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Understanding Basic Concepts About Employment Discrimination, Part II

In the second part of this three-part series on employment law we highlight some of the procedural requirements involved in bringing an employment discrimination claim.

One of the most important things to know if you believe you were wrongfully discriminated against or terminated by your employers is that you should file a Charge of Discrimination with theWashington State Human Rights Commission (HRC) or the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) depending on which state you are employed in. Claims filed with the HRC are considered dually filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and you will be assigned a case number for both the HRC and the EEOC (though only one of the entities will be your main point of contact and will conduct an investigation). You must obtain a Right to Sue Letter through the EEOC if you want to file in federal court (which allows for punitive damages). As such, make sure you have a claim opened with the EEOC.

A key thing to remember is that there are time limits on filing a charge. Generally, you must file the Charge with the EEOC within 180 calendar days of the time the discrimination took place. However, the time frame is extended to 300 calendar days if a state or local agency enforces a law that prohibits employment discrimination on the same basis (with some caveats). So to be on the safe side, you should file your claim with the EEOC within the 180 days of when the discrimination occurred. If you do not timely file your charge with the EEOC, you may be barred to file in federal court.

The HRC and DFEH each have their own time frame for filing a charge based on discrimination, so make sure you follow all time frames and procedures if you decide to file the Charge yourself instead of retaining an attorney.

Once the EEOC receives the charge, it may ask you to participate in a mediation with your employer. At a mediation, the parties attempt to reach a solution with the help of a neutral third-party (the mediator). If the parties are unable to resolve the matter at mediation or if the parties cannot agree to mediation, an investigation will commence through the EEOC. If the investigation reveals no violations (which happens frequently), you may be given a Right to Sue Letter. This letter allows you to file a lawsuit in federal court, provided you do so within 90 days of the date of the letter.

Because employment discrimination laws are complex and nuanced, it is to your advantage to consult an attorney who is skilled in determining whether you might have a case. The best practice is to retain an attorney prior to filing a Charge with a state or federal agency to make sure everything is done properly and timely.

Feel free to contact AKW Law to see if we are able to help you at or (425) 954-3512.

Photo credit: EEOC

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