West Virginia workers may file discrimination claims under both state and federal law against their employers. This blog addresses filing discrimination claims under federal law with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee. Workers
that believe they have been discriminated against at work because of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability or genetic information may file a Charge of Discrimination with the EEOC.
Most laws enforced by EEOC require that aggrieved parties file a Charge of Discrimination before any job discrimination lawsuit may be filed against an employer. Employees with potential claims under the Equal Pay Act, may also choose to file a claim for discrimination of wages and benefits. These claims may be brought directly to court and do not have to be first filed as a charge with the EEOC.
It is also illegal for an employer to discriminate against an employee because he or she filed a charge of discrimination, complained about discrimination, or participated in an employment discrimination inquiry or lawsuit. Employers with a minimum of fifteen employees, as well as labor unions and governmental agencies are subject to the authority of the EEOC. Not only does the EEOC have the authority to receive and investigate complaints of discrimination, it may also file a lawsuit to protect the rights of individuals and the interests of the public.
Employees have a limited amount of time to file a charge of discrimination under federal anti-discrimination law. A charge must generally be filed within 180 calendar days from the day that the alleged discrimination occurred. This deadline may be extended to 300 calendar days if a state or local agency enforces a law that prohibits employment discrimination under similar circumstances. If more than one incident of discriminatory conduct occurs, the deadline usually applies to each instance. When calculating the time remaining to sue, holidays and weekends must be counted in the calculation. If the deadline falls on a weekend or holiday, the charge may not be filed until the next business day.
Federal employees and job applicants do not follow the same procedure as private employees for filing a complaint. Generally, such employees must contact the EEOC within a much shorter time period of 45 days. However, any deadline may be extended under certain circumstances.
Requirements vary for age discrimination where the filing deadline is only extended to 300 days if there is a state law prohibiting age discrimination in employment and a state agency or authority enforcing this law. The deadline is not extended if only a local law prohibits such discrimination.
Employees must remember that time limits for filing a charge with EEOC will not be extended while the employee utilizes some other form of dispute resolution such as internal company or union grievance procedures, or other alternative dispute procedures like arbitration or mediation. Of course, the wise course of action is to enlist the aid of an experienced employment attorney to pursue other available useful forums of resolution at the same time as filing a charge of discrimination with the EEOC.
Calculating how much time is available to file a charge is complicated and in most cases requires an experienced and knowledgeable employment attorney. If you live in and around Huntington, or anywhere in West Virginia, and believe that you are a victim of workplace discrimination, please callAmy Crossan, an expert in employment law, for a consultation at 304-523-8451.