The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has remained open despite the government shutdown in the beginning of October, hearing complaints of workplace discrimination from employees nationwide. This fact was relevant to victims of discrimination who had not yet filed a complaint with the EEOC about an employer’s discriminatory conduct — even though the 180-day statute of limitations was about to elapse.

The EEOC’s Shutdown Contingency Plan affected many people who were sitting on their rights. As a worker facing discrimination, you should know that filing a complaint with the EEOC is a prerequisite to filing a lawsuit in open court. You have only 180 days from the date of the last discriminatory act to make the requisite filing. Your complaint gives the EEOC the authority to investigate the allegation and notify the employer of the charge. At that point, the EEOC can make a determination:

  • If the EEOC finds that discrimination occurred, the EEOC asks the employer to remedy the situation through a process known as conciliation. If conciliation fails, the EEOC sues the employer in federal court on behalf of the victim.
  • If the EEOC cannot make a finding, it issues a right-to-sue letter that allows the employee to retain an experienced workplace discrimination lawyer who can sue the employer in open court over the alleged discrimination.