The answer to this question depends on a number of factors. Initially, though, you need to find out whether the EEOC (which stands for Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) has jurisdiction. The EEOC enforces workplace discrimination laws which prohibit discrimination on the basis of the following protected classes: race, color, sex, national origin, religion, disability, age (40 or older) and genetic information. Those laws also encompass harassment due to those protected classes or retaliation for reporting/complaining about such discrimination or harassment as well as participating in an investigation into such a report or complaint.
If your claim does involve claims on the basis of one of these protected classes, then the EEOC may have jurisdiction assuming that your employer is covered. Which employers are covered by these discrimination and retaliation laws? Every private employer with 15 or more employees (20 for age claims) and basically all governmental employers. However, the distinction between the private sector and federal government employees, with includes postal employees, USPS, is huge. A charging party with a claim against a private employer must file with the EEOC within 180 days of unlawful act. However, in areas where an FEPA (Fair Employment Practices Agency) has jurisdiction, this time is extended to 300 days. Employees of private employers should contact the EEOC to file a claim within that time period. The EEOC in Charlotte North Carolina is located at 129 W. Trade Street and the EEOC in Greensboro, North Carolina is located at 2303 W. Meadowview Road. You are not required to have an employment attorney represent you at the EEOC, but it is always a good idea to retain competent legal representation. If you need an attorney for an EEOC claim, you can contact our Charlotte area office at 704-706-9292 and our Greensboro area office at 336-235-4004 and our Knoxville, Tennessee area office at 865-297-4344.
If your claim involves one of the above protected classes, and you work for the federal government, the process for filing a discrimination, harassment or retaliation, sometimes called reprisal, claim is completely different. First, you cannot file directly with the EEOC. Instead, you must first file with your federal government agency’s EEO office. Second, that filing must be completed within 45 days of the unlawful act. You read that right! If you claim discrimination, harassment, retaliation on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, religion, disability or age 40 or older as a federal employee you MUST file with the EEO office within 45 days. That is not much time for sure. Third, you must follow the steps for EEO processing at your agency which will likely include mediation and, if that is unsuccessful, an EEO investigation. At the end of the process, you will then be given the right to have your matter removed to the EEOC to proceed before an EEOC Administrative Judge. We recommend that you retain an employment attorney who is experienced in handling federal employees’ cases before the EEOC. Because, as the EEOC notes on is FAQ page:
An administrative hearing pursuant to 29 C.F.R. §1614.109 is similar to a trial before a judge at the courthouse. As the presiding official, the AJ acts as both the judge and jury. Proceedings, for the most part, are informal. Parties generally are permitted to make opening and closing statements, offer into evidence witness testimony and documents, examine and cross-examine witnesses and raise objections and obtain rulings on objections from the AJ.”