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EEOC Litigation

The Office of General Counsel (OGC) conducts litigation on behalf of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC or Commission) to obtain relief for victims of employment discrimination and to ensure compliance with the statutes that the EEOC is charged with enforcing. The EEOC has the authority to sue nongovernmental employers with 15 or more employees for violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), and the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA).The EEOC’s suit authority under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), and the Equal Pay Act (EPA) includes state and local governmental employers as well as private employers. Private employers must have 20 or more employees for ADEA coverage, but there is no employee minimum for governmental employers. There is no employee minimum for EPA coverage, but for most private employers, coverage requires $500,000 or more in annual business. Title VII, the ADA, GINA, the PWFA, and the ADEA also cover labor organizations, joint labor-management committees, and employment agencies, and the EPA prohibits labor organizations from attempting to cause an employer to violate the statute.

Authority of the General Counsel 

OGC is headed by the General Counsel, who is appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate for a four-year term. Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-4(b)(1), the General Counsel is vested with the “responsibility for the conduct of litigation,” and 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-4(b)(2) authorizes “[a]ttorneys appointed under this section . . . [to] appear for and represent the Commission in any case in court.” The Commission is authorized to prescribe other duties to the General Counsel. 

Brief History of EEOC Litigation Authority 

The Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972 amended Title VII to give litigation authority to the Commission and provide for a General Counsel, appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate for a four-year term, with responsibility for conducting the Commission’s litigation program. Under a 1978 Presidential Reorganization Plan, enforcement of the EPA and the ADEA, passed in 1963 and 1967, respectively, was transferred from the Department of Labor to the Commission, and the General Counsel became responsible for litigation under those statutes. With the enactment of the ADA in 1990 and GINA in 2008, the General Counsel became responsible for litigation under the employment provisions of those statutes (Titles I and V of the ADA and Title II of GINA). With the 2022 enactment of the PWFA, the General Counsel became responsible for litigation under that statute with respect to individuals also covered by Title VII.

Case Selection

The EEOC files employment discrimination lawsuits in select cases. When deciding whether to pursue litigation, the General Counsel will consider several factors, including the nature of the violation, the issues presented, and the wider impact the lawsuit could have on the EEOC’s efforts to combat workplace discrimination. Because of limited resources, the EEOC cannot file a lawsuit in every case where the agency finds discrimination and the EEOC’s efforts to secure voluntary compliance through the agency’s conciliation process are unsuccessful. 

District Court and Appellate Litigation

District office legal units conduct EEOC litigation in the federal district courts in the geographic areas covered by the respective offices and provide legal advice and other support to district staff responsible for investigating charges of discrimination. In addition to the district office itself, OGC trial attorneys are stationed in most of the other offices - field, area, and local - within districts. Legal units are under the direction of Regional Attorneys.  

Appellate Litigation Services (Appellate) is responsible for conducting all litigation in the federal appellate courts in EEOC enforcement actions. Appellate also frequently participates in private suits as amicus curiae, as approved by the Commission. Appellate represents the EEOC in the United States Supreme Court through the Department of Justice’s Office of the Solicitor General. Briefs filed by Appellate may be searched on this website.

Statistics and Other Information

The EEOC maintains statistics on EEOC enforcement suits filed and resolved in the federal district courts. The EEOC also makes available a searchable index of selected litigation resolutions. More detailed statistical information, as well as descriptions of representative lawsuit resolutions and significant appellate cases, are discussed in the Office of General Counsel Annual Reports. The Annual Reports are issued each fiscal year, which runs from October 1 to September 30. Additional information about selected EEOC actions may be found in the EEOC’s newsroom.

More information about the Office of General Counsel and the standards and procedures governing EEOC litigation can be found in the documents linked in the right-side column.


This site contains standards and procedures adopted for the benefit of the agency and shall not be construed as creating any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by third parties. This site shall not be construed to create any right to judicial review involving the compliance or noncompliance of the EEOC or its employees with any matter dealt with in it. This site is not binding on any member of the public.