The amount of time an individual has generally depends on three things:
- Whether the individual works for a government agency
- Whether the individual wants to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
- Whether the individual wants to file a civil lawsuit under state and local laws.
While 180 days is the general rule, state laws may override the EEOC’s rule and extend the statute of limitations to 300 days. Holidays and weekends are included in the statute of limitations calculation, as well. However, if an individual’s 180-day or 300-day deadline falls on a weekend, the individual has until the next business day to file a charge.
The EEOC’s Role In Discrimination Claims
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is a federal agency that enforces laws prohibiting employment discrimination against a job applicant or an employee. The EEOC investigates a broad range of claims related to employment discrimination, including race and sex discrimination. Employees or applicants who wish to file a discrimination claim have a limited period of time to do so, before the statute of limitations tolls. Generally, an employee or applicant has 180 days to file a complaint with the EEOC. The EEOC is a federal administrative agency that handles discrimination and harassment claims against employers with at least 15 employees. Therefore, employees looking to file a claim against an employer with less than 15 employees must do so pursuant to state discrimination laws. For example, in New York, an employee can file an employment discrimination claim under state laws, so long as the employer has at least 4 employees.
You can file with the EEOC HERE.
Filing an Internal Complaint First
Individuals who work for the federal government must first file an administrative complaint before initiating a civil lawsuit. For other public or private employees, there is no requirement to file a complaint with the EEOC before filing a civil lawsuit. However, regardless of the situation, it is recommended that an employee first file an internal complaint with his or her employer. This ensures the employer is given an adequate opportunity to correct the situation and remedy the alleged harassment. An employer must have knowledge of the sexual harassment in order to be held liable in a future lawsuit. While there are other ways to prove the employer’s knowledge, written proof of a formal complaint will only help an individual’s case. In addition, an employer’s investigation into an allegation of sexual harassment does not change the time deadline. The statute of limitations to file a claim continues to toll even when an employer is conducting an internal investigation.
What Happens After I File a Charge
Once a charge is filed with the EEOC, your employer will receive a notice of the charge within 10 days of the official filing. The EEOC will conduct an investigation after the charge is filed. Because the EEOC receives many claims, the investigation may not occur immediately. The priority of the investigation often depends on the severity of the details provided within the charge. During an investigation, the EEOC may visit your employer and conduct interviews with other employees at the office. In addition, the EEOC may request more documentation of the discrimination. In some cases, mediation may be a more desirable course of action. Following the investigation, if it is determined that the law has been violated, the EEOC will try to reach a voluntary settlement with the employer. If the EEOC and employer are unable to reach a voluntary settlement, the case will be referred to the EEOC’s legal staff. The legal staff will then determine whether it is advisable for the EEOC to file a lawsuit against an employer. In the event the EEOC cannot determine whether an employer has violated the law, the employee will receive a “Notice of Right to Sue.” This notice gives an employee the right to sue in a court of law. Upon receipt of this Notice, an employee has 90 days to formally sue his or her employer.
Overall, an applicant or employee has a limited window to file a complaint with the EEOC. Under EEOC regulations, an aggrieved party must file within 180 days of the last incident of harassment or discrimination. While state laws may give an employee more time, it is important to remember state remedies do not always mirror the EEOC remedies.