When an Employee Files an EEOC Claim Against You
As an employer, you have a duty to follow all established federal and state laws when it comes to your employees. You cannot discriminate against employees because of their race, sex, disability, sexual orientation, or the fact that they are over 40 years old. These are just a few of the items protected under the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
If an employee feels you’ve discriminated against them for any of these reasons, they can file what’s known as a Charge of Discrimination. This is a signed statement that says you engaged in discriminatory practices and requests the EEOC to take immediate action.
Employees must file a Charge of Discrimination prior to proceeding with a job discrimination lawsuit against you. In addition, states and local jurisdictions have their own Fair Employment Practices Agencies that enforce employment-related anti-discriminatory laws. If an employee files with a local FEPA, it will also be filed with the EEOC if federal laws are applicable.
It does not matter whether the employee’s complaint has any merit, but you will be investing both time and money dealing with the issue. You will receive notice from the EEOC who will ask for your statement of position, which is essentially your version of the details. There will be a formal request for you to supply relevant information and documents, like personnel files and HR documents. EEOC staff may visit your business, and even ask to interview other employees.
If the case proceeds into formal litigation, you will incur costs along the way. If you opt to settle through mediation or settlement, you are likely paying out money to the employees who complained, or at least altering policies and/or procedures. Employers can compensate employees without admitting liability, and the settlement agreement can remain confidential.
It’s important to understand the EEOC can deny your request for mediation if they feel the matter is too serious. It can sue you, and if they don’t sue, the employee who filed the complaint still has the right to sue.
You may have penalties in connection with EEOC claims. These can include paying back wages, promoting them, reinstating their jobs, etc. It will depend on the subject matter of the complaint. You can even be held responsible for the employee’s legal expenses, and the award can be much higher if the case proceeds through litigation. Courts have the right to award compensatory and punitive damages. There is a cap on damages, which is based on the number of employees you have. Cases that involve sexual or age discrimination are limited in damages to the amount that is equal to their lost wages.
Retaining a Washington DC Business Litigation Attorney
Having an employee bring an EEOC claim against you can seem scary. Retaining a Washington DC business litigation attorney who has experience with employment law matters is key. You need someone who understands how these cases work and can help protect your business’s interests. At Tobin, O’Connor & Ewing, we have experience in all areas of business litigation, including complex EEOC discrimination claims. Contact our office at 202-362-5900 to schedule a consultation.