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Where To File A Discrimination Claim – Federal Or State?

When you believe that you have experienced discrimination at work, you may decide to file a complaint or a charge with the relevant authorities in order to achieve compensation or have the wrong redressed. The primary question for many becomes a matter of where to file a discrimination claim. In theory,  state or local authorities can assist you but depending on the facts of your situation, one may be a better fit than other.

“Work Sharing”

Most people who have a discrimination claim to file think that they must file with either the South Carolina Human Affairs Commission (SCHAC) or with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). However, the reality is that if a person files with one, they need not file with the other. The EEOC has relationships with agencies in every state that it refers to as Fair Employment Practices Agencies (FEPAs), and it has what it calls work-sharing agreements with these FEPAs. This means that any charge filed with one will be dual filed with the other.

If you do file your charge with SCHAC, this means that the EEOC will receive a copy, but SCHAC will still be the entity filing the charge. You are able to request that the EEOC look into the SCHAC decision if you are not satisfied at the close of investigation, but you must make that request in writing, within 15 days of the SCHAC determination. If you are too late, the charge will be considered closed and you will have to find another method by which to have your grievance addressed.

State or Federal?

While SCHAC is a FEPA, meaning that every charge filed there will also be filed with the EEOC, in rare instances, it is a better idea to file your charge with the EEOC itself, bypassing SCHAC entirely. This is most commonly suggested in cases where discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity is alleged, simply because as of this writing, the South Carolina Human Affairs Law does not cover these categories. It explicitly prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, age, gender, national origin, and several other characteristics – generally, those described in Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act – but LGBTQ+ status is generally excluded from these protections.

Federal guidelines, however, do cover these categories under their anti-discrimination laws. Thus, when deciding where to file a discrimination claim, it might be useful to take specific protections into consideration.  If you are mistreated because of your gender identity, for example, it may save you time and trouble to file directly with the EEOC. If the EEOC declines to pursue your case, you will receive a letter to that effect which serves as a notice of your ability to bring suit in the relevant court – in the case of discrimination not discussed under South Carolina law, it would be in federal court.

Consult An Experienced Attorney First

While you have many options for where to file a discrimination claim, the first place you should go should be to an attorney’s office. Attorney A. Christopher Potts has years of experience in employment discrimination cases, and has worked with both state and federal law. Contact the office of Hitchcock & Potts today to schedule an appointment to discuss your case.

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