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Looking at the EEOC complaint process and discrimination litigation

Last time, we began looking at a lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against a MN construction company accused of engaging in unfair discriminatory practices and creating a hostile work environment for African American employees. As we mentioned last time, these employees were listed as plaintiff-intervenors in the EEOC lawsuit.

Those who believe they have been subjected to employment discrimination are not able to immediately sue their employer in federal court. First, a complaint must be filed with the EEOC within a certain time period. The EEOC has its own procedure for handling complaints. The complaint process described below applies to private employees, but a different process is used for federal employees. 

The agency first conducts and investigation to determine whether there has been a violation of law. If no violation is found, the complainant is given notice that he or she has the right to sue, but if a violation is found, the agency attempts to work out a voluntary settlement. In some cases, the agency may require the complainant to attempt a settlement of the case through mediation. If that’s not possible, the agency has to determine whether it will sue the case out in court.  

The EEOC considers various factors when determining whether to sue, including the legal issues at stake, the gravity of the violations, and the potential impact of the lawsuit. If the agency decides not to sue, the complainant is given notice of the right to sue.

Certainly, a complainant should be cautious about pursuing a discrimination case the EEOC has declined to pursue, but the EEOC’s decision not to sue shouldn’t necessarily be determinative. Of course, an experienced attorney is an essential resource in such cases.