Message sent successfuly


(202) 638 6988
601 Pennsylvania Ave., Ste. 900 South Washington, DC 20004

Filing a Title VII Discrimination ClaimOctober 30, 2013

I’ve done a number of initial consultations with potential clients seeking an assessment of whether or not they have a claim for discrimination against their current or former employer under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. If it is determined that enough initial evidence does exist to support a claim for discrimination, many do not understand the process required to file such a charge. This process involves filing an initial charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and obtaining a right to sue letter (RTS) from the EEOC before a lawsuit can commence. This article explains the process of filing a charge of discrimination under Title VII and what to expect during this process.

Protected Classes

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq., is the primary federal law that prohibits employment discrimination. Title VII protects applicants and employees against discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin.  It does not cover age discrimination or disability discrimination, which are covered by the Age Discrimination in Employment Act and the Americans With Disabilities Act.

In the simplest terms, Title VII prohibits employers from making employment related decisions where the decision is motivated by a person’s protected trait (those listed in the paragraph above).  Thus, for example, an employer may be sued for favoring a white employee over a black employee because of race or color. Title VII is also the federal statute which makes sexual harassment unlawful.

Proving a Claim Under Title VII

The courts recognize two types of claims under Title VII.  Disparate treatment and disparate impact claims:

  • Disparate Treatment — Title VII prohibits employers from treating applicants or employees differently because of their membership in a protected class. A disparate treatment violation is made out when an individual of a protected group is shown to have been singled out and treated less favorably than others similarly situated on the basis of an impermissible criterion under Title VII. The issue is whether the employer’s actions were motivated by discriminatory intent. Discriminatory intent can either be shown by direct evidence, or through indirect or circumstantial evidence.
  • Disparate Impact — the doctrine of disparate impact holds that employment practices may be considered discriminatory and illegal if they have a disproportionate “adverse impact” on members of a minority group. Under the doctrine, a violation of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act may be proven by showing that an employment practice or policy has a disproportionately adverse effect on members of the protected class as compared with non-members of the protected class

Exhausting Administrative Remedies

To file a court claim you must first “exhaust your administrative remedies”.  Stated more simply, you are required to file a claim with the EEOC before you may sue your employer in court.  You should generally file your claim at the EEOC office that is closest to you.

There are strict time frames in which charges of employment discrimination must be filed. Title VII charges must be filed with EEOC within 180 days of the alleged discriminatory act. However, in states or localities where there is an antidiscrimination law and an agency authorized to grant or seek relief, a charge must be presented to that state or local agency.

Furthermore, in such jurisdictions, you may file charges with the EEOC within 300 days of the discriminatory act, or 30 days after receiving notice that the state or local agency has terminated its processing of the charge, whichever is earlier. It is best to contact EEOC promptly when discrimination is suspected. When charges or complaints are filed beyond these time frames, you may not be able to obtain any remedy.

Right to Sue Letter

Title VII claims may not be brought in federal or state court until they have been filed with the EEOC, and the EEOC has issued a right to sue letter. The EEOC will issue a right to sue letter for various reasons including:

  1. That it does not have jurisdiction over the charge,
  2. Where the charging party does not cooperate,
  3. Where the charging party requests a right to sue letter,
  4. The EEOC determines there is no reasonable cause,
  5. The EEOC has found reasonable cause and conciliation has failed.

Getting a right to sue letter does not mean that the EEOC has determined that you have a case against your employer.  Rather, it is simply a determination that you may pursue your claim in an appropriate court.  In addition, the EEOC process tends to be very slow and many plaintiffs’ attorneys will elect to request a right to sue letter from the EEOC so that the matter can be pursued in court as soon as possible.



Ryan A. Hintzen


The Hintzen Law Firm, PLLC

// |

Contact us

  • The Hintzen Law Firm, pllc
    601 Pennsylvania Ave.
    Ste. 900 South
    Washington, DC 20004
  • tel. (202) 638 6988
  • fax. (202) 639 8238

© 2012 The Hintzen Law Firm, PLLC all rights reserved.