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EEOC Complaints and State Administrative Charges

If you have filed a complaint (charge) with the Unites States Equal Employment Commission (EEOC) or State Administration Agency such as the Michigan Department of Civil Rights (MDCR) there are a number of things you need to know.  Just because you filed a charge does not guarantee that your complaint will be properly or thoroughly investigated.  Much depends upon what you put in your complaint and what investigator you drew.  If the complaint does not properly state the facts that would support your claim it may not be investigated, because it appears it may not have merit.  The type of claim you bring also may affect the EEOC’s response. Some claims, such as those for age discrimination, seem in some regions of the country not to be pursued by the EEOC with the same vigor as others. 

A charge of discrimination or retaliation is a useful tool to learn of facts through the investigative process that may support your case in advance of a lawsuit.  You should seek legal advice to determine what questions should be asked of your employer as well as to help you respond to the questions the EEOC poses to you on the employer’s behalf.  Much of the information gathered in the investigative process may then be obtained through the Freedom of Information Act . 

Another reason, to seek legal advice when filing or pursuing a charge with the Federal or State Agency is that you may neglect to include a claim that you should have been brought.  For example you may have filed a charge of discrimination but failed to include a claim of retaliation if you were terminated after making the complaint.   Also there are short times limits or windows within which the EEOC will reach back to investigate.  For example you may have framed your complaint to include matters beyond the statute of limitation or time for filing a charge when there are more recent facts which will support your claim and which should have been included. 

Another advantage of obtaining legal advice is that the EEOC and the MDCR offer mediation services by which you may attempt to settle your claim.  Don’t count on being successful alone. The employer, if it agrees to mediation will have undoubtedly already sought legal advice and may be represented by an attorney during the mediation.  A lawyer who understands what issues will pose legal problems for the employer will cause them greater concern and often drive up the amount of a settlement.  When you file a charge with the EEOC you should therefore request mediation as it is not binding if you don’t reach an agreement. Mediation also provides an opportunity to resolve the case without the costs of litigation.

It is also important to understand that once you receive a “Right To Sue” letter from the EEOC you have a limited timed to commence a lawsuit in Federal Court.  You don’t want to wait until then to start searching for an attorney.  You may not find one in time.  Also you should seek legal advice to determine whether you even want to pursue a federal claim since in many cases a claim under state law brought in state court may be more advantageous.  Also if you missed the time limit to file a complaint in Federal Court you may still have time under Michigan Law because there is a three year statute of limitations.

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