Why is Getting a “Right to Sue” Letter Important?

Employers do not always have their employees’ best interests at hand, even though they should. To fight this, there are federal laws in place that forbid employers from treating their employees differently because of their race, religion, color, national origin, age, gender, sexual orientation, or disability. If someone believes their current or former employer broke the law by discriminating against them, they have the chance to file a lawsuit against the employer, but the process is just not as simple as that.
The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (abbreviated as the “EEOC”) is a federal agency that works to protect the rights of employees. If someone wants to file a lawsuit based upon certain federal laws against their employer, they have to first file a charge with the EEOC. Employees generally have 180 days after the incident to file a charge, although there are exceptions to that rule and this time is extended to 300 days if there is a state law that covers the same type of discrimination. Within ten days of filing, the EEOC is supposed to send a notice of the charge to your employer.
From that point, several things can happen:

  • Mediation. If the EEOC thinks this will be fruitful, and both you and the employer agree, you may have a mediation session. This is an effort to resolve the issue outside of court, where both parties explain their stance and a third-party mediator tries to find solutions. This entire process generally takes three months.
  • Investigation. This happens if the charge never enters mediation, or the mediation is unsuccessful. The EEOC will investigate your charge for you, which may include interviews and follow-up discussions with you (and your attorney, if you have one). If your employer refuses to cooperate with the investigation, the EEOC has the authority to subpoena them for any information they need. Generally, this entire process can take anywhere from a few months to nearly a year before a finding is announced.
  • EEOC Lawsuit. The EEOC can choose to file a lawsuit for you themselves. This virtually never happens but is a legally possible result of the investigation.

What will most likely happen as the result of the investigation, however, is receiving a Notice of Your Right to Sue. This means that the EEOC is not going to pursue your claim further and you can now file a lawsuit in federal court. Once you receive a Right to Sue letter, you only have 90 days from the date you receive it to file a lawsuit. You cannot file a lawsuit in federal court against your employer without receiving a Right to Sue letter. However, you can request one yourself at any point in the EEOC’s investigation.
If you have received a Right to Sue letter – or have issues with the process – and are ready to move forward with an attorney, please contact Carla D. Aikens today. We offer a free consultation to new clients and have significant experience successfully filing employment law claims. We are ready to represent you!

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