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U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Does it cost money to file a job discrimination complaint with the EEOC?
  2. Do I need an attorney to file a job discrimination complaint with the EEOC?
  3. How do I begin the complaint filing process?
  4. Will my company know if I talk to the EEOC?
  5. How much time do I have to report job discrimination to the EEOC?
  6. What happens after I file a job discrimination complaint with the EEOC?
  7. Does EEOC have a time limit to complete the investigation of my complaint?
  8. What happens when EEOC offers to mediate my job discrimination complaint?
  9. Will EEOC visit the place where I work if I file a job discrimination complaint?
  10. What will happen if my company does not cooperate with EEOC's investigation?
  11. What happens if I change my mind and I want to drop my complaint or stop EEOC's investigation?
  12. What happens if the EEOC does not find a violation?
  13. If the EEOC finds in my favor, will they take my case to court?
  14. If the EEOC finds that I was discriminated against, what can I get?
  15. Can my company punish me for filing a complaint with the EEOC?

Does it cost money to file a job discrimination complaint with the EEOC?

No. EEOC services are free.


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Do I need an attorney to file a job discrimination complaint with the EEOC?

You do not need an attorney to file a job discrimination complaint with the EEOC, but you may hire one at your own expense, if you wish.


How do I begin the complaint filing process?

The process begins when you contact the EEOC by e-mail, phone, letter or office visit about a potential job discrimination issue. We will ask you to provide detailed information about your job discrimination complaint and make an initial decision whether your complaint is covered by our laws. If your complaint is covered, we will ask you to complete a questionnaire. We also will counsel you about your job discrimination complaint. You can then decide whether or not you want to file a formal job discrimination complaint, called a "Charge of Discrimination," with the EEOC.


Will my company know if I talk to the EEOC?

If you talk to the EEOC and decide not to file a job discrimination complaint, no information is provided to your company.

If you decide to file a complaint, called a "Charge of Discrimination," after talking to us, the EEOC is required to provide a copy to your company within 10 days. However, your company only receives a copy of the Charge and will not learn all of the details you provide to the EEOC. In addition, your company is prohibited from punishing you because you filed a job discrimination complaint, even if the EEOC determines the conduct you were complaining about was not illegal.


Three teenage boys looking at a laptop screen

How much time do I have to report job discrimination to the EEOC?

The deadline to file a job discrimination complaint depends on where you work.

If you want to file a job discrimination complaint against a federal government agency, you should see the guidelines for Federal Sector Equal Employment Opportunity Complaint Processing.

For all other employers, you have 180 days to report discrimination to us. This 180-day filing deadline is extended to 300 days if the complaint also is covered by a state or local anti-discrimination law.

You should contact us immediately if you believe your employer is discriminating against you. We can help you determine whether your job discrimination complaint is within the correct time limit.


What happens after I file a job discrimination complaint with the EEOC?

Once you file a job discrimination complaint with the EEOC, we will send you a charge number. This number allows you to track the progress of your complaint while it is being processed at EEOC. We also send a copy of your complaint to your employer.

In some cases, we may offer you and your employer an alternative way to solve your complaint, called "mediation." Mediation occurs before your complaint is investigated by EEOC and provides you and your employer with an opportunity to talk about your concerns. Mediators don't decide who is right or wrong, but they are very good at suggesting ways to solve problems and disagreements.

If your complaint is not sent to mediation, or if mediation doesn't resolve the problem, we will ask your employer to give us a written answer to your complaint. We may also ask your employer to answer questions we have about your complaint. Then your charge is given to an EEOC investigator.

EEOC's investigation of your complaint depends on the facts of the case, and the kinds of information we need to gather. In some cases, we visit the employer to hold interviews and gather documents. In other cases, we interview witnesses over the phone and ask for documents by mail.

If no violation is found as a result of our investigation, the EEOC sends you and your employer a notice closing the case called a "Dismissal and Notice of Rights." You then have 90 days to file your own lawsuit, should you decide to do so.

