It is illegal for employers to deny equal opportunities to employees or job applicants based on race, color, national origin, sex, religion, disability, or age. Businesses may not discriminate in compensation or in the terms, conditions, or privileges of employment. These illegal actions can occur during any stage of the employer-employee relationship, and even during the recruiting and hiring process. However, employers may require employees to agree to resolve any dispute through binding arbitration. If you are subject to this type of agreement, a knowledgeable employment lawyer at Mays & Kerr can help you understand your legal rights. Our Atlanta attorneys can explore the details of your situation and discuss the options that you may have in the arbitration process.Filing a Charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is responsible for enforcing most federal employment discrimination laws. Before filing a lawsuit that falls within its purview, an employee must first file a charge with the agency. The timeframe within which it must be filed is very short, generally just 180 days, and it is even shorter for federal employees.
After the EEOC receives the charge, it sends notice and a copy to the employer. If the agency determines that it does not have jurisdiction, that the charge is untimely, or that it is unlikely to find discrimination, it may dismiss it quickly. Otherwise, the EEOC may recommend mediation. If the charge is not recommended for mediation or if the parties are unable to resolve the matter, the agency may conduct an investigation. If it finds a violation of the law, it may pursue the charge on behalf of the employee, including attempting to reach a voluntary settlement and filing a lawsuit. The EEOC may be able to take these actions even if the worker is bound by an arbitration agreement. If the agency closes the charge without litigating it, the employee may be required to use the arbitration process if such an agreement applies in his or her situation.How the Arbitration Process Unfolds
Arbitration differs significantly from mediation. In arbitration, the parties do not attempt to reach an agreement. Instead, they present their evidence to a neutral party, who then renders a decision. The terms of the agreement will determine if the decision is binding and whether it is appealable.
Although employers may require employees to agree to arbitration as a condition of employment, the EEOC released a policy statement in 1997 stating that a company may not interfere with a worker’s right to file a charge with the EEOC or to participate in investigations or proceedings under the laws it enforces. The agency has not provided an updated position statement since that time.
The advice and guidance of an experienced employment law attorney can be very valuable, especially if there is an arbitration agreement in place. Although the EEOC may not be bound by the agreement, actions taken by the employee can affect what the agency can recover on his or her behalf. Such actions may include entering into settlement negotiations with the employer or pursuing arbitration.
An employee should therefore seek representation immediately upon realizing that he or she has been the victim of discrimination. The worker must always keep in mind the limited amount of time available to pursue a charge with the EEOC. An attorney can advise the employee of his or her legal rights, take prompt action to preserve those rights, and handle the case from filing the charge with the agency all the way through arbitration or litigation.Discuss Your Employment Discrimination Claim with a Georgia Lawyer
The seasoned employment discrimination attorneys at Mays & Kerr are skilled in protecting the interests of Georgia workers. We are experienced in all areas of employment law and understand both EEOC rules and arbitration procedures. If you have been the victim of discrimination and are subject to an arbitration agreement, we can help you. Contact us through our online form or call 1-877-986-5529 to schedule a free consultation.