GETTING UNCLE SAM TO ENFORCE YOUR CIVIL RIGHTS

WHEN AND WHERE TO FILE A COMPLAINT EMPLOYMENT

Various federal laws protect you from discrimination in employment on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, national origin, age, or disability. Discrimination by employers with 15 or more employees is prohibited in all aspects of the hiring and employment process: job application, hiring, firing, promoting, training, wage earning, or any other terms, privileges, or conditions of employment provided or imposed by the employer.

If you believe that you have been discriminated against on any of these bases, you should contact the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) at:

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
1801 L Street, NW
Washington, DC 20507
To file charges or reach a field office: (800) 669-4000
Information and publication center: (800) 669-3362
(202) 663-4900
TTY: (202) 663-4494
TTY: (800) 800-3302
www.eeoc.gov

Race and Color

You cannot be denied equal employment opportunity because of your racial group or skin shade, or because you associate with members of some racial group.

National Origin

You cannot be denied equal employment opportunity because of your birthplace, ancestry, or culture, or because you have some intimate association with a specific ethnic group, such as marriage or a shared place of worship.

Likewise, you cannot be denied equal employment opportunity because of your accent or manner of speaking. If an employer believes that an English-proficiency rule is critical for business purposes, he or she must inform you of the rule and the consequences of its violation before applying the rule to you.

Religion

You cannot be denied equal employment opportunity because of your religious practices or beliefs. Religious practices include the exercise of moral and ethical beliefs held with the strength of religious beliefs. If you think your employer has a work requirement (such as a dress code or a work schedule that conflicts with your Sabbath observance) that interferes with your religious practices or beliefs, you must inform him or her of what reasonable accommodations can be provided to suit your needs. The employer is obligated to try to accommodate your religious practices, unless doing so would create an undue hardship on the operation of the business.

Sex

You cannot be denied equal employment opportunity because of your gender.

It is illegal for an employer to pay you wages at a rate less than the rate of wages paid to employees of the opposite sex for equal work on jobs that require equal skill, effort, and responsibility and are performed under similar working conditions, unless a pay differential is warranted by a seniority system, a merit system, a system that measures earnings by quantity or quality of production, or is based on a factor other than gender.

You cannot be denied equal employment opportunity because of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. Any health insurance provided by an employer must cover expenses for pregnancy-related conditions on the same basis as costs for other medical conditions. Leave for child care should be granted on the same basis as leave granted to employees for other nonmedical reasons, such as non-job-related travel or education, and should be available to both men and women.

Harassment

Hostile or abusive verbal or physical conduct based on race, color, sex, religion, national origin, age, or disability is unlawful if it is sufficiently severe or pervasive to create an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment.

Disability

If you have a disability, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects you from employment discrimination. The ADA prohibits employers with 15 or more employees from:

If you are able to perform the essential functions of the job with or without reasonable accommodation, the employer has to provide you with reasonable accommodations for your disability, as long as such accommodations do not impose an undue hardship on the operations of the enterprise. An employer may not ask interview questions about your disabilities; inquiries should be about your skills related to the job.

For more information on workplace discrimination against people with disabilities, contact the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

You may also write to:

U.S. Department of Labor
Office of Disability Employment Policy
200 Constitution Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20210
(202) 376-6200
TTY: (202) 376-6205
Fax: (202) 376-6219
www.dol.gov/dol/odep/welcome.html

or

A service of the Office of Disability Employment Policy:

Job Accommodation Network
West Virginia University
P.O. Box 6080
Morgantown, WV 26506
Voice/TTY: (800) 526-7234
Fax: (304) 293-5407
BBS: (800) 342-5526
Regional Disability and Business Accommodation Centers
Voice/TTY: (800) 949-4232
www.jan.wvu.edu

Age

If you are 40 years of age or older, it is illegal for an employer with 20 or more employees to:

It is also illegal for an employer to indicate an age preference or limitation in notices or advertisements for employment, unless age is a genuine job qualification.

