Many employment discrimination disputes are resolved through informal methods and by complaints to government agencies such as the federal EEOC and the state OCRC. Lawsuits can have very high monetary and emotional costs and can take years to conclude. DRO places high value in advocacy, negotiation, mediation and federal and state agency complaint processes to resolve disputes, whenever clients' legal rights may be asserted and protected in those ways.
Nevertheless, sometimes disputes must be resolved, and legal rights protected, by lawsuits in court. Laws that prohibit employment discrimination do not require you to be represented by a lawyer in court. However, employment laws and court procedures are very complicated, and the employer will probably be advised and represented by a lawyer. If you decide to sue the employer, DRO recommends that you consult a lawyer as well.
Most federal laws that prohibit employment discrimination require you file a complaint with the federal EEOC before you may file a lawsuit in court. When the EEOC completes its investigation and issues you a right-to-sue letter, you may file a lawsuit in court against the employer within 90 days of your receipt of the right-to-sue letter.
If the EEOC investigation establishes that the employer violated the law, the EEOC may decide to sue the employer directly in a federal court. The EEOC may also decide to join you in your private lawsuit. However, the EEOC's lawyers will represent the EEOC only and will not represent you in either a direct or a joint lawsuit against the employer. The EEOC will recommend, and DRO also recommends, that you consult a lawyer to protect your rights if your EEOC complaint advances to court.
The EEOC is not required to sue the employer in court at all, even if the EEOC investigation finds that the employer violated the law. EEOC files lawsuits in a small percentage of complaints filed. If the EEOC decides not to sue, it will close the case, and you may file your own lawsuit against the employer within 90 days of your receipt of the right-to-sue letter. You have the right to ask the EEOC for a right-to-sue letter before the EEOC completes its investigation. If your complaint is against a private, non-government employer, you may ask the EEOC to issue you a right-to-sue letter 180 days after you file your complaint. You may then file a lawsuit in court within 90 days after you receive the EEOC's right-to-sue letter.
EEOC received 95,402 complaints during fiscal year 2008. Of these complaints, 19,453 (20.4%) claimed disability discrimination. In the same year, EEOC filed or joined 325 lawsuits, fewer than one-half of one percent of the number of complaints filed during that year. Only 37 of the EEOC's lawsuits consisted of ADA claims. Source: EEOC Litigation Statistics, FY 1997 through FY 2009 and Charge Statistics FY 1997 Through FY 2009
There are special rules for federal employees. You can learn more about these rules here: https://www.eeoc.gov/federal-sector/overview-federal-sector-eeo-complaint-process.
Ohio's state laws that prohibit employment discrimination generally require you to file a complaint with the OCRC before you file a lawsuit in court under state law. However, you do not have to file a charge with the commission before court if you are only seeking injunctive relief.
If your lawsuit is against a state government employer and you are seeking damages, you must file your lawsuit in the Ohio Court of Claims within 2 years of the date the discriminatory act took place. You must first file with the OCRC, and the two-year requirement for state court could be tolled during this administrative process. If your lawsuit is against a state government employer and you are only seeking injunctive or declaratory relief, you may follow the procedures described below for filing a lawsuit against a private or non-state government employer.
If your lawsuit is against a private or non-state government employer, you must file your lawsuit in a court of common pleas within 2 years of when your employer discriminated against you. You can find the common pleas court in your area on the website of the Ohio Supreme Court or you can call the Ohio Supreme Court at 614-387-9000.