EEOC Complaints: What Business Owners and Employees Should Know

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By: Bill Henry
PublishedFeb 10, 2022
3 minute read

Imagine this: A newly hired employee comes into work and casually mentions to another staff member that she is six months pregnant. The staff member asks her if she “intends to keep the baby,” or if “she is acting as a surrogate for another family.” The pregnant staff member, who confirms the baby is hers, is fired the next day. The pregnant worker filed an EEOC complaint.

This actually happened at a Colorado law firm. And in September 2017, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a civil rights lawsuit on behalf of the employee. The law firm ended up settling the pregnancy discrimination lawsuit for $30,000. Had the case gone to trial and the employee prevailed, she could have been awarded back pay, future monetary losses, and punitive damages.

Hire an Employment Law Attorney for Your EEOC Complaint

Our Employment Law Team helps employees and businesses alike. Whether you’ve experienced discrimination in the workplace or you’re an employer facing an EEOC complaint, our esteemed employment law attorneys can help you build a strong case. Call 303-688-0944 to begin your case assessment.

eeoc complaints

Discriminatory Behavior that Warrants an EEOC Complaint

Discrimination based on sex (gender), religion, race, nationality, age, disability, pregnancy, harassment (sexual and nonsexual), equal compensation, or retaliation.

Retaliation is when an employer punishes an employee for participating in a protected activity.

Examples of protected activity are: being a witness to another person’s EEOC complaint, raising concerns about a suspected discriminatory practice, resisting sexual advances, or requesting accommodation of a disability or religious practice.

For Businesses: Avoid Discriminatory Behavior

Even the most well-meaning or knowledgeable employer can be guilty of discriminatory behavior, as demonstrated by the story above. EEOC complaints are enormously costly. A company can still spend thousands of dollars in legal fees defending a claim. On average, an EEOC complaint costs an employer roughly $125,000. What’s more, an EEOC complaint damages community trust in the employer and can hinder other business opportunities.

According to EEOC statistics, the most common EEOC complaints in 2016 were retaliation (46%), race (35%), disability (31%) and sex/gender(29%) related.

Thus, having internal systems and policies in place are crucial to preventing discriminatory behavior. Also, if a complaint is filed, proof of having such policies and systems in place can significantly lessen the damage and cost of said complaint during the trial.

Anti-Discriminatory Policies Your Business Should Have in Place

  • Employment Discrimination Policy: This should be part of your onboarding training for new employees. Everyone should understand what behavior is not tolerated in the workplace and how discriminated persons can report discriminatory behavior to their superiors.
  • Anti-Discrimination Training: Good training should teach managers what potentially discriminatory behaviors to avoid, as well as how to recognize and mitigate the discriminatory behavior of others.
  • Anti-Discriminatory Culture: It should be well-known that your business does not tolerate discrimination. This should be part of your business’s core values and/or philosophy.

If despite your best efforts, your company receives an EEOC complaint then it’s important you start gathering information for your case immediately. During this process, it’s extremely important that you do NOT try to talk to your employee, as this can be misconstrued as coercion or harassment. Read more information on how to handle an EEOC complaint here.

If your company receives an EEOC complaint, call the experienced employment law attorneys at Robinson & Henry, PC. We will help you craft a response and defend your interests around the mediation table or, if necessary, in a court of law.

For Employees: How to File a Complaint

Please note: Federal employees have a different procedure than the one described below.

Discriminatory behavior is illegal, and something an employee should not have to face on the job. If you have been discriminated against, harassed, or been a victim of retaliation, then you can file a complaint with the EEOC. Here is how you can do it:

Step One: Make sure your case meets the time limit requirement.

A complaint must be filed in a timely manner, otherwise, the EEOC may not have jurisdiction to investigate your claim. In most cases, the filing deadline is 180 days from the date the incident took place. Time limits do not apply to claims under the Equal Pay Act.

Step Two: A complaint must be filed with the local EEOC field office.

In Denver, this office is located at:

303 E. 17th Avenue
Suite 410
Denver, Colorado 80203

The employee can either file the complaint themselves, or they can have an attorney do it for them.

The Benefits of Having an Attorney File for You
When you have an attorney file your EEOC complaint on your behalf, you have someone to:
  • assess all potential claims against your employer. Your attorney can add additional claims against your employer that you may not have thought of.
  • build a strong case against your employer. They will present the appropriate evidence to the EEOC to get you the best outcome.
  • follow-up on the status of your complaint so you don’t have to.

Step Three: Prepare to sue if you need to. 

Once a complaint is filed, the employee must wait for the EEOC to render a decision on the case. If the EEOC determines you have a right to sue, you’ll want to be ready because your timeline is short. You have only 90 days to file a lawsuit.

An Employment Law Attorney Can Improve Your EEOC Complaint

An employment law attorney can make all the difference in your EEOC case. Even if you have already initiated an EEOC complaint on your own, an attorney can help you bring a lawsuit and represent you in court. Call 303-688-0944 to begin your case assessment.

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