If the EEOC investigation reveals discrimination, we issue a "Letter of Determination" to you and your employer that explains our finding. EEOC then works with both of you to resolve the situation. If you agree to a solution, you will be asked to waive your right to go to court. If a solution is not found, EEOC must decide whether to take your case to court. Because of limited resources, we cannot file a lawsuit in every case where we find discrimination. If the EEOC does not file a lawsuit, we provide you a notice closing the case. You then have 90 days to file your own lawsuit, should you decide to do so.


Does EEOC have a time limit to complete the investigation of my complaint?

EEOC does not have a time limit to complete an investigation. The length of time it takes depends on the circumstances of your individual case. In some instances, job discrimination complaints are dismissed soon after they are filed because there is no evidence of illegal treatment or because they are not covered by our laws. In other cases, the EEOC needs to gather additional information before we can make a decision.


Two teenage girls looking at a laptop screen

What happens when EEOC offers to mediate my job discrimination complaint?

After you file a job discrimination complaint with the EEOC, we may offer you and your employer an alternative way to solve your complaint, called "mediation." Mediation occurs before your complaint is investigated by EEOC and provides you and your employer with an opportunity to discuss the issues that led to your complaint in order to resolve the matter quickly. If you and your employer are not able to reach a solution during mediation, your job discrimination complaint is returned to the EEOC for investigation.


Will EEOC visit the place where I work if I file a job discrimination complaint?

The EEOC uses various investigative techniques, depending on the circumstances of each case. In some cases, an EEOC investigator may visit the place where you work. In other cases, an EEOC investigator may talk to potential witnesses by phone or ask your company to provide written information to the EEOC.


What will happen if my company does not cooperate with EEOC's investigation?

If your company refuses to cooperate with an EEOC investigation, the EEOC has the power to issue a "subpoena" to your company. A subpoena is a legal document which requires your employer to comply with the EEOC's investigation. We can issue a subpoena to obtain documents, to interview employees who may know something about your complaint, or to gain access to the place where you worked.


A picture of a young woman

What happens if I change my mind and I want to drop my complaint or stop EEOC's investigation?

You may ask the EEOC to withdraw your job discrimination complaint at any time. To do so, you should contact the EEOC staff person assigned to your case and explain that you do not want to proceed. EEOC will send you a form that you need to complete and mail back. Once EEOC receives the form, we will make a decision about whether to dismiss your job discrimination complaint.


What happens if the EEOC does not find a violation?

If no violation is found, the EEOC sends you and your company a notice closing the case called a "Dismissal and Notice of Rights." You then have 90 days to file your own lawsuit.


If the EEOC finds in my favor, will they take my case to court?

If the EEOC finds discrimination, we issue a "Letter of Determination" to you and your employer that explains our finding. EEOC then works with both of you to fix the situation. If you agree to a solution, you will be asked to waive your right to go to court. If a solution is not found, EEOC must decide whether to take your case to court. Because of limited resources, we cannot file a lawsuit in every case where we find discrimination. If the EEOC does not file a lawsuit, we provide you a notice closing the case. You then have 90 days to file your own lawsuit.


If the EEOC finds that I was discriminated against, what can I get?

If the EEOC finds discrimination, we will work with your employer to fix the situation. You could receive money damages as part of that process. We also can seek promotions, reinstatement, and other workplace changes for you. Your employer also may be required to stop the unfair practice, develop better job policies, or train managers and other employees about discrimination.


Can my company punish me for filing a complaint with the EEOC?

Your company is prohibited from punishing you, treating you differently, or harassing you because you file a job discrimination complaint with the EEOC, even if it turns out that the conduct you were complaining about was not illegal. However, you are not excused from continuing to perform your job or follow your company's legitimate workplace rules just because you file a complaint with the EEOC. Your employer has a right to expect you to continue to fulfill your job responsibilities.