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Your Rights Filing a Discrimination Claim - Alabama

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1. What kinds of discrimination are against state law in Alabama?

Unlike most other states, Alabama does not have a general state anti-discrimination statute. Alabama does have a statute that covers age discrimination claims against employers with 20 or more employees. Ala. Code %26sect; 25-1-20 and following

2. How do I file a discrimination claim in Alabama?

Unlike most other states, Alabama does not have a state administrative agency to accept discrimination charges, which are a prerequisite to pursuing most discrimination claims in court. Therefore, for most discrimination claims, you need to file a sworn charge of discrimination with your local Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) office. Some discrimination claims, however, do not require the filing of a charge of discrimination In Alabama, a claim under the Alabama age discrimination law do not require the filing of an EEOC charge, and can be filed directly in court.

More information about filing a charge with the EEOC can be found at http://www.eeoc.gov/charge/overview_charge_filing.html. You can contact the EEOC at:

EEOC's Birmingham District Office
Ridge Park Place
1130 22nd Street
Suite 2000
Birmingham, AL 32205
Phone: (205) 212-2100 or (800) 669-4000
TTY: (205) 212-2112 or (800) 669-6820
Office Hours: Monday - Friday from 8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
Intake hours are from 8:00 a.m. - 2:30 p.m.

If you are unable to file a claim in person, you are able to file a charge by mail by sending a letter that includes the following information:

  • Your name, address, and telephone number
  • The name, address and telephone number of the employer (or employment agency or union) you want to file your charge against
  • The number of employees employed there (if known)
  • A
  • short description of the events you believe were discriminatory (for example, you were fired, demoted, harassed)
  • When the events took place
  • Why you believe you were discriminated against (for example, because of your race, color, religion, gender (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), or disability)
  • Your signature

Don’t forget to sign your letter. You must sign the letter in order for the EEOC to investigate your claim. Your letter will be reviewed and if more information is needed, the EEOC will contact you. Then, the EEOC will put the information into an official EEOC charge form and ask you to sign it.

EEOC has launched an online service that enