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What To Expect From The EEOC

Many victims of discrimination file a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") before trying to hire a lawyer. This is usually a bad idea, as I've addressed in another blog post. However, if you choose to forge ahead pro se, as we say, here is what you can expect from the EEOC:

1.     A Cursory Investigation.  The EEOC is made of up of lot of good, caring people, but they have too many cases and too few people to handle them. As a result, you will likely only get a cursory investigation of your claims. In fact, investigation is too generous a word for what the EEOC does. In most cases the EEOC sends your charge of discrimination to the company, and upon receiving the response from the company closes the case. The EEOC may request you file a reply to the company's response. Once you provide that, the EEOC will likely then close the case. The whole process generally takes 3-6 months.

2.     An Opportunity to Settle on the Cheap. The EEOC will often offer free mediation to the parties to give them the opportunity to settle the case. However, if you are not represented by an attorney, the company will not see you as a real threat and will likely not agree to mediate, or, if they do, they will make an insultingly low settlement offer. If you try to save money by not hiring an attorney and going to the EEOC's free mediation program you will likely get what you pay for.

3.     A Non-Determinative Determination.  In roughly 95 out of 100 investigations the EEOC will issue a Notice of Right to Sue (if you properly request one) or a Dismissal and Notice of Rights that says the EEOC is unable to conclude there has been a violation of the law but the EEOC is not certifying the company is in compliance with the law. Get it? They determine they cannot make a determination. The other 5% of the time you get a positive determination, but don't get too excited because it's not binding on the company, and after the company refuses to settle with you, the EEOC will close the case and will get the right to file a lawsuit--the same right you get with the Notice of Right to Sue and Dismissal and Notice of Rights.

4.     No Free Lawyer or Lawsuit. Many people file charges of discrimination with the EEOC expecting the EEOC to take their case and file a lawsuit on their behalf. While that is theoretically possible, you probably have better odds of winning the next Powerball lottery.

With a good employment lawyer who understands the process there are some benefits you can reap from the EEOC process. Whether those benefits justify the legal requirement of filing a charge before filing a lawsuit is a debate for another post. GSF.

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