Retaliation Lawsuits - Information from Our EEOC Lawyers in Georgia
It is your right and duty as an employee to report wrongdoing in your workplace. Whether you notice executive misconduct or want to bring attention to discrimination against you or others, your actions should not be punished. However, some employers seek to do just that by demoting or firing so-called "whistleblowers."
It is particularly important for employees who want to report misconduct, harassment, or discrimination in the workplace to know their rights before they report such events. This is because not all complaints of misconduct are "protected activity" for which an employer cannot retaliate. Further, even if the complaint is about protected activity, an employee can lose that protection based on the manner in which he or she complains. The result can be that the employee is terminated, ineligible for unemployment benefits, and without a viable legal claim.
The EEOC lawyers of Billips & Benjamin, LLP, serving Georgia, can guide wronged employees through the claim process with the EEOC and the details of their retaliation lawsuits.
- About the EEOC
- Types of Discrimination
- The Discrimination Claim Process
- EEOC Settlement of Claims
- Retaliation Lawsuits
The EEOC, or Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, is a United States government agency that is in charge of investigating complaints of discrimination and retaliation and to enforce the anti-discrimination laws. In appropriate circumstances, the EEOC will file their own lawsuits against employers who discriminate against employees based on national origin, race, sex, religion, age, or disability. The agency derives its authority from such laws as:
- - Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
- - Equal Pay Act
- - Age Discrimination in Employment Act
- - Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
Types of Discrimination
Very few employees understand their rights under employment law. Although many believe their employer must treat them fairly, this is not always true. Georgia, in particular, is an extremely employer friendly state that provides little or no protection for employees. However, an employer (assuming it is large enough to be covered by the anti-discrimination statutes) cannot make employment related decisions such as hiring, firing, promotions, or transfers based on the applicant's race, age ( if over 40), gender, disability, national origin, ethnicity, religion, or creed. There are many types of employment discrimination which are unlawful and it would not be possible to list all of them here. However, the most common types are described below.
Discrimination is the most common type of wrongdoing committed by employers against their employees. In conjunction with information provided by the EEOC, the lawyers of Billips & Benjamin, LLP encourage Georgia residents to closely scrutinize the behavior of their employers. Job discrimination can often start subtly but grow more blatant over time. Below are the main types of job discrimination.
Gender discrimination – If you have been passed over for a job, promotion, or given an unequal pay raise because you are a woman, you may be protected by both the Equal Pay Act and the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This statute also prohibits harassment based on gender.
Age discrimination – If you are over the age of 40 and have been denied a job, a promotion, or you were laid off or terminated in favor of younger employees, your employer may be guilty of discrimination. You are protected by the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). This statute also prohibits harassment based on age.
Ethnic and nationality discrimination – Title VII of the Civil Rights Act requires that employment decisions be made without regard to color, race, ethnic background, or nationality. This statute also prohibits harassment based on ethnicity or national origin.
Disability discrimination – Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, employers are required to make a reasonable effort to accommodate people with disabilities in the workplace. If your employer fails to do so, you may have a qualifying discrimination case. This statute also prohibits harassment based on disability and restricts the employer's right to ask the employee about his or her medical condition.
Sexual harassment – This form of abuse qualifies as discrimination and may include those harassed and those who are offended by such conduct. Employers who sexually harass their employees may be held liable under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This law applies equally to both men and women as well as to situations where the harasser and the victim are of the same sex.
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The Discrimination Claim Process
If you feel that you have experienced discrimination at work, you may need to file a claim against your employer. It may be appropriate to file a claim with both state authorities and the EEOC; our lawyers are experienced in Georgia law and will assist you every step of the way.
The complaint filed with the EEOC must be very detailed and include dates and descriptions of the discrimination that you experienced. Witnesses and additional documents are usually very helpful. The purpose of your claim is to convince the EEOC that your discrimination case has merit and should be pursued legally. The initial claim should be as complete and concise as possible; therefore, assistance from qualified EEO lawyers can be extremely beneficial.
Once the EEOC accepts your claim, it is supposed to investigate the matter by talking to your witnesses and your employer. Naturally, some employers become very upset in this situation and try to punish the employees bringing the complaint against them. This punishment, also known as retaliation, is illegal and can be the basis of further lawsuits brought against them.
The EEOC filing process can be complicated and confusing. It is very easy for employees to make significant errors and omissions in their EEOC charges which often lead to the employee forfeiting part, if not all, of his or her claim. For this reason, it is important that an employee who believes he or she has been discriminated against speak to an experienced employment lawyer as soon as possible, preferably before the employee attempts to file a charge with the EEOC or even before the employee has complained to his or her employer. » Back to top
EEOC Settlement of Claims
After the EEOC has investigated your claim, it will issue a determination. If the EEOC finds that there is reason to believe unlawful discrimination has occurred, it will issue a "cause" determination. If it believes no such discrimination has occurred, it will issue a "no cause" determination. If a "cause" determination has been issued, the EEOC attempts to resolve the complaint through a mediation process called "conciliation." This process is most effective when the employee's claim is of low value (under $20,000). While we have had claims settle at the EEOC for six figures, this result is not very common. If the EEOC cannot broker a settlement, it will issue a "right to sue" letter to the complaining employee. In Georgia, an employee must file his or her lawsuit based on the claims submitted to the EEOC within ninety days of receiving the right to sue letter. If the employee waits even one extra day, his or right to sue the employer for these claims is likely lost forever. » Back to top
After an employee reports discrimination, an employer may try to punish the employee by firing or demoting them. This practice, called retaliation, is illegal. Affected employees may be eligible to bring retaliation lawsuits against their Georgia employers.
Employers often use retaliatory tactics when an employee reports discrimination or retaliatory conduct. Such conduct is often an attempt to boost company profits or stock prices; therefore, employers might try to fire the whistleblower in an attempt to distance him or her from the company and to intimidate other employees in an effort to prevent them from coming forward.
If an employee reports employer fraud against the federal government, he or she may be eligible to file a qui tam lawsuit and collect part of the monetary award obtained by the U.S. government. Billips & Benjamin, LLP has experience litigating such matters under the False Claims Act. However, like all other types of litigation, consulting a knowledgeable and experienced attorney early in the process is key to a successful outcome.
Fighting discrimination in the workplace can be difficult and emotionally draining. If you feel that your civil rights have been violated, or if you are being punished for whistleblowing, you need a strong legal advocate. The law firm of Billips & Benjamin, LLP can be your advocate at all stages of your discrimination case, whether you need help with EEOC claims or retaliation lawsuits. Our lawyers, serving Georgia and beyond, have earned the trust of countless employees over the years. Contact Billips & Benjamin, LLP today for your free consultation. » Back to top