When you are discriminated against at work, your first stop to address the issue is usually your employer’s human resources department. However, if your concerns still go unaddressed, many people at least consider filing a charge of discrimination at that point. In South Carolina, there are two places one may file such a charge. You can file with either with the Human Affairs Commission, or the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). It is the EEOC that is perhaps most often utilized, though its rules and regulations are the most complex.
The EEOC is tasked specifically with enforcing U.S. federal antidiscrimination law. To do that, it investigates charges of discrimination that are made against both private and federal employers. The mechanisms by which complaints are filed will differ depending on whether the employer is public or private. The EEOC investigates allegations of discrimination and then either permits the complainant to sue in federal court, or the agency itself will take the case on. Note, however, that the EEOC only handles a small number of the cases it receives each year due to sheer lack of staff. For example, in 2017, only 201 suits were filed, out of thousands of charges received by the agency.
The EEOC also works to “stop discrimination before it starts,” engaging in outreach and teaching alternative dispute resolution methods to HR departments as well as offering diversity training. Almost all of this work is done through field offices, of which there are 53 as of this writing. The office serving South Carolina is in Greenville, which makes it somewhat unusual. South Carolina’s Human Affairs Commission (HAC) has a working relationship with the EEOC, and normally when state agencies have such a relationship, they are located in the same city as the EEOC field office. The HAC’s main office is in Columbia.
The way that one files a charge with the EEOC is fairly straightforward, but generally, it is not advised that you do this until you have exhausted the more local remedies. For example, it may be best to first talk to your coworker or manager or go to your employer’s HR department. Once these have been explored with no success, you may file a charge with the HAC, or with the EEOC directly. Essentially, either is acceptable because of the working relationship between the two agencies.
It is important to keep in mind that in order to get clearance to sue a private employer in federal court, you must file a charge with either the HAC or the EEOC. If you do not, your case will almost certainly be dismissed, because you have not exhausted all other possible remedies. Once you file a charge, however, it will either be:
- dismissed – that is, the EEOC may state that no discrimination exists, or that some procedural fault exists
- taken up by the agency
- processed – if a charge is processed, but the agency declines to take it up, you will then be given a right to sue letter, which grants you permission to proceed on your own
Contact An Experienced Attorney
The EEOC carries out several important functions designed to help employees assert and defend their rights. If you believe you have been discriminated against, they may be able to assist you in receiving appropriate compensation. A knowledgeable attorney on your side is a good first step. Attorney A. Christopher Potts and his Charleston employment discrimination law firm are experienced with this type of case and will work hard to help get you an appropriate outcome.
Contact us today to set up an appointment.