Previously, we looked very briefly at the general process the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission uses to handle discrimination complaints. As we noted last time, federal statutes require employees to file a complaint with the EEOC before suing in court, and the agency will give notice when a complainant is clear to sue the employer.
In some cases, clearance to sue an employer will be given before the EEOC’s investigation is completed. This can happen when the complainant requests a notice of right to sue. If this is when more than 180 days have passed since filing the complaint, the agency is require to provide notice of right to sue. If less than 180 days have passed, the agency will only provide notice if it decides not to pursue the case or it will be unable to complete the investigation within 180 days.
As we pointed out last time, those who file a discrimination complaint with the agency should be cautious about pursuing a case the agency has declined to pursue. The EEOC certainly has a lot of experience analyzing and handling employment discrimination cases, and it would be a mistake to think that its judgment has little significance. That being said, the EEOC does not always pursue meritorious discrimination cases. There are various reasons why, including conservation of resources and the desire to handle the most significant and impactful cases.
It should also be mentioned that those who file a complaint under certain federal laws may also have the option to intervene as a party in an EEOC lawsuit. Intervening in an EEOC lawsuit can be beneficial, but it is important to always work with an experienced attorney to navigate the process and ensure one’s interests are being advocated.
Source: Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Notice to Charging Parties of Commission Suits, Accessed Dec. 14, 2016.