Seven workers at the Charles River Laboratories plant in Charleston have filed suit with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), alleging a systemic pattern of bias and ill-treatment from supervisors. Their complaints paint a difficult picture of racial name-calling, denial of promotions and pay raises, and a borderline-hostile work environment. As of this writing, the company has denied all claims, but it remains to be seen how the EEOC investigation will conclude.
Anatomy Of An EEOC Complaint
When someone wants to sue their employer over alleged discrimination in the workplace, the law requires that they file a charge with the EEOC first (except for allegations of age discrimination under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act). This way, many cases are settled before things get bad enough to require a lawsuit. A charge must be filed with the EEOC or with a state partner agency (in South Carolina, the South Carolina Human Affairs Commission) within 180 days, though in some situations 300 days are available.
Once the charge is filed, the EEOC will investigate its merits. In many cases, the Commission may ask the employer and the employee to participate in their mediation program, or in another form of alternative dispute resolution so as to try and avoid a lawsuit. Overall, it takes between 9 months and 1 year for most charges to be fully investigated.
Upon the conclusion of an investigation, the EEOC will advise the employee of its findings. Generally, either the EEOC will take up your case, or you will be given what is called a Notice of Right to Sue—basically a statement that you have gone through the EEOC process and now wish to file a lawsuit.
What Is In Store For Charles River Labs?
If one examines the Charles River Labs complaints specifically, it is too early to estimate what the outcome will be. However, the seven women who have filed charges all allege the same pattern of behavior. They allege racially tinged abuse, lack of promotions, and a hostile work environment. Charles River Labs has categorically denied that these claims have any merit.
Something to keep in mind is that employment discrimination does not necessarily have to be as open and overt as the hostility allegedly displayed by Charles River Labs’ supervisors. If the complainants faced more subtly discriminatory policies, this would still be actionable, at least in theory, because policies that are “fair in form but discriminatory in operation” have been struck down by the Supreme Court. This is called the disparate impact theory of discrimination, and even if the relevant court finds that the supervisors’ comments at Charles River Labs were not against the law, the lack of promotions and raises could conceivably be seen as discriminatory in practice.
Can An Employment Discrimination Attorney Help You?
If you have been mistreated by a supervisor or higher-up, do not take this treatment lying down. Consulting an employment discrimination attorney may be your first step toward receiving compensation for the harm you have suffered. Attorney A. Christopher Potts has years of experience in these cases. We can sit down with you to help answer any questions you might have. Contact the firm of Hitchcock & Potts today to schedule an appointment.