The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is a federal body that enforces laws regarding all kinds of discrimination at work, including sexual discrimination, racial discrimination, and age discrimination.
If you have been wrongfully terminated because you have been discriminated against at work, you may want to take the matter to the EEOC – which is beneficial to your complaint – who will then initiate an investigation into the allegation of sexual harassment on your behalf.
You should maintain supporting evidence and documentation. This will prove that you suffered sexual harassment in the workplace.
Any digital images, audio recordings, photos, memos, messages, and witness statements can help you prove that you suffered sexual harassment in the workplace.
The more evidence and supporting documentation that you have, the more likely you are to succeed with your claim.
While there are many reasons that an employer can terminate an employee, wrongful termination is not permitted. Wrongful termination is often because of harassment or discrimination that took place.
Employers sometimes terminate employees as a way they can retaliate against them for being a whistleblower.
Whistleblowers are protected, and they cannot be fired for reporting unethical or illegal behaviors or actions.
Wrongful termination can occur because the employer is discriminating against an employee because of their race, color, national origin, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or for other reasons.
What Does the EEOC Do?
The EEOC is a federal government agency that oversees federal anti-discrimination in employment legislation and will investigate complaints filed by employees who have experienced discrimination in the workplace. In other words, the EEOC reviews cases and enforces federal laws pertaining to unlawful acts of discrimination.
The EEOC has the power to impose penalties on employers which knowingly pursue or allow discrimination against their employees, including wrongful termination. And, in the event that the EEOC cannot resolve a complaint of discrimination, it allows the employee concerned to sue their employer through the civil court.
Given that the EEOC was created by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it must meet the mandate presented by Title VII. To do so, the EEOC will conduct hearings, create regulations, and litigate discrimination complaints.
The forms of discrimination which the EEOC investigates include:
- religious affiliation,
- sexual orientation.
To give an example of how the EEOC helps employees who have experienced workplace discrimination, take an employee who has been allegedly fired because of their age. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) prohibits employers from discriminating against employees simply because of their age, more specifically if they are aged 40 or older. This means that if an employee has evidence that they have been fired because of their age, they have grounds to file a complaint of age discrimination to the EEOC. The EEOC will investigate any well documented complaint which may be due to a breach of age discrimination legislation.
In the event that after investigating a complaint of workplace discrimination, the EEOC cannot resolve the issue, it will provide a “right to sue” letter. This allows the complainant to sue their employer for a breach of anti-discrimination legislation through the civil court. If it gets to this stage, it will be preferable to hire an employment law attorney to help with the lawsuit.
In addition to investigating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 discrimination claims, the EEOC handles complaints filed under other types of federal laws.
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
Broad language written into Title VII did not properly address discrimination against Americans diagnosed with living with a qualifying disability. The ADA makes it illegal for employers to discriminate against workers that can prove they suffer from a disability.
Equal Pay Act
The Equal Pay Act requires private sector employers to pay all employees the same for performing the same type of work. For example, a female employee responsible for monitoring the performance of an IT system must receive the same pay as a male employee who does the same work.
Pregnancy Discrimination Act
Based on a 1976 case that concluded discriminating against pregnant women does not violate Title VII, the United States Congress passed the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. The new law bridged the legal void created by Title VII because it prohibits discrimination in the workplace against pregnant employees.
Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA)
Title VII also did not address age discrimination in the workplace. The ADEA forbids employers from discriminating against employees that are at least 40 years old. Many EEOC wrongful termination cases focus on the forced retirement of older workers, which allows employers to hire younger employees at lower wages.
Advanced genetic technology has opened the door for employers to inquire about the genetic composition of workers. Learning the genetic makeup of employees provides employers with information to issue health care decisions. The enactment of GINA and the enforcement of its provisions by the EEOC prohibits employers from collecting genetic information from workers.
When the United States Congress passes or amends a discrimination law, the EEOC is responsible for developing the regulations that follow the legal principles written into the federal law. The EEOC also provides legal guidance to ensure private sector employers understand how to implement anti-discrimination policies that prevent wrongful termination.