Classifications and preferences based on age have been allowed only in narrow circumstances, generally in jobs involving public safety. To justify unequal treatment, the employer must show that age is a genuine qualification of the job and that there is no other course of action that would achieve his or her goals with a less discriminatory impact.

For more information on age discrimination in the workplace, contact the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Family and Medical Leave

Under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), you are entitled to a maximum of 12 weeks of unpaid leave during a 12-month period if you work for an employer who has had at least 50 employees during the current or preceding year, you have worked for the employer for at least 12 months, and you have worked at least 1,250 hours in the 12-month period before the leave starts. You must also work at a particular work site where there are at least 50 employees within a 75-mile radius. During the leave, the employer must continue to provide group health benefits on the same basis that such benefits are provided when you are at work. The employer must also restore you to the same or an equivalent position when you are ready to return to work. Leave may be taken for the birth and care of a new child, for placement for adoption or foster care of a child with you, to care for your spouse, child, or a parent who has a serious health condition, or if you must be absent due to your serious health condition. You may elect or the employer may require you to use accrued paid leave during such periods. FMLA leave may also run concurrently with workers compensation leave or leave covered by short- or long-term disability policies. Employers may not refuse leave, interfere with use of leave, or in any way discriminate against someone who has used leave. The FMLA protects men and women equally and is enforced by the U.S. Department of Labor. The federal law does not supersede more generous provisions included in state laws, collective bargaining agreements, or employers policies. Any less generous provision in such laws, agreements, or policies are, however, superseded by FMLA provisions.

If you feel that your rights under family or medical leave have been violated, you may file a complaint with the local office of the Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor or you may initiate private action. The address and telephone number of local offices can be found in telephone directories for large cities under U.S. Department of Labor, Employment Standards Administration, Wage and Hour Division. If you cannot locate this information, contact the regional office of the Wage and Hour Division or headquarters listed below.

If you file a complaint with the Wage and Hour Division, the Division will attempt to resolve your complaint administratively by contacting your employer on your behalf. If these efforts fail, the Division may attempt to litigate on your behalf, depending on the facts and circumstances. If you elect private legal action, the Division will not participate. To file a complaint or for more information on FMLA, contact:

U.S. Department of Labor
Employment Standards Administration
Wage and Hour Division
Francis Perkins Building
200 Constitution Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20210
1-866-4-USA-DOL
TTY: (877) 889-5629
www.dol.gov

Immigration Status

If you are an employee hired after November 6, 1986, your employer must be able to prove that you are legally authorized to work in the United States and will ask you to present documentation showing that you have work authorization. However, an employer cannot single you out to require employment verification because you are of a particular national origin group or you appear not to be a citizen. Neither can an employer require that you be a U.S. citizen, or generally give those who are U.S. citizens a preference in hiring or employment opportunities, unless there are legal or contractual requirements that mandate he or she do so. It is illegal for an employer to discriminate against legal aliens merely because they look like noncitizens or in fact are not citizens or because they have a particular type of work authorization.

Under immigration law, individuals who charge discrimination on the basis of national origin against employers with 4 to 14 employees or on the basis of citizenship status against employers with fewer employees should file a complaint within 180 days of the date of the alleged unfair immigration-related employment practice with the Office of Special Counsel for Immigration Related Unfair Employment Practices in the Department of Justice.

For more information about immigrants employment rights, contact:

U.S. Department of Justice
Office of Special Counsel for Immigration Related Unfair Employment Practices
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530
(202) 616-5594
Employer hot line: (800) 255-8155
Employee hot line: (800) 255-7688
Fax: (202) 616-5509
www.usdoj.gov/crt/osc

Whatever your characteristic, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the agency of the federal government with the mission of protecting you from job discrimination. If you think you have been discriminated against because of race, color, sex, religion, national origin, age, or disability:

write or phone the nearest office of EEOC. The office will give you instructions and forms for filing a charge.

Charges must be filed within 180 or 300 days of the discriminatory act. In states or localities without an antidiscrimination law, charges must be filed with EEOC within 180 days of the discriminatory act. In states or localities where there is an antidiscrimination law and an agency authorized to grant or seek relief, charges must be filed with EEOC within 300 days of the discriminatory act. The local EEOC office can tell you what procedures and time limits apply to your charge.

