Matthew K. Fenton
If you feel you have experienced discrimination at the hands of an employer, filing an EEOC complaint is the first step you can take to hold them accountable. However, that is just one step.
If you are wondering how to win an EEOC claim, the following tips will help. If you have filed an EEOC complaint and want to ensure the best possible outcome, keep them in mind.
HOW TO WIN AN EEOC COMPLAINT: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
1. Hire a Qualified Attorney
EEOC complaints do not necessarily have to result in court cases. Although this can potentially happen, typically, you may be able to resolve the matter earlier through negotiations directly between your counsel and counsel for your employer or mediation. The EEOC offers mediation services. Private mediators may also be called on to assist. This process involves discussing the complaint with a third party mediator listening to both your side and your employer’s side of the story. Employers are sometimes willing to settle to avoid drawn-out court cases.
Even if your case does not go to court, it is likely the employer against whom you have made the complaint will be represented by counsel during mediation. Therefore, you should hire an employment law attorney to maximize your odds of securing an ideal outcome. You need someone on your side who understands employment law, and who has the expertise to match that of the employer’s counsel and can take steps to move your case forward which would not be available to you simply as a function of the EEOC conducting their investigation. Whether you resolve your case through mediation or take your case to court, it simply will not be a fair fight if the employer has assistance from counsel and you do not.
2. Maintain Composure
Mediators handle sensitive issues. Often, all parties involved may feel strong emotions about the situation and how it is being addressed, which is understandable.
If you feel as though you have been discriminated against, you want to ensure the outcome of your claim is just. However, do not make the mistake of letting your emotions impact your behavior during mediation. While you may want to contact the mediators prior to your mediation to ask how you should prepare, if you do so, maintain your composure and be respectful. It is important to make the right impression.
This is another good reason to hire a qualified EEOC mediation lawyer. They can let you know how to prepare, and let you know whether contacting the mediator ahead of time is even a wise idea. Your attorney will also represent your case calmly and professionally. Your counsel has a duty to represent YOUR interests and thus fills a role very different from the EEOC investigator. Doing so is key to avoiding the consequences that can arise when you let anger or other emotions determine your behavior both before and during mediation.
3. Prepare Relevant Documentation
Ideally, your employer will be truthful during mediation. That said, do not make the mistake of assuming they will tell the truth at all times. They may omit facts, exaggerate, or simply lie. You need to be prepared to catch them in their dishonesty when this happens.
That is one of the main reasons it is essential to prepare all relevant documentation before your mediation begins. For instance, perhaps the employer makes a claim you could refute with emails. You want them to be immediately available to you during mediation to ensure a fair process. An employee rights attorney can assist you with such tasks. They will help you identify what types of documentation would be relevant to your complaint, making certain you do not overlook anything.
It is worth noting you also need to be entirely truthful yourself during mediation. Although mediators are supposed to be neutral, they are still people. Even slightly misrepresenting the circumstances that resulted in your initial complaint will negatively impact a mediator’s opinion of your credibility. Once more, this is a good reason to coordinate with an experienced legal professional who can help you avoid any missteps that may be interpreted as deceit.
4. Consider Reaching Out to Coworkers
Reaching out to coworkers can be a tricky subject. Speak with your attorney before taking any action on your own in this capacity.
That said, there are many potential instances when coworkers may be able to support your claims. If your complaint is related to disparate treatment, meaning you were treated differently than other employees for the same behavior (due to race, gender, age, etc.), you might also be able to identify examples of other employees who were not treated as you were. Coworkers may be able to confirm this as well.
Reaching out to coworkers to gather statements supporting your complaint might be a good idea if your attorney advises you to do so. If they recommend this step, coordinate with them closely to avoid making critical mistakes. For instance, even if you do have substantial comments from others supporting your claims, you may not want to reveal the identities of the people who made those comments during mediation. The employer may feel they could reach out to those employees and convince them to alter their account once they know who they are. An EEOC mediation lawyer will ensure that, if you would benefit from gathering coworker statements, you will not make any errors during the process of collecting and sharing them.
5. Be as Professional as Possible
You will make a good impression if you show up to mediation on time, dressed as if this were a court proceeding, and demonstrate professional and respectful behavior to all parties involved. Although this may be obvious to some, it is not always the case and is worth noting. The impressions you make can influence the outcome of the mediation. Additionally, it’s a good idea to get proper rest before mediation begins. The process can be somewhat lengthy, and you do not want fatigue to set in.
The most important point to take away from all these tips is a simple one – trust your attorney. There is a good chance this is your first experience filing an EEOC complaint. Even if it is not, you probably do not have the legal expertise necessary to guarantee an ideal outcome.
Law Office of Bryan A. Chapman
Bryan A. Chapman, Esquire
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