Various federal laws exist to protect workers and applicants from discrimination by private employers based on their race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age (over 40), disability, or genetic information. These laws include the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, the Equal Pay Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act. It is also against the law to advertise a job with a preference for, or discouragement against, someone from applying for a job because of one of these protected classes. For example, advertising for a young entry-level hire would be a discriminatory advertisement against older people willing to accept an entry-level position. All types of work situations, including hiring, firing, promotions, harassment, training, wages, and benefits fall under federal discrimination laws. In addition to the federal laws, states and local jurisdictions can also have their own anti-discrimination laws.
Do you think your private employer or a potential employer has discriminated against you because of one of the protected classes? What should you do?
If the employer has at least 15 employees (or 20 employees if it is an age discrimination case) then you may want to file a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), or what is known as a Charge of Discrimination. The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee.
The EEOC has the authority to investigate charges of discrimination against employers. The investigation should be done fairly and accurately to assess the allegations in the charge. The EEOC will then make a finding. If they find that discrimination has occurred, they will try to settle the charge. If the EEOC is not successful, they do have the authority to file a lawsuit to protect the rights of individual, but this happens very rarely.
You are able to bring a lawsuit on your own, under certain parameters. For instance, if you filed your complaint under Title VII (discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin), or under the Americans with Disabilities Act based on a disability, you must have a Notice of Right to Sue from the EEOC before you can file a lawsuit in federal court. The EEOC can issue a Notice of Right to Sue in other situations, including if they are unable to determine whether a law may have been violated or if they decide not to file a lawsuit. If the EEOC discovers that a law may have been violated they can refer the case to their legal office or to the Department of Justice. However, the EEOC litigates a small percentage of the complaints they receive, and they primarily choose cases with solid evidence or ones that would have a larger impact on the workforce.
While it is possible to represent yourself in employment discrimination cases, hiring an attorney can help you navigate what is a complex process to ensure you don't lose a case for missing an EEOC deadline, or for not providing evidence and other documents and records to prove your charge, and of course if you must sue the employer yourself if the EEOC chooses not to pursue the charge of discrimination. The attorneys at Patriots Law Group are experienced in employment discrimination cases, including private and federal government employees.
DISCLAIMER: The information above is for general informational purposes only. No attorney-client relationship is intended or created by this information. Each individual situation is different and therefore a formal in-person consultation is necessary before any specific advice may be relied upon as appropriate and accurate for a given situation. Please call Patriots Law Group at 301-952-9000 to set up a consultation if you wish to obtain specific legal advice you may rely upon. We serve clients anywhere in the world, with in-person consultations available at our Suitland, MD office — right next to Andrews Air Force Base — for clients in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.