Although EEOC prefers that its forms be used, it will accept a complaint filed in the form of a letter containing your name and address and that of the employer, union, or employment office you think has discriminated. You must date the letter and briefly explain what the discriminatory act was and when it occurred.

Contact one of the district offices of EEOC  or EEOC headquarters:

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
1801 L Street, NW
Washington, DC 20507
To file charges or reach a field office: (800) 669-4000
Information and publication center: (800) 669-3362
(202) 663-4900
TTY: (202) 663-4494
TTY: (800) 669-6820
www.eeoc.gov

If EEOC does not act within 180 days of the filing of your complaint, you may request a right-to-sue letter from EEOC and file a private lawsuit in federal district court. You have only 90 days to file a lawsuit after you receive a right-to-sue letter. If the discrimination complaint deals with equal pay, you do not have to file a charge with EEOC before filing a lawsuit. The Department of Justice (DOJ) is responsible for employment discrimination litigation involving state and local governments. The EEOC will refer requests for right-to-sue letters involving public employers to DOJ, which will issue the letter.

A presidential order (Executive Order 11,246) also forbids employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, or religion by companies that hold contracts or subcontracts with the federal government and by firms working on construction projects that receive federal funds. In addition, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, forbids employment discrimination on the basis of disability by companies that hold contracts or subcontracts with the federal government. Employers holding contracts or subcontracts with the federal government are also barred from discriminating against qualified disabled veterans and veterans of the Vietnam era. If you think an employer who has discriminated against you holds a contract with a federal agency, contact the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP), Department of Labor listed below, or one of the OFCCP regional offices.

U.S. Department of Labor
Employment Standards Administration
Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs
200 Constitution Avenue, NW, Room C3310
Washington, DC 20210
1-866-4-USA-DOL
Fax: (877) 889-5627
www.dol.gov

Complaints must be filed within 180 days of the date of the alleged discrimination, unless an OFCCP director extends it for a good reason. If you are disabled or a Vietnam era veteran, you must file within 300 days, unless filing is extended for good cause. If your complaint is an individual complaint of discrimination against an employer, it will probably be referred to EEOC. If it is one of systemic discrimination or if there are several complaints, or if many other persons are also affected by a pattern and practice of discrimination, the Labor Department will generally take the lead in processing the complaint.

OFCCP also has an ombudsperson who receives and investigates complaints made by individuals alleging abuse by OFCCP staff in the processing of discrimination complaints or conduct of compliance reviews. The ombudsperson can be reached by telephone on (303) 844-1210 or by fax at (303) 844-1213.

If you are a federal employee, or an applicant for federal employment, and think you have been discriminated against, contact the equal employment director of the agency involved within 45 days of the alleged discrimination. That person will provide information about filing a complaint. If the agency rules against you, you should ask the equal employment opportunity director what appeal rights you have and what the time limits are for filing an appeal.

If your complaint concerns an action that may be appealed to the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB), such as being fired, you must include the discrimination issues as part of your appeal to MSPB, which must be filed within 30 calendar days of the effective date of the action, or within 30 calendar days after the date of receipt of the agency's decision whichever is later, or you must raise these issues separately in your agency's EEO administrative process. The EEO administrative process differs when a personnel action can be appealed to MSPB and when it cannot; therefore, you must request your EEO counselor to provide you with information about the differences. The MSPB complaint forms can be obtained from your agency, the regional office of the Merit Systems Protection Board, or the Office of the Clerk of MSPB by writing to:

U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board
Clerk of the Board
1615 M Street, NW
Washington, DC 20419
(202) 653-7200
(800) 209-8960
TTY: (202) 653-8896
Fax: (202) 653-7130
www.mspb.gov

If you are a federal employee entitled to use a negotiated grievance procedure that covers the alleged discrimination, you may elect to file a grievance pursuant to the negotiated procedure in your collective bargaining agreement or to file an EEO complaint, but not both.

