October 21, 2011
Prior to filing any discrimination claim in civil court, whether it’s based on a violation of Florida’s Civil Rights Act of 1992, or the Federal Title VII, an employee must first file a complaint with either the Florida Commission on Human Relations, or the EEOC. With regard to the EEOC, a Charge of Discrimination must be filed within 180 days of the occurrence of the discriminatory act. However, the time limit can be extended to 300 days if a State or local agency enforces a law that prohibits employment discrimination on the same basis. To start your claim with the EEOC, you can call 1-800-669-4000, and submit some basic information to the EEOC. If you don’t want to call, you could complete an online assessment, print the Intake Questionnaire, and bring it or mail it to your local EEOC field office. (The information for the Miami District office can be viewed here.) Finally, you can send a letter to the EEOC containing the information listed here. After receiving your letter, the EEOC may respond by sending you an official EEOC charge form.
After you file a claim with the EEOC, your claim may go into a mediation process, pursuant to which the EEOC tries to reach a settlement. If no settlement is reached, the EEOC will likely attempt to quickly dispose of your claim based on untimeliness or lack of jurisdiction, or an inability to determine whether discrimination occurred. If your claim is dismissed, you will be notified by the EEOC, and you’ll be free to commence a lawsuit in court. If the EEOC decides to investigate your charge rather than dismissing it, witnesses will likely be contacted, and documents may be reviewed. As with all government processes, EEOC investigations can take time. Be prepared to wait up to 6 months for the investigation to be complete. An EEOC mediation generally moves a little quicker, and may be concluded within 3 months.
If the EEOC finds that no discrimination occurred, you should receive a Notice-of-Right-to-Sue, which allows you to then file a claim in court, if you so choose. If the EEOC finds that discrimination occurred, the EEOC may try to reach a settlement. If a settlement can’t be reached, the EEOC may refer the case to its attorneys at the Department of Justice, who will then decide whether the EEOC will file a lawsuit. If the attorneys decide not to file suit, the EEOC should send you a Notice-of-Right-to-Sue indicating that you have the right to file your own suit, so long as you do so within 90 days.
Florida’s administrative process is similar to that of the EEOC. If you choose to file your claim with the Florida Commission on Human Relations, you’ll need to complete a TAQ (Technical Assistance Questionnaire), available here. Be sure to file your claim within 365 days of the alleged violation. Generally, you can call, write, or visit the Commission on Human Relations to discuss the discriminatory acts with an Intake Counselor. The Commission on Human Relations will then share the information with the EEOC pursuant to a worksharing agreement. Most complaints lodged with Florida’s Commission on Human Relations are dual-filed with the EEOC.
Pursuant to Florida section 760.11(3), the Commission on Human Relations has 180 days (6 months) to determine whether there is reasonable cause to find discrimination. If the Commission fails to act within the 180 day limit, the Commission is deemed to have found no reasonable cause. If the Commission finds no reasonable cause, you can contest that finding by requesting a hearing within 35 days. However, if the Commission determines that there is reasonable cause to believe that discrimination occurred, you can either file a civil action in court, or request an administrative hearing. But be warned: according to Florida section 760.11(4), your selection of either the civil action or administrative hearing is your final remedy. Be sure to consult Florida section 760.11(6) through (13) for more details on the administrative hearing. A flowchart of Florida’s administrative process can also be found here.