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What happens after I file a complaint with the EEOC

or my state fair employment agency?


There are several steps.  The EEOC will review your complaint (also known as a charge), notify your employer, possibly suggest mediation, investigate, attempt to resolve the complaint through conciliation, and ultimately issue a letter called “right to sue” (see below).  (These are the formal steps, but many women filing complaints in the past few years have said that because of the backlogs, the EEOC has routinely issued “right to sue” letters without investigating.)


If the charge filed against your company is eligible for mediation, you will be invited to take part in the mediation process. If mediation is successful, there is no investigation. You do not have to agree to mediation.  If you do enter mediation, you do not have to agree to a resolution during mediation unless you are satisfied with the terms offered by the employer.  Be aware that information that surfaces as a result of mediation (e.g. if your employer admits guilt during the negotiation) will be not noted in the EEOC file on your charge, and it will not be admissible in a court of law.


If the claim is not resolved during the mediation process, the agency will proceed to the investigative stage.  Because the agency has been understaffed for years and this has resulted in a tremendous backlog, it takes the EEOC an average of one year to complete the investigation process for a complaint. 


If the EEOC determines from the investigation that there is reasonable cause to believe discrimination has occurred, both parties will be issued a Letter of Determination stating that there is reason to believe that discrimination occurred, and inviting the parties to join the agency in seeking to resolve the charge through an informal process known as conciliation.  The EEOC is required by law to attempt to resolve findings of discrimination through "informal methods of conference, conciliation, and persuasion." 


During conciliation, the investigator will work with you and the employer to develop an appropriate remedy for the discrimination. You do not have to agree to anything during conciliation unless the terms offered by the employer are satisfactory to you.


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What is a “right to sue” letter?


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