It is a prohibited personnel practice to discriminate against a federal employee or an applicant for federal employment on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age, disability, marital status, or political affiliation. Though the Office of Special Counsel generally defers to the agency's EEO program, you may file a discrimination complaint with:

U.S. Office of Special Counsel
Complaints Examining Unit
1730 M Street, NW, Suite 201
Washington, DC 20036-4505
Public Information: (202) 653-7984
(202) 653-7188
(800) 872-9855
TTY: (202) 653-7188
Fax: (202) 653-5151
www.osc.gov

If you are an employee of a state or local government, an employment discrimination complaint on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability, or age may be filed with EEOC. EEOC may defer resolution of your complaint to the state or local fair employment practices agency depending on the terms of a particular work-sharing agreement. The Employment Litigation Section of the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice sues state and local government employers who discriminate in employment on the grounds of race, national origin, sex, or religion. EEOC will refer such cases and disability cases in which it appears that discrimination has occurred to the Department of Justice for litigation consideration, if conciliation has failed. If you think you have been discriminated against by a state or local government and wish to file a charge, write to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

EEOC may sue the state or local government in cases involving age discrimination and sex-based pay discrimination.

If you think you have been discriminated against by a state employment service (although its actions are also covered by EEOC), unemployment benefits office, or by Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA) job-training or public service employment programs, write to the appropriate regional office of the Department of Labor.  If you think you have been discriminated against by an apprenticeship program registered with the Department of Labor or a state apprenticeship agency, write to:

U.S. Department of Labor
Employment and Training Administration
Bureau of Apprenticeship and Training
200 Constitution Avenue, NW, Room N-4649
Washington, DC 20210
(202) 219-5921
TTY: 219-6325
Fax: (202) 693-3900
www.doleta.gov

If you think you have been discriminated against by a job-training center that receives federal assistance, write to the appropriate federal agency. For example, the Department of Veterans Affairs can act if it pays benefits for any veteran enrolled at the school, or otherwise assists the school, even if the person discriminated against is not a veteran.

If you think you have been discriminated against by a criminal justice agency that is receiving federal funds from the Office of Justice Programs, you may write to:

U.S. Department of Justice
Office of Justice Programs
Office for Civil Rights
633 Indiana Avenue, NW, Room 546C
Washington, DC 20531
(202) 307-0690
TTY: (202) 307-0734
Fax: (202) 616-9865

Complaints of employment discrimination on the basis of disability by law enforcement agencies that received Department of Justice funds may also be sent to:

U.S. Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division
Disability Rights Section
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530
(202) 307-2227
(800) 514-0301
TTY: (800) 514-0383
Fax: (202) 307-1198
www.usdoj.gov/crt/ada

Numerous other federal agencies, such as the Department of Agriculture, the Federal Communications Commission, the Treasury Department, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the Environmental Protection Agency, enforce statutes that contain prohibitions against discrimination by particular groups of employers. In almost all cases, EEOC also has jurisdiction. An individual's rights and remedies may differ from agency to agency. It may be to your advantage to contact all involved agencies you think may enforce laws covering your situation so that you can make an informed decision as to the most appropriate agency with which to file a complaint.

EEOC is responsible for coordinating federal enforcement of laws against employment discrimination. In addition, its Office of Equal Employment Opportunity works with all federal agencies in developing more effective procedures and uniform standards for handling complaints and ensuring compliance with employment discrimination laws. If you believe a complaint filed with another agency has not been properly handled, you should write to:

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Office of Equal Employment Opportunity
1801 L Street, NW, Room 9029
Washington, DC 20507
(202) 663-4900
Fax: (202) 663-7003
www.eeoc.gov

Information on all EEOC-enforced laws may be obtained by calling toll-free 1-800-669-EEOC. EEOC s toll-free TTY number is (800) 800-3302. For other information, call the Office of Equal Opportunity at (202) 663-4395 (voice) or (202) 663-4399 (TTY) or write to:

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Office of Communications and Legislative Affairs
1801 L Street, NW
Washington, DC 20507
(202) 663-4900
TTY: (202) 663-4494
Fax: (202) 663-4912
www.eeoc.gov