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U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission



Filing a Lawsuit

Note: Federal employees and job applicants have a different complaint process.

Charge Filing and Notice of Right-to-Sue Requirements

If you plan to file a lawsuit under federal law alleging discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation), national origin, age (40 or older), disability, genetic information. or retaliation, you first have to file a charge with the EEOC (except for lawsuits under the Equal Pay Act, see below).

We will give you a Notice of Right to Sue at the time the EEOC closes its investigation. You may also request a Notice of Right to Sue from the EEOC office investigating your charge if you wish to file a lawsuit in court before the investigation is completed (see below). This notice gives you permission to file a lawsuit in federal or state court.

You Have 90 Days to File A Lawsuit in Court

Once you receive a Notice of Right to Sue, you must file your lawsuit within 90 days. This deadline is set by law. If you don't file in time, you may be prevented from going forward with your lawsuit.

Exceptions When Filing a Lawsuit

Age Discrimination Lawsuits (ADEA)

If you plan to file an age discrimination lawsuit, you must have filed a charge but you don't need a Notice of Right to Sue to file a lawsuit in court. You can file a lawsuit in court any time after 60 days have passed from the day you filed your charge (but no later than 90 days after you receive notice that our investigation is concluded).

Equal Pay Lawsuits (EPA)

If you plan to file a lawsuit under the Equal Pay Act, you don't have to file a charge or obtain a Notice of Right to Sue before filing. Rather, you can go directly to court, provided you file your suit within two years from the day the pay discrimination took place (3 years if the discrimination was willful).

Title VII also makes it illegal to discriminate based on sex in the payment of wages and benefits. If you have an Equal Pay Act claim, there may be advantages to also filing under Title VII. To file a Title VII lawsuit in court, you must have filed a charge with EEOC and received a Notice of Right to Sue.

Filing a Lawsuit Before the Investigation is Completed

If you want to file a lawsuit before we have finished our investigation, you can request a Notice of Right to Sue.

How to Request a Notice of Right to Sue:

If you have a registered in EEOC's Public Portal, you can submit your request by logging in to your charge account and uploading your request. If you don't have an online charge account, send your request for a Notice of Right to Sue to the EEOC office responsible for investigating your charge and include your EEOC charge number and the names of the parties.

  • After 180 days have passed from the date your charge was filed.
    If more than 180 days have passed from the day you filed your charge, we are required by law to give you the notice if you ask for it.
  • Before 180 days have passed form the date your charge was filed.
    If fewer than 180 days have passed, we will only give you the notice if we will be unable to finish our investigation within 180 days.

If you want the EEOC to continue investigating your charge, don't request a Notice of Right to Sue.

EEOC Lawsuits

In most cases, the EEOC can file a lawsuit to enforce the law only after it investigates and makes a finding that there is reasonable cause to believe that discrimination has occurred, and is unable to resolve the matter through a process called "conciliation." The EEOC has discretion which charges to litigate if conciliation efforts are unsuccessful, and ultimately litigates a small percentage of all charges filed. When deciding whether to file a lawsuit, the EEOC considers factors such as the strength of the evidence, the issues in the case, and the wider impact the lawsuit could have on the EEOC's efforts to combat workplace discrimination. Congress also gave individuals the right to file a lawsuit in court.

Locating an Employment Attorney to Assist You in Filing a Lawsuit

Upon request, the EEOC offices can provide you a list of local attorneys who have indicated to EEOC they specialize in labor and employment law; the EEOC does not make specific recommendations.

The following organizations also provide directories of attorneys who represent workers if you are considering filing a lawsuit:

American Bar Association - http://apps.americanbar.org/legalservices/lris/directory/
A Lawyer Referral Directory of Services of the American Bar Association organized by state and by legal issue.

National Employment Lawyers Association: http://exchange.nela.org/network/findalawyer
NELA is a national professional organization of attorneys who represent employees in employment law cases.

Workplace Fairness: http://www.workplacefairness.org/find-attorney
The Workplace Fairness Attorney Directory features lawyers from across the United States who primarily represent workers in employment cases.