I’m sure I am experiencing sex discrimination at work. What do I do now?
Read the information below, and talk to a lawyer or an organization like NCWO that helps women with sex discrimination complaints. NCWO’s project director for sex discrimination at work can be reached at 202-247-1300.
You can always report the sex discrimination you believe you are experiencing to your employer. You then have the option to use your employer’s internal complaint system, file a grievance with your union, or file a complaint with the appropriate federal and/or state agency. Your complaint might be resolved without the need for a lawsuit. If possible, you should consult with a lawyer before you make a complaint to your employer, because they can advise you of your time deadlines, and also about the best forum to bring your complaint. While sometimes the internal process is a good place to start, in other cases, that might lock you out of later pursuing claims in court, if the internal process takes so long you miss your filing deadlines, or if it locks you into an arbitration process.
Because sex discrimination claims are time sensitive, you need to move as quickly as possible after you learn of the discrimination. You may have only 180 days to file a complaint with a government agency (EEOC or state), a step that is required before any Title VII sex discrimination lawsuit against an employer can be filed. The exact number of days varies by state, but is never more than 300 days under Title VII, and is often only 180 days. The time you spend pursuing internal complaints or union grievances does not stop the clock from running. If you end up spending more than 180 days pursuing an internal or union process before you go to the EEOC, you could lose the chance to pursue your claim in court.
Note: Federal employees do not file original charges directly with the EEOC; they first go through an internal process. Federal employees must initiate contact with their agency EEO counselor within 45 days. For a discussion of the process, see http://www.eeoc.gov/facts/fs‑fed.html
Steps you should go through:
1. Create a written record, with dates, times, individuals and a description of what happened. Enlist your co-workers if they have knowledge of the situation or are having the same experience. Be aware that this record could become part of a legal action down the road, so write it as if it is a public record. Be as accurate as possible, record information as close as possible in time to when the events occurred, and keep this information somewhere outside of your workplace.
2. Keep copies and a chronology: Always keep copies of anything you send to the company, and the company’s response with dates and names of individuals. You may also want to review your personnel file. In many states you have the right to copies of everything in your file that you have signed.
3. If your complaint is not satisfied by the company promptly, or if you believe the company is intentionally stalling, you should file a formal discrimination complaint with a government agency, meaning the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and/or your state’s fair employment agency. This is not a lawsuit, but it is a step that is necessary should you want to file a Title VII lawsuit down the road.
The agency process is designed for use without lawyers, although you can also be represented by counsel during the EEOC process – the employer almost certainly will be represented by their in-house counsel, if not an outside attorney. There is no filing fee, and the EEOC makes no charge for investigating or attempting to resolve your complaint. The process is time sensitive, meaning you may have only 180 days (from the time you learned of the discrimination, not from the time you complained to the employer) to file this complaint or you will not be able to bring a lawsuit against your employer, so do not delay. Before completing your complaint, read a comprehensive guide to the process at :
The EEOC charge you file will have a significant impact on what claims you can later pursue in court, so make sure you are as complete as possible regarding the practices you challenge (i.e. pay, promotion, retaliation) and specify if you believe the practice you are complaining about affects other women as a group.
When you contact your state fair employment agency, ask if filing a complaint with them automatically results in an EEOC complaint.
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