The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces federal workplace discrimination laws. These laws prevent employers with 15 or more employees from discriminating based on a variety of protected categories such as race, religion, pregnancy status, age, or disability. Note that the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) only applies to employers with 20 or more employees. This includes discriminatory hiring practices as well as workplaces that take retaliatory actions against employees who report on discrimination or assist with EEOC investigations.
Labor regulations apply to a variety of workplaces, including employment agencies and labor unions, as well as work situations. Workplace discrimination does not only begin with discriminatory hiring practices. Problems also occur during promotions, training, when creating benefit plans, setting wages, and just generally throughout the workplace.
The Role of the EEOC
The EEOC investigates charges of discrimination covered under the various Federal laws. The EEOC tries to take a fair view to assess the position, of both the employee filing the complaint and the employer, and make a finding regarding the situation. If discrimination has occurred, It has the authority to settle the charge. The EEOC also works on educational and outreach programs to try and prevent discrimination, make sure employers have the materials to properly train their team, and help employees understand their rights and how to report problems.
In addition to a private right of action for discrimination (meaning the employee can bring his or her own lawsuit in court), the EEOC can also bring a lawsuit to protect a group of employees or the public interest. While the EEOC only litigates a small percentage of the cases it receives, generally those with particularly egregious facts or a wider public impact. But it has the right to bring many more.
In addition to enforcement, it also aim to provide leadership on employment issues. The EEOC works with other governmental agencies, as well as trade groups and employer groups, to raise awareness, provide training, give judicial guidance, weigh in on proposed regulations, and handle appeals of agency decisions.
Working With the EEOC
Often, someone who has experienced discrimination files a case with the EEOC before filing a civil action against the employer. The EEOC takes about 10 months to process a case, starting with the EEOC receiving a charge from an employee. It then reaches out to the employer and requests a written response. From there, the investigation proceeds depending on the claims and the initial findings. The EEOC gathers evidence from documents, interviews, and even workplace visits. If the EEOC chooses not to prosecute a charge, then the employee who filed the charge is given a Notice of Right to Sue, which allows them to bring the lawsuit in Federal court within 90 days.
The EEOC also offers a Mediation Program as an alternative to their investigation process. Both the employee and employer agree to work with a third party mediator to come to a mutually-beneficial agreement. Parties can be represented by legal counsel during mediation, but it is not required. The mediator helps parties come to a resolution rather than issuing a ruling. If no agreement is reached, then the EEOC can decide whether to bring the charge or allow the employee to bring the case.
New York Division of Human Rights
Similar to the EEOC, the New York Division of Human Rights handles discrimination claims that violate state laws. Along with the New York City Commission on Human Rights, these agencies have a work sharing agreement to ensure that claims brought to one agency are handled at the appropriate level. While filing with one of these agencies generally bars bringing a private action until the agency has completed its investigation, you can chose to bring a lawsuit instead of filing with the state or city level agencies. This is a strategic discussion you and your employment attorney can have when considering the facts of your specific case and the best way to proceed.
State and federal laws differ in the amount and type of damages available, as well as the amount you can collect in punitive damages. State laws cover the same protected classes and types of discrimination as federal law and then expand on this to include additional protected classes such as military status and caregiver status. The state of New York has a broader definition of disability than the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), meaning that more types of disabilities fall under the protections of the New York Division of Human Rights.
The employment lawyers of Phillips & Associates can handle employment, harassment, and discrimination cases against both small and large businesses. We have the experience and financial backing to take on even the largest businesses to make sure you get a fair hearing. We work with the EEOC and the state of New York as well to help employees pursue matters on their own. For a free consultation, call the experienced New York discrimination and wrongful termination attorneys at Phillips & Associates today at (866) 229-9441.
At Phillips & Associates- We Level the Playing Field
Employees were, and for the most part still are, at a big disadvantage in the workplace. There is a dramatic power imbalance between employees and the companies for which they work. This power balance can intensify after experiencing sexual harassment or discrimination. The company/employer often hires a large law firm to represent it, while the employee may have just lost their job, have very little money and no one to help them understand their rights. At Phillips & Associates, we have the experience, staffing, and financial backing to keep the playing field level. People need to take a close look at the lawyer or law firm they want to hire and determine if that lawyer or firm has the funds, experience and the resources to properly litigate their case.
Phillips & Associates, one of the largest plaintiffs’ only employment law firms in New York. The firm handles cases involving sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace including pregnancy, race, disability, religion, gender, and sexual orientation and other protected traits. Phillips & Associates also handles other areas of harassment at work such as retaliation and wrongful termination. Most recently Phillips & Associates was selected as one of the “10 Best Employment & Labor Law Firms in New York” by the American Institute of Legal Counsel.