I filed a complaint for gender discrimination at my work.The EEOC is taking too long, can I hire a lawyer in the mean time?

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Question:

I think I have a good age discrimination and equal pay and compensation case against my job for paying me less than men who do the same type of work.  I filed my own claim with the EEOC, but I think I want a lawyer to take my job to court over this.  Am I going to have to wait until the EEOC is done with my case before I can go to court?

 

Answer:

Because of the interplay of federal, state, local and common law rules, employment cases are among the most complex to litigate.  To ensure that all of your legal claims have been raised and all available remedies pursued, you should retain a plaintiff’s employment attorney to ensure proper age discrimination filing.

There are a number of things that can happen now that your EEOC claims is before the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).  First, if your employment discrimination/unequal pay complaint also is covered by state and/or local law, the EEOC "dual files" the charge with the appropriate state and/or local agency, but ordinarily retains the charge for handling. EEOC can seek to settle your complaint at any stage of the investigation if you and your employer express an interest in doing so. If settlement efforts are not successful, the investigation continues; at both parties’ request, your case could also be directed to the EEOC's mediation program if both the charging party and the employer express an interest in this option.  Further, your complaint could be dismissed at any point if, in the agency's best judgment, further investigation will not establish a violation of the law.

When a charge is dismissed, a notice is issued in accordance with the law which gives the charging party 90 days in which to file a lawsuit on his or her own behalf.   But, if the evidence establishes that discrimination has occurred, you and you the employer will be informed of this in a “letter of determination.”  EEOC will then attempt conciliation with the employer to develop a remedy for the discrimination.  If EEOC is unable to successfully conciliate the case, the agency will decide whether to bring suit in federal court.  If EEOC decides not to sue, it will issue a notice closing the case and giving you 90 days in which to file your lawsuit.

There are some rules that are based upon the statute(s) underlying your claims.  For example, if your claim arises from the Civil Rights Act, you can request a right to sue notice from the EEOC 180 days after the charge was first filed and may then bring suit within 90 days after receiving this notice.   If you are proceeding under the Equal Pay Act, your lawsuit must be filed within two years (three years for willful violations) of the discriminatory act, which in most cases is payment of a discriminatory lower wage.

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