By Bryan A. Chapman, Esquire
Workplace discrimination is commonplace. Federal statutes protect workers from discrimination based on their race, sex, national origin, religion, age, and disability. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) was created in 1965 to enforce the federal laws against workplace discrimination. Unfortunately, for the past several decades, the EEOC has been ineffective in protecting workers from discrimination due to inadequate funding from Congress.
The EEOC is unable to investigate an increasing number of the discrimination claims it receives. These claims are eventually dismissed by EEOC without being investigated. Workers receive a “Right-to-Sue” letter that instructs them to file a discrimination lawsuit in federal court within 90 days. The vast majority of workers who receive “Right-to-Sue” letter simply give up.
Even if EEOC is no longer an effective enforcer of federal workplace discrimination laws, the ever increasing number of EEOC claims signal to the Congress that workplace discrimination continues to be a major problem. One can only hope that the growing number of EEOC claims will eventually lead to reform of the federal workplace discrimination laws.
In the meantime, workers who file discrimination claims with the EEOC have to be well prepared and strategic if they want to succeed. Workers need sound legal advice prior to filing a claim. The outcome of any discrimination claim depends on specific workplace discrimination laws and how they are applied to the facts of a particular case. Workers have to convince EEOC that their claims are legally sound and worthy of being investigated. When EEOC investigates claims, the intrusive nature of these investigations can convince employers to settle the claims.
Most workers who file discrimination claims are simply unprepared.
I. Unrealistic Expectations
Workers who file discrimination claims with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) are generally unaware of their chances of success. Many have the misguided belief that because their claim seems morally justified they will win.
Most workers are familiar with accident claims where fault is immediately determined, based on who caused the accident, and the only issue is the settlement amount. Accident claims are settled quickly because insurance companies find it profitable to do so. Insurance companies know that no one wants to get into an accident.
Insurance companies also insure employers against discrimination claims. Employers and their insurers generally want discrimination claims to drag on for as long as possible. They know that as time passes workers: 1) get frustrated and give up, 2) accept smaller settlements, or 3) have their claims dismissed. Furthermore, this practice discourages other workers from pursuing discrimination claims.
Insurance companies hire private law firms to defend the employers they insure. These law firms usually specialized in defending employers against discrimination claims. These law firms generally apply a “scorched earth” approach. All discrimination claims are vigorously contested and all allegations are denied. And, the workers are portrayed as bad or incompetent employees. Litigation can drag on for years and become extremely expensive. As a result, only 3% of workers who file discrimination claims with EEOC receive a favorable decision from the agency. And, workers who file discrimination claims in federal court win only 1% of the time.
II. Failure To Consult An Experienced Attorney
Most workers who file discrimination claims with EEOC do so without consulting an experienced attorney. These workers believe that EEOC will champion their cases against their employers, which is simply not the case.
Workers need sound legal advice prior to filing a discrimination claim. There are many employment actions that employers can take against workers that seem unfair but do not violate federal workplace discrimination laws. For instance, employment-at-will allows employers to terminate workers at any time and for any reason.
Before filing a discrimination claim, workers need to know whether or not they have legally valid discrimination claims. If workers have legally valid discrimination claims, they need effective strategies that allow their claims to succeed.
Most workers may be aware of federal statutes that prohibit discrimination in the workplace based on race, sex, national origin, religion, age, and disability. But, they are unaware of the hundreds of court decisions that actually govern what does and does not constitute workplace discrimination when applied to the facts of their cases. Filing a workplace discrimination claim without first obtaining sound legal advice is like coming to a gunfight blindfolded.
III. Expecting the Employer to Adopt Their Point Of View
Many loyal workers file discrimination claims with EEOC because they feel they are being harassed by a supervisor. In many cases, they are unable to sleep at night and are fearful of being fired.
Some workers believe that it will be their word against the word of an unpopular supervisor. They may actually believe that the employer will adopt their point of view once the supervisor’s alleged misdeeds are exposed.
Unfortunately, employers turn discrimination claims over to private law firms. These law firms vigorously defend employers regardless of whether or not workplace discrimination has occurred. All discrimination claims are contested and all allegations are denied. These lawyers investigate workers and portray them as bad or incompetent employees. Some workers become paralyzed with fear and believe that they are going to be eventually fired. An experience attorney can calm client’s fears by preparing them for these personal attacks.
Law Office of Bryan A. Chapman
Bryan A. Chapman, Esquire
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