I learned about the EEOC during an employment settlement negotiation.
I’d been fired from a job, although the situation–even the firing itself–was fuzzy to the point of hilarity. Retrospective hilarity. I wasn’t laughing at the time because there were a number of painful issues involved: breach of contract, age discrimination and defamation, among them.
While still on the job, I retained a lawyer. When she began to yell at me, though, and I found myself uncharacteristically in tears, I told her that I was crying enough as it was and didn’t need a lawyer who’d make me cry.
She understood and repaid me the money unspent from the retainer I’d given her.
I retained another lawyer, a woman who I didn’t think would make me cry. I was right.
But after I left the job, months passed without a settlement. Lots of back and forth, yet my lawyer was having trouble getting my previous employer to raise his monetary offer, although my employer’s lawyer himself had dangled the prospect of a raised offer.
One day, feeling thoroughly dissed and disgusted, I told my lawyer that since a statute of limitations on one of my three causes of action was running out, fuck ‘em, I was preparing my own lawsuit covering all my specific complaints and intended to file it in federal court the next week so I wouldn’t miss the deadline. (I still have the draft of that lawsuit I wrote.)
Grudgingly and only then did my lawyer inform me that on one issue, age discrimination, I’d have to file a complaint with the EEOC first. She couldn’t have told me that months’ previously?
Still, I was well within that 180 day deadline, so trotted downtown to the EEOC, picked up their complaint form and instructions, came home and filled out the form.
The next day I left a message for my lawyer that I was heading down to the EEOC to file. Literally two minutes before I was out the door, complaint in hand, I picked up my lawyer’s e-mail message: “Don’t do anything before you call me!”
I called her. She had reported to the opposing lawyer that I was about to file with the EEOC. They raised their settlement offer by $10,000.
Another big plus to filing with the EEOC: they will notify your employer of your complaint and that they intend to investigate. If you are still on the job, you can bet that they’ll keep their hands off you while the EEOC is investigating them.
If you keep your complaint simple and absolutely factual (you’re not trying to prove your case here and you don’t want to give your opponent information that can be used against you), the EEOC complaint will not interfere with what your lawyer will be doing for you. It can only be a supplement, and it can be withdrawn if your lawyer decides it’s not necessary or relevant to your case.
Oh these deadlines. It’s irritating to write ACT FAST here, since the pace of your lawsuit will slow to a creep after you retain a lawyer. Here you are, getting your adrenaline flowing, your fighting hormones are boiling up, you do all this stuff fast and then … you … will … wait … and … wait … and …
Never mind. I’ll get you through the pace of lawsuits when the time comes. For now maintain deadline discipline: ACT. FAST.