What to do When You Disagree with the EEOC’s Findings?
When a workplace dispute arises and there are allegations of discrimination or other unlawful conduct, the aggrieved employee’s first course of action is to file a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Keep in mind that the Arizona Attorney General’s office can also be involved if the employee believes his or her state law rights have been violated; in cases where both federal and state law violations are alleged, the EEOC may simply take over the investigation and handle all allegations of wrongful conduct.
What Happens After the EEOC Becomes Involved?
Once a claim has been filed with the EEOC, the claim of wrongful or illegal conduct is evaluated and, if appropriate, investigated. The EEOC may dismiss or refuse to follow up on a claim if based upon the allegations contained in the claim there is no wrongful conduct that occurred. For example, suppose a terminated Arizona worker submits a claim to the EEOC alleging a hostile work environment and, in support of her claim, the worker claims her supervisor yelled at her for dropping a box of expensive merchandise. Upon receiving the claim, the EEOC may review the claim and decide no further actions should be taken as there does not appear to be any violation of state or federal employment laws.
If the EEOC believes there is reason to believe that a violation of employment laws has occurred, the EEOC may decide to conduct an investigation to learn more about the situation. As part of its investigation, the EEOC may interview you, your supervisor or employer, and other employees who may have knowledge of the incident. Once the EEOC has completed its investigation, the EEOC may take one of several actions:
- The EEOC may determine that no violations occurred and decide to take no further action against your employer.
- The EEOC may determine that violations have occurred and attempt to negotiate a resolution between yourself and the employer. If the EEOC decides to take this route, the EEOC will act as a mediator between yourself and the employer. You are not obligated to accept the EEOC’s proposed solution to your dispute.
- The EEOC may bring a lawsuit on your behalf. Because of its limited resources, the EEOC will most likely take this action only in those cases where there are clear and flagrant violations of well-established employment laws.
In all but the last situation, the EEOC will issue the aggrieved employee a notice that gives the employee the ability to bring a lawsuit against the employer. In this way, an employee who is not satisfied with the outcome of his or her claim with the EEOC can attempt to obtain additional damages or legal relief.
Should a Lawsuit be Filed After an Unsuccessful EEOC Claim?
The employee him- or herself will need to decide whether filing a lawsuit makes sense in his or her situation. If the EEOC attempted to negotiate a settlement but there was no agreement between you and your employer, it may be worthwhile to explore filing a lawsuit. If the EEOC did not find that you had a viable claim, consider the EEOC’s decision before pursuing what may become a futile lawsuit:
- If the denial was based on legal reasons – i.e., there is no law that protects you from the behavior you complain about – filing a lawsuit may not result in a different outcome.
- If the denial was based on factual reasons – i.e., the EEOC’s investigation did not turn up sufficient evidence to substantiate your claims – you may wish to see if there is additional evidence or witnesses that can be used to support your claims before you decide to file a lawsuit. For more information about appealing a final order, please visit the EEOC website.