Have You Experienced Sexual Assault Or Abuse?

EEOC Complaint for Sexual Harassment

Employer discrimination based on gender, race, and other characteristics was a common practice with little recourse for many years in the United States. However, that began to change with the passage of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the establishment of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to ensure work environments are free from unlawful discrimination and harassment.

Survivor Advocate

Key Takeaways

  • An EEOC complaint is an official report filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and is the first official step in pursuing a civil claim against your employer for workplace issues
  • In order to file a lawsuit against your employer, you must receive a Notice of Right to Sue from the EEOC — which is why speaking to a workplace harassment attorney can make all the difference
  • The EEOC complaint process can be complicated and confusing — but an experienced attorney can simplify the process and help you understand the best path forward

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC, enforces federal civil rights laws prohibiting workplace discrimination by employers with 15 or more employees. The laws cover all work situations involving employees and job applicants, including hiring, terminations, promotions, training, wages, and benefits. Sexual harassment is considered illegal discrimination, and the EEOC enforces federal sexual harassment laws.

If you’re a victim of workplace discrimination, filing a complaint with the EEOC is the first step toward seeking justice.

What is an EEOC Complaint?

An EEOC complaint is an official report filed with the agency. The complaint, known as a Charge of Discrimination, details an employer’s actions and how it discriminated against you as an applicant or employee.

Submitting an EEOC complaint triggers an investigation into your employer’s actions and work environment. Filing an EEOC complaint is typically necessary before you can file a civil claim for workplace discrimination, including sexual harassment or sexual assault. You must receive a Notice of Right to Sue from the EEOC before you can file a lawsuit.

While filing a civil claim and an EEOC complaint are related, they’re separate processes and may not have the same result. For example, the EEOC may find that you don’t have sufficient evidence of employer discrimination, whereas the court determines that your claim is justified.

Last Date Modified
May 15, 2024

How to File an EEOC Complaint

You can file an EEOC complaint in person or by mail, but the easiest way is to use the agency’s online public portal. Submitting an inquiry form online or by mail constitutes filing an official complaint. If you want to speak to the EEOC informally, visit them in person at a local office or call them.  

1. Provide Details About Your Case

The EEOC complaint process begins when you contact the office about a potential job discrimination issue. They will ask you to provide some basic information about your experience, including:

  • The name, address, and telephone number of the person who experienced discrimination
  • The name, address, and telephone number of the employer
  • A brief description of the event or events that were unfair or harassing
  • The dates these events occurred

After receiving these details, the EEOC will follow up with you and request information about your complaint. If you initially spoke with EEOC representatives about your claim in person, the agency might initiate this process immediately.

At this point, the commission will review the essential facts and decide whether your complaint falls under the laws they enforce. They will notify you of their decision, typically within a few days or weeks.

2. Complete the Questionnaire

If the EEOC decides your claim qualifies, they’ll ask you to complete a questionnaire, and an EEOC counselor will speak to you about your job discrimination report. They usually record these phone calls, and the specific words that you use are extremely important to your claim. As a result, it’s vital to understand what they’re asking and how you should respond.

A workplace discrimination or sexual harassment attorney can help you navigate this conversation with the EEOC. If you haven’t already begun working with a legal professional, this is a good point to seek guidance. However, if you have already completed this step, it’s not too late to seek support from a lawyer who can assist you through the remainder of the EEOC process.

3. File a Charge of Discrimination

The next step is to file an official complaint with the EEOC. If you’re working with a lawyer, they may contact your employer on your behalf and notify them that you plan to move forward and submit an official report.

Most employers don’t want victims of discrimination to put anything on the record, so they might discuss the possibility of settling the case out of court. You’re under no obligation to accept their settlement offer, and your attorney can help you determine whether it’s fair based on the specifics of your claim. This conversation should only occur between your attorney and employer, and it could harm your claim to speak to your employer about a settlement independently.

If your attorney cannot reach a settlement agreement with your employer, you can decide whether to file a formal job discrimination complaint. You have 15 days to file from the day you received permission from your EEOC counselor. If you completed your counseling in person, the EEOC requires you to file your complaint at the same office. Failing to meet the deadline or follow all official procedures could cause problems with your claim.

