Making a Complaint for Discrimination

It is hard to know what to do when you feel like you are being discriminated against. If you decide that you want to file a formal complaint for discrimination, here is what you can expect to happen.

The first step is to make a complaint following the company's internal complaint procedure. If the company does not have a policy, you should complain to someone in the company who has authority.

If the company does not fix the problem, you can then file a "charge of discrimination" (a formal complaint) with the EEOC and/or with the state agency in your state that handles workplace discrimination. If the discrimination against you happened more than 180 days ago, you may no longer have the right to file a charge under federal law. Some state laws allow for a longer filing time with the state administrative agency. If a state has an anti-discrimination law, an individual may have 300 days to file a charge with the EEOC if they first file a complaint with an authorized state agency. You should consult with a lawyer in your state to determine the filing deadlines in your state. Regardless of the deadline, you should always file your complaint as soon as possible to ensure that you are protected by the law.

After you file your charge with the EEOC, an investigation will begin.

The company will receive a copy of the charge within 10 days. The company has 15 days to respond after they receive the charge. They will write a "position statement," describing their side of the story. The EEOC has 180 days to investigate, although they could take longer.

After the 180 days has expired, you can request a letter that gives you permission to sue the company in court. After you receive this letter, you have 90 days to file a lawsuit in federal court. The investigation procedures and time for filing a complaint may be different under the state law where you live. Contact our office or a lawyer to find out more about procedures in your state.


Erandi is from Mexico. She worked at a fast food restaurant. She and the other workers often had to arrive for work very early and were busy the whole shift. The work was hard, but it was tolerable. One day, a new male manager started to work at the restaurant. After only a short while, he started to make comments towards Erandi and the other Latina women who were working there. The new manager would call the women names, insult them, and make sexual comments. He also made derogatory comments about Mexicans. Erandi talked to her coworkers about this and they agreed that this was wrong and that it was discrimination. They tried to resolve the problem with the company, but things only got worse. They were eventually fired by the company for complaining. They talked to people in their community and to a lawyer about their options. They decided to bring a lawsuit against the company and its owner for sexual harassment, national origin discrimination, and retaliation. Now, they have also become involved with a community group to talk to other women about their experience.