Can You File an EEOC Complaint After Being Fired?
Yes, you can file a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) if you were fired for an illegal reason. This is because federal law under the federal anti discrimination law, called Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, made it unlawful for employers to fire workers for discriminatory reasons.
This includes having membership of a protected class based on race, gender, national origin, and religious beliefs. In 1978 additional discrimination protections for women were added through the passing of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. Also, you can’t be terminated if you acted as a whistleblower like complaining about illegal activities that your employer has been a part of.
You’ll need to submit evidence that you were fired for an illegal reason such as for discrimination for being a member of a protected group or for whistle blowing. However, you can’t file a claim if you were not fired for an illegal reason, particularly in an at-will state, which allows an employer to fire an employee without giving any reason at all.
What is At-Will Employment?
At-will employment means that either the employer or the employee can terminate the work agreement at any point for any reason. Most states have at-will employment. If you live in an at-will employment state your employer can fire you without reason or for any reason and they don’t have to pay severance or give notice.
But even in an at-will employment state employers can’t fire someone for a reason that is discriminatory. If an employer fires someone for a reason that violates their rights under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act or under other employment laws that is wrongful termination. Exceptions to at-will employment that are considered wrongful termination are:
- Firing an employee for any discriminatory reason.
- Firing an employee in retaliation because they reported a rights violation or unsafe conditions.
- Firing an employee when that firing violates public policy.
- Firing an employee for refusing to break the law.
- Firing an employee for being a whistleblower.
- Firing an employee for being on FMLA leave.
- Firing an employee for being pregnant.
If you’ve been terminated from a position by an employer in an at-will employment state and you were fired for a discriminatory reason you can file a complaint for wrongful termination against that employer. Wrongful termination occurs anytime someone is fired for something that violates their employment rights. At-will employment doesn’t mean that your employer can fire you if the reason for firing you falls under the protection of Federal or state employment law.
Does the EEOC Handle Wrongful Termination?
Yes, the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) handles wrongful termination cases. The EEOC is the governing body that protects employees from illegal actions taken by employers, such as wrongful termination.
Wrongful termination is illegal. One of the commonest types of wrongful termination cases involves workplace discrimination. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prevents employers from terminating workers based on several characteristics, such as race, age, religion, and national origin. If you believe you have suffered discrimination and have been wrongfully terminated in the workplace the EEOC will require appropriate evidence to support your claim before it will investigate your complaint.
There is some evidence that will better help prove that your wrongful termination is due to discrimination which the EEOC prefers. Such evidence includes the following:
- digital images showing the discrimination taking place;
- audio recordings of the discrimination;
- witness statements
- memos from an employer showing discrimination;
- phone messages;
- your employee handbook;
- your employment contract.
The more supporting evidence you can provide to the EEOC, the stronger your complaint will be and, ultimately, the greater chance you will have of the EEOC accepting your complaint of wrongful termination due to discrimination.
The EEOC will negotiate a wrongful termination settlement and its value should put the victim of wrongful termination in the same position or almost the same that he or she would have been if the wrongful termination had never taken place.
The remedies awarded for wrongful termination settlements by the EEOC could include compensatory damages. These pay the victim any out-of-pocket costs caused by the wrongful termination such as the expenses associated with finding a new job including the fees linked with job applications, legal fees, missed wages while getting a new job or being reinstated and compensation for any emotional stress caused by the wrongful termination. Punitive damages are sometimes awarded to punish an employer who has acted recklessly by wrongfully terminating an employee.
What Does the EEOC Do In Wrongful Termination Cases?
One of the most common types of wrongful termination cases involves discrimination in the workplace. Title VII prohibits employers from discriminating against workers based on several demographic factors, such as race, age, religion, and national origin. Before you file a discrimination complaint with the EEOC, meet with an employment attorney to discover if you have enough evidence to submit a convincing complaint. Your lawyer helps you gather and organize the compelling evidence you need to fight back against wrongful termination.
