Attorney at Law

How to File an EEOC Complaint or Charge

Daisy Rogozinsky
January 15, 2023
Last reviewed by
Boruch Burnham, Esq.
June 11, 2023

Under Title VII of the Federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, sexual harassment is deemed a prohibited form of workplace discrimination. Because the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is charged with enforcing the Act, if you have been subjected to sexual harassment at your job and/or been retaliated against for resisting the harassment or reporting it to your employer, you may be entitled to file a formal complaint with the EEOC called a charge of discrimination (generally referred to as “a charge”).

Because filing a charge with the EEOC is generally a prerequisite for bringing a sexual harassment lawsuit, if you do not fulfill these requirements, your case will be subject to dismissal by the court. In this guide, we review some of the processes and procedures involved. However, it should be noted at the outset that not all employers or claims are subject to the EEOC’s jurisdiction. For example, certain religious organizations and most small employers with fewer than 15 employees are not subject to Title VII’s jurisdiction.

Assembling the preliminary information

In preparation for filing your charge, you will need to gather some important information, including:

  • Your name, address, and telephone number
  • The name, address, and telephone number of the employer you are filing the complaint against
  • A brief description of the event or events that you believe are unfair or harassing and the dates these events occurred

How to file your charge

A charge of discrimination can be filed by mail or in person at the closest EEOC office. You can find the closest EEOC office by calling the EEOC at 1-800-669-4000, or by going to the EEOC's Field Office List and Jurisdiction Map and selecting the office nearest to you. You can also file a charge of discrimination online through the EEOC Public Portal, in which case you will first have to submit an online inquiry where you will have to answer some basic questions about your situation, such as what type of discrimination you believe you have experienced, where the discrimination occurred, and the identity of the alleged perpetrator(s) of the harassment. 

After you complete the online inquiry, the EEOC will contact you to schedule an interview, during which an EEOC interviewer will ask more detailed questions about your situation and help determine whether you may have grounds to establish a valid discrimination claim. 

Note that the EEOC recommends filing your charge in person so that you can have the opportunity to discuss your concerns with an EEOC staff member in an interview. They will give you their opinion on how to best address your concerns and determine whether filing a charge is the right avenue for you to pursue. However, the ultimate decision about whether or not to file a charge is entirely up to you.

Filing your charge on time

There are strict time limits for filing your charge. In the majority of cases, you will be required to submit your charge within 180 calendar days from the date the last instance of harassment took place. The deadline may be extended to 300 days if a state or local agency enforces a law prohibiting harassment on the same basis. The EEOC will usually send a notice of charge to your employer within ten days of your filing. However, if they believe that the laws they enforce do not apply to your claim - or if you filed your charge too late - the EEOC will close the investigation of your charge and notify you as such.

Getting the necessary assistance

If you need help filing your complaint from a sign language or foreign language interpreter, or through accessible printed materials, inform the local EEOC office so they can make the appropriate arrangements.

It may also be helpful to hire a lawyer to help you. In addition to helping you gather information and file your charge, an attorney can also help if you decide to proceed with a lawsuit afterward. 

After your charge is filed 

Once you have filed your charge, the EEOC will conduct an initial review of your charge and the information you provided to make initial determinations regarding the validity of your claim, and whether it falls under their jurisdiction.

After this initial review, the EEOC will notify your employer and provide them with an opportunity to respond to the allegations by way of a Respondent’s Position Statement, in which your employer can address your allegations and claims in detail and include any documentation, supporting evidence, or legal arguments in opposition to your claim. 

Mediation Proceedings 

In some cases, the EEOC may recommend that you and your employer participate in its voluntary mediation program. If both parties agree, a mediator will give you the opportunity to address your concerns, suggest ways to solve the problem, and try to help you reach a mutually agreeable resolution or settlement.

Accessing or Amending Your Charge

Once your charge has been filed, you can access information about your charge and review its status online through the EEOC’s Public Portal. You can also use the portal to amend your charge if there are any new developments that are relevant to your case, for example, if your employer retaliates against you or takes other adverse actions after you file your charge.

The EEOC’s Investigation 

After its initial review, the EEOC will initiate an investigation into your allegations of discrimination by gathering evidence and information from you, your employer, and any other relevant sources. They will likely interview all parties involved as well as witnesses and assess the evidence and credibility of each side’s claims. 

The EEOC’s Determination and Notice of Right to Sue

Once the investigation is completed, the EEOC will decide whether there is reasonable cause to believe that discrimination occurred. If they find there is reasonable cause, they will generally try to have the parties resolve the matter through a process called conciliation which may include settlement negotiations and the discussion of possible remedies and solutions. 

Note that conciliation differs from the mediation proceedings discussed above in that whereas mediation is conducted before an investigation has been initiated or concluded, conciliation takes place after the EEOC’s investigation has determined that there is probable cause supporting the discrimination claim. 

If conciliation efforts fail, the EEOC may decide to pursue a lawsuit on your behalf, but this is rare. In most cases, they will give a Notice of Right to Sue, which means that you are entitled to initiate a lawsuit against your employer in court by the specified deadline (typically within 90 days from the date you receive the letter). 

Finally, if the EEOC concludes that the information obtained in the investigation does not establish a violation of the law, you will be issued a Dismissal and Notice of Rights along with a Notice of Right to Sue. Essentially, this means you will be able to pursue your claim in court but without having the EEOC’s assistance in attempting to resolve the matter via conciliation.

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