What should I know about filing an EEOC complaint?

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By: Bill Henry
PublishedSep 14, 2022
1 minute read

The EEOC complaint process is easier than it used to be, but the time it takes to reach a conclusion on your case is longer these days. One way to ensure fewer hiccups in the process is to talk to an employment law attorney before you submit anything to the EEOC. A lawyer will help you determine if you have a valid discrimination case and help you compile the right evidence for a successful outcome.

Filing a complaint is actually pretty easy these days. Like many other government agencies, the EEOC has its own online portal. In the portal, you can file a complaint, schedule in-person or phone interviews with an EEOC staff member, and file a discrimination charge. Complaints and charges are different.

  • Complaints ask the EEOC to look into potential discrimination at your job.
  • Charges formally allege that your employer committed a discriminatory act and ask the EEOC to take action.

Filing a complaint with the EEOC is the first step you take to determine if you want to formally file a discrimination charge.

Learn about the EEOC Public Portal.

No, you cannot. The laws that the EEOC enforces require you to file a Charge of Discrimination with that agency before you can sue your employer — with one exception. The Equal Pay Act does not require you to submit a claim or charge with the EEOC first. You can go straight to court when it comes to Equal Pay Act issues.

If you are a member of a protected class and believe you’ve been discriminated against at work, it’s important to move on this as soon as possible. There are strict time limits to file a discrimination charge.

The EEOC states it takes on average about ten months to investigate a charge.

According to the EEOC, your charge may be able to find a resolution sooner if you and your employer agree to mediation. In those cases, the EEOC reports a three-month timeframe.

Depending on the circumstances, the EEOC has between 180 and 360 days to complete an investigation. If after 180 days, the investigation is not complete, you may request the EEOC to give you a Notice of Right to Sue. You must have this document in order to file a civil lawsuit.

Learn what happens after you file a charge with the EEOC.


Yes, in most instances, the EEOC can file a lawsuit to enforce the law. However, there are a couple of conditions that must be met before the EEOC can decide whether it wants to pursue a lawsuit.

First, the EEOC must have completed its investigation and found there is reason to believe your employer committed an act of discrimination. Second, efforts to resolve the issue with your employer must have been unsuccessful in order for the EEOC to file a lawsuit.

The EEOC does not automatically file a lawsuit on every case that is not resolved through talks. The Commission will take into account all aspects of the case. For instance, will filing a lawsuit improve the “EEOC’s efforts to combat workplace discrimination.” citation: eeoc.gov

You also have the choice to hire your own employment law attorney to file a lawsuit on your behalf.

No, it won’t. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits charges filed with the EEOC from being disclosed to the public.

Now, if you end up filing a civil lawsuit against your employer for workplace discrimination, that claim likely will be a public record, as most courts are open to the public.

No. You are legally protected from retaliation for complaining about job discrimination against you or a co-worker. In fact, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity website clearly states that your employer cannot harass you or treat you unfairly if someone who is close to you, such as a family member, files a discrimination complaint.

The following actions could be considered retaliatory if your employer took them in response to you filing a discrimination complaint:

  • demotes you
  • verbally harasses you
  • makes false allegations about you
  • makes your work life miserable

Here are more facts about retaliation from the EEOC.

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