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What do workers in the U.S. need to know about the EEOC?

On Behalf of | Mar 1, 2024 | Employees' Rights |

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is an agency that plays an important role in enforcing federal laws that prohibit employment discrimination. Understanding the basic ins and outs of the EEOC can empower workers to recognize if/when their rights are being infringed upon and also provide them with tools to seek recourse if/when unlawful mistreatment occurs.

At its core, the EEOC is dedicated to preventing and addressing discrimination based on race, age (40 or older), color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, conditions related to pregnancy, sexual orientation and gender identity), national origin, genetic information or disability. It covers a wide range of employment situations, including hiring, terminations, advancement, training, wages and benefits.

What do the EEOC’s functions mean practically?

Filing a complaint with the EEOC, known as a charge of discrimination, is often an important first step for individuals who believe they have been unlawfully discriminated against in the workplace. If you ever need to file a claim, know that the process involves providing information about yourself, your employer and the details of how you were discriminated against. Filing a charge typically needs to occur within 180 days of the discriminatory act. In some cases, this period may extend to 300 days if the charge is also covered by state or local anti-discrimination laws.

In addition to unlawful discrimination and harassment, the EEOC also protects workers from illegal retaliation by employers for asserting their rights. This means if you file a charge, participate in an investigation, take legally protected leave, oppose discriminatory practices, etc. your employer cannot legally retaliate against you. And if they do, the EEOC may be in a position to help.

This isn’t to say that workers shouldn’t seek personalized legal guidance if they are discriminated against, harassed or retaliated against in unlawful ways. That effort remains important. But communicating with the EEOC about one’s circumstances is often a necessary part of seeking recourse, so it’s important to understand what this agency’s purpose is and how it works to exercise its duties.


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