An attorney also interviews witnesses, as well as prepares the filing of a civil lawsuit if litigation is a viable legal option. Even if the EEOC rules in your favor concerning a wrongful termination case, you can still seek justice by filing a civil lawsuit that seeks monetary damages.
What Do I Do When Reporting Wrongful Termination To The EEOC?
Before you report your claim of wrongful termination because of discrimination to the EEOC, you should make sure you have already gathered all the evidence and supporting documentation that you could.
Some of the evidence that you will need to support your claim include:
- Digital images
- Audio recordings
- Witness statements
- Employee handbook
- Employment contract
The more supporting evidence and documentation that you can provide, the stronger your complaint will be and the more likely you are to succeed with your claim against your employer.
Besides helping yourself, you are also helping protect others from suffering the same harassment and discrimination from that employer in the future.
Often, employers have a pattern of harassment and discrimination. If that is true, then you can most likely find that other employees have been the victims of wrongful termination.
By proving that, and by having witnesses who have experienced the same thing, you will have a stronger foundation for your claim against your employer.
There is a statute of limitations, which is a limited time, for pursuing a claim against an employer following wrongful termination.
You don’t want to wait too long, or you cannot recover compensation for your damages suffered. It is important to start gathering information and to speak with an attorney as soon as you possibly can after you have suffered wrongful termination.
You need to prove that you were terminated because of your sexual orientation, your gender, your age – if you are older than 40, your race, your religion, or your ethnicity.
If you are terminated for any of those reasons, that is discrimination and firing you from your position is strictly prohibited.
When an employer fires an employee because of any of those things, or if they discriminate or harass an employee because of who they are, they are breaking federal laws.
You do have rights and protections, and you should use them to help you gain control of the situation and to ensure that you are treated fairly.
EEOC Wrongful Termination Settlements
The value of your settlement may vary but the aim according to the law is to put the victim of wrongful termination or discrimination in the same position or almost the same that he or she would have been if the wrongful termination had never taken place. The remedies awarded for wrongful termination settlements by the EEOC could include both compensatory and punitive damages.
Compensatory damages will pay the victim any out-of-pocket costs caused by the wrongful termination such as the expenses associated with conducting a new job search including fees linked with job applications, legal fees, missed wages while securing a new job or being reinstated and compensation for any emotional stress caused by the event, inconvenience caused by loss of financial security.
Sometimes, punitive damages are awarded as a way of punishing an employer who has acted recklessly by wrongfully terminating an employee.
There are typically restrictions on the value of compensatory and punitive damages a wrongfully terminated employee may recover. These restrictions depend on the size of the employer’s business or organization and are described below:
- For employers with between 15 and 100 employees, there is a limit of $50,000.
- For employers with between 101 and 200 employees, there is a limit of $100,000.
- For employers with between 201-500 employees, there is a limit of $200,000.
- For employers with more than 500 employees, there is a limit of $300,000.
If the wrongful termination involved intentional age discrimination the victim may not be able to recover either compensatory or punitive damages, but may be eligible to "liquidated damages." These are awarded to punish a particularly malicious or reckless act of wrongful termination by the employer and the value of the liquidated damages is typically equal to the value of back pay the victim is able to claim from the date that the wrongful termination took place.
How Can An Employment Law Attorney Help My Wrongful Termination Claim?
If you have been the victim of wrongful termination following harassment, you should retain the services of an employment law attorney who handles wrongful termination cases in your area.
When you have a consultation with an employment law attorney, you should discuss their payment programs.
There are employment law attorneys who take cases on a contingency basis, which means that they do not get paid until you win your claim and recover compensation. Some employment lawyers do ask for a retainer to be paid upfront.
Employment lawyers are familiar with the state and federal laws that apply to your wrongful termination claim and harassment and discrimination matters.
You have a limited time, usually 180 days, to pursue a wrongful termination case after you have been fired from your job.
If you wait until that time has passed, you cannot recover compensation for the damages that you suffered because of your employer’s actions. Complete the Free Case Evaluation Form on this page to share the details of your case with a lawyer who handles such claims in your area.