4. Participate in the EEOC Investigation Process

Filing your claim kicks off the official EEOC investigation process. It typically consists of these stages:

  • Mediation: Depending on the circumstances of your claim, the EEOC might recommend mediation between you and the employer, but you’re not required to participate.
  • EEOC investigation: The EEOC will investigate your claim to determine whether your employer broke the law.
  • Settlement: If the EEOC finds that your employer violated your rights, they will try to settle the case.
  • EEOC lawsuit: If the settlement process fails, the EEOC will file a lawsuit on your behalf or notify you that you can file one on your own.
  • Notice of Right to Sue: The EEOC will send you an official letter granting permission to file a lawsuit.
  • File your lawsuit: If you don’t settle during the EEOC process, you have 90 days to file a lawsuit and seek damages from your employer.

Each step in the EEOC investigation is crucial to proving your complaint valid. Getting legal help from an experienced attorney makes it easier to navigate the process and reach a favorable settlement or verdict.

Filing a Lawsuit Against an Employer for Sexual Harassment

Victims of workplace discrimination or sexual harassment have legal options, including potentially filing a lawsuit against their employers, but many cases never get that far. The EEOC received more than 73,000 new discrimination charges in 2022, and most didn’t reach this stage.

Whether you decide to move forward with a lawsuit or hope to settle, there are many benefits to consulting a qualified attorney, such as:

  • Handling negotiations with your employer
  • Confirming that you’re abiding by EEOC laws and procedures
  • Counseling you on what details to provide in your claim
  • Fighting on your behalf to get compensation and justice

You may not need to file an official EEOC complaint to hold your employer responsible for their actions, and an experienced attorney can help you develop the best strategy for your specific circumstances. Some victims of workplace discrimination are reluctant to work with a lawyer because of the cost. However, many lawyers take these cases on a contingent fee basis, meaning you only pay if you receive compensation through a settlement or verdict.

EEOC Complaint FAQs

These are common questions that we receive related to EEOC complaints and workplace discrimination cases.

You generally only have 180 days to report discrimination to the EEOC. However, if state or local anti-discrimination laws also cover the complaint, you may have up to 300 days to file. Promptly contact an attorney when you feel that your employer is discriminating against you so that they can determine whether you can meet the filing deadline. An attorney will also help you understand the process and draft your complaint if you pursue a claim.

Anyone who feels their employer has violated their civil rights can file an EEOC complaint. You can pursue an EEOC complaint whether you’re an applicant, employee, or former employee, regardless of your citizenship or work authorization status.

All employees—whether their employment is full-time, part-time, seasonal, or temporary—have the legal right to report their employers. In addition, an individual, organization, or agency can file a complaint on another person’s behalf, but it’s typically best practice to get the victim’s consent first.

Those who have experienced some form of discrimination based on a protected characteristic may file an EEOC complaint. Illegal discrimination includes that based on the following characteristics:

  • Race and color
  • Ethnicity and national origin
  • Religion
  • Sex, including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation)
  • Disability
  • Age (40 or older)
  • Genetic information

According to the EEOC, reasons someone might file a complaint include the following:

  • Unfair treatment or harassment based on discrimination
  • Denial of a workplace change or accommodation needed because of religious beliefs or a physical condition, such as a disability or pregnancy
  • Unfair treatment or harassment because you complained about job discrimination or helped with a job discrimination investigation or lawsuit

Victims often become aware of the option to file an EEOC complaint after reporting one of these incidents to their employer. Many only begin investigating their legal rights and options after the employer mishandles the reporting or retaliates against them. However, you have the legal right to contact the EEOC without your employer’s knowledge.

In any case, the most effective approach is to seek advice from an attorney specializing in workplace discrimination or harassment as soon as possible.

If you make an informal report by speaking to the EEOC and then decide not to proceed with an official complaint, your employer will not receive any information about your conversation. On the other hand, if you file an official complaint or Charge of Discrimination, the EEOC has to provide a copy to your employer within 10 days. They won’t receive all the details you provided. Furthermore, it’s illegal for the employer to punish or retaliate against you, regardless of the investigation’s outcome.

Although you may not qualify for unemployment benefits after quitting your job, you can still file an EEOC complaint and begin the process of suing your employer. Whether you’ve already quit your job or are still working, an experienced attorney can provide legal advice to help you decide whether to file an EEOC complaint or sue.

While you can file an EEOC complaint independently, hiring an attorney makes it easier to navigate the legal process. Lawyers often take EEOC cases on a contingent fee basis, meaning you don’t have to pay anything upfront. Instead, you pay a percentage of the damages you receive through a settlement or verdict.

In addition, most workplace discrimination and sexual harassment attorneys offer free consultations. Helping Survivors can put you in touch with a lawyer specializing in EEOC complaints and workplace discrimination.

Want To Speak With A Lawyer?

Understand your legal rights and options as a survivor of sexual assault and abuse.