How to File an EEOC Complaint or Charge

Daisy Rogozinsky
January 15, 2023

If you have experienced sexual harassment at your job and/or been treated unfairly because you complained to your employer about sexual harassment, you may file a formal complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) called a charge of discrimination. 

Note that under U.S. federal law, in order to bring a sexual harassment lawsuit, you must first file a charge of discrimination. If you fail to do so, your lawsuit will be thrown out. 

In this guide, we review the steps that you need to take in order to file an EEOC charge.

1. Choose Where to File

A charge of discrimination can be filed by mail or in person at the local EEOC representative offices. There are EEOC offices located around the United States, but it may be best to file your charge at the office closest to where you live or are employed. If there is no office located close to you, you can legally file a complaint in any office.

You can also file a charge of discrimination online through the EEOC Public Portal. However, you must first submit an inquiry and be interviewed by the EEOC. 

The EEOC recommends filing your charge in person in order to have the opportunity to discuss your concerns with an EEOC staff member in an interview. They will give you their opinion about how to best address your concerns and determine whether or not filing a charge of discrimination is the right path. However, the ultimate decision about whether or not to file a charge is entirely up to you.

2. Gather the Materials

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

  • The name, address, and telephone number of the person who is being treated unfairly
  • 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
  • The dates these events occurred

3. File on Time

There are strict time limits for filing a charge of discrimination. You must file your charge within 180 calendar days of when the last instance of harassment took place. However, if a state or local agency enforces a law that prohibits harassment on the same basis, the filing deadline is extended to 300 days. 

4. Get Assistance

If you need help filing your complaint from a sign language interpreter, 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 be of help if you decide to proceed with a lawsuit afterward. 

You can legally bring anybody that you need with you to the EEOC to help you file a charge, including a lawyer or interpreter. 

5. Access or Amend Your Charge

After filing, you can access information about your charge through the EEOC Public Portal. If a new relevant event takes place after filing, you can add it to the investigation by amending your charge.

The EEOC will send a notice of charge to your employer within ten days of your filing. If they believe that the laws they enforce do not apply to your claim - or if you filed your charge late - the EEOC will close the investigation of your charge and notify you as such.

6. Attend Mediation

In some cases, the EEOC will request that you and your employer take part in its mediation program. If both parties agree, a mediator will try to help you reach a voluntary settlement, giving you an opportunity to address your concerns and suggesting ways to solve the problem. 

7. Receive and Write a Position Statement

If your charge is not sent to mediation, or mediation doesn’t resolve the charge, the EEOC will ask your employer to respond to the charge with a Respondent’s Position Statement. Once it is filed, you will be able to obtain a copy of the statement for your review. You must then upload your own response in the EEOC Public Portal within 20 days from the date you received the position statement. 

8. Investigation 

From there, the EEOC will investigate as they see fit. They may visit the employer, gather documents, interview witnesses, and more. The investigation typically takes approximately ten months. The EEOC will notify you and your employer of the result of the investigation once it is finished. 

9. Receive a Notice of Right to Sue

If the EEOC is not able to determine whether or not the law has been violated, they will send you a Notice of Right to Sue.

If they believe the law has been violated, they will try to reach a settlement with your employer. If they fail to, there is a small but unlikely chance they will file a lawsuit on your behalf. If they choose not to, they will give you a Notice of Right to Sue. Legally, you must obtain this notice before you can file a lawsuit.

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