Employment discrimination comes in many forms, but only certain types of discrimination against employees are legally prohibited in South Carolina. The law prohibits discrimination in the workplace based on several protected categories, including age, race, sex, disability, pregnancy, and a few others. The also prohibits an employer retaliating against an employee who complains about or reports employment discrimination or harassment. Discrimination based on a non-protected category, such as the color of your shoes or the type of cologne you wear or the football team you root for, is not prohibited by law.
Step One: Schedule a Consult with a South Carolina Employment Lawyer
However, the only way to determine whether you have a decent chance of successfully proving your employment discrimination case in court is through a consultation with an experienced South Carolina employment law attorney. Employment discrimination cases are extremely fact-dependent, and the law is generally stacked in favor of the employer, so a detailed review of your situation is essential.
Step Two: File a Charge of Employment Discrimination with the EEOC
If you do have a viable claim for discrimination or retaliation, then the next step is to file a Charge of Discrimination with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). You can also file with the South Carolina Human Affairs Commission (SHAC). I’ve written previously about the hassles and long delays when dealing with either organization, but since the law requires that an employee file with them first, you just have to do it. Race discrimination cases can also be brought under a separate law that does not require going through the EEOC first, which can speed the legal process considerably.
Jumping through the EEOC’s hoops takes approximately six to nine months to complete. The EEOC has at least six months of exclusive jurisdiction to investigate the claim (although that’s only two months if the employee has an age discrimination claim). The EEOC may interview the employee and conduct other information gathering tasks, but primarily, the EEOC will be getting a response from the employer (called the “Position Statement”). The Position Statement should contain the employer’s reasons for why it treated the employee a certain way or why the employee was terminated. Once the EEOC has the Position Statement, the employee can request a copy, even while the investigation is ongoing, and can submit a rebuttal to the employer’s response, although that is not required.
At the end of the six month period, the employee can ask the EEOC to terminate its investigation and issue the employee a Notice of Right to Sue. This Notice permits the employee to sue in state or federal court. I’ve noticed that employees who are not represented by an attorney at the EEOC stage are often subject to numerous delays in getting the Notice of Right to Sue. We generally have to send multiple letters and emails to the EEOC before we get the Notice.
Step Three: Prepare and File a Complaint to Start the Lawsuit
Once you have the Notice of Right to Sue, the next step is drafting the Complaint. The Complaint is the legal document that lays out the facts surrounding your claim and asks the court to award you damages, generally in money form, for your employer’s wrongful actions. The Complaint initiates the lawsuit against your former employer. In most employment discrimination cases, employees should expect to wait 8 to 9 months from the time of filing the EEOC charge to finally being able to file the Complaint and get the lawsuit moving forward. It’s a long process, but the lawsuit will likely take even longer, so consider the EEOC process training for what’s about to come in the actual lawsuit itself.
Contact Our Office for an Initial Consultation
Success of an employment discrimination lawsuit, like all lawsuits, is never assured. But speaking with an employment discrimination lawyer early in your case can ensure that someone is aggressively representing your best interests at all times.