the first filing notice will arrive at your employer’s office, letting them know about the EEOC charge. In that correspondence, or in one soon after, the EEOC investigator will offer EEOC mediation. This process allows the two parties to try to reach a settlement outside of litigation. It is facilitated by an EEOC-trained mediator, but mediation is separate from the EEOC investigatory and litigation process.
Mediation is confidential, can last as little as a few hours and has a high success rate. If you end up in federal litigation, it is likely the federal judge will mandate mediation anyway, so trying at this early stage may avoid delays later in the process.
Prior to beginning the investigation, the EEOC investigator will do a preliminary inquiry into the allegations. The investigator is looking at whether the EEOC has the power to investigate the allegation, and if so, whether the EEOC charge was filed within the statutorily required timeline. If so, the investigator will begin the investigation. An investigation typically lasts about 10 months.