What is an EEOC Complaint?

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  • Written By: Alexis W.
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 12 February 2020
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An EEOC complaint is a complaint filed with the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC). The EEOC is a federal agency within the United States designed to protect certain employees' rights. It was established by the United States government to help enforce civil rights legislation contained in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It also acts to enforce regulations contained in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.

When the federal government makes laws, it realizes that those laws are often open to interpretation. For example, it may be unclear exactly how the wording of a statute may apply in a given situation. The government also recognizes that a law — especially a wide reaching law which could potentially give rise to much litigation — needs to be enforced by some type of entity with authority. In light of these objectives, the federal and state governments often create agencies that are vested with a limited authority to interpret and enforce certain types of laws. These agencies derive their power from the government that creates them, and are able only to deal with issues and areas of law that the legislation puts them in charge of.


The EEOC is one such agency. The function of the EEOC is to enforce the rights of employees to be free from discrimination. Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, employers may not discriminate on the basis of race, gender, religion, national origin or color. Under the ADA, employers may not discriminate on the basis of disability and must make reasonable accommodations so a disabled employee may work. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act prohibits discrimination against any individual over the age of 40.

If any of these anti-discrimination rules are violated, the individual who experienced the discrimination may file an EEOC complaint. The EEOC will then investigate the complaint to determine whether the discrimination did occur. The EEOC complaint may cover any aspect of employment; for example, someone could complain if she wasn't hired based on her race, if she was fired based on her race, if she wasn't promoted, if she was treated differently or harassed, or if she was otherwise limited in any way by her race.

The EEOC investigates each EEOC complaint that has merit and then takes necessary action against employers, such as issuing injunctions to demand the discrimination stop or fining employers. A person who files an EEOC complaint may also file a lawsuit, and in some cases, filing such a complaint is a prerequisite to filing civil litigation. Many individuals do opt to file a civil lawsuit as well, along with a complaint to the EEOC, because of the greater monetary damages the individual can collect if he sues his employer in court for the violation of these anti-discrimination laws.


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