How to represent yourself when filing a claim with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
By Lindsay Halm
One of the most gratifying aspects of practicing employment law is standing shoulder to shoulder with someone who has been wronged. When someone feels voiceless, I take pride in speaking up on their behalf. Nobody should face discrimination or harassment in the workplace or be punished for speaking out against it.
But it is not possible for me and my fellow advocates to take on every case and help every worker in need. So, recently, with the help of other Board Members of the Washington Employment Lawyers Association (WELA), I wrote a guide for workers who want to take steps to report discrimination and retaliation without representation.
The purpose of the guide is to provide tips and pointers on how to present your case effectively to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC is a federal government agency that enforces federal laws that prohibit unfair treatment based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information; harassment; failure to provide reasonable accommodation for religious beliefs or disability; and retaliation for complaining about workplace discrimination. You can find more about the EEOC’s powers (jurisdiction) here: www.eeoc.gov/employees/index.cfm.
If you want to preserve claims protected by these federal laws, you must file a complaint, or “Charge of Discrimination,” with the EEOC before you can file a lawsuit in court. There are strict time limits for filing a Charge of Discrimination: 180 days from the date of discrimination in some states; and 300 days in other states, including the State of Washington.
State and local laws also protect against workplace discrimination. You do not need to file a complaint with the EEOC to preserve your rights under these other laws.
For those who are considering a claim, the guide provides detailed answers to the these and other important questions:
- I want to file a complaint with the EEOC, what should I do first?
- How do I start the EEOC process?
- How should I describe what happened to me?
- What do I do if the EEOC investigator asks me for an interview?
- My employer filed a response to my Charge and I disagree with it, what do I do now?
- What is mediation and should I agree to it?
- What are the possible outcomes of the EEOC investigation?
Read the full guide, “Representing Yourself in the EEOC Process: A Guide for Pro Se Claimants” on the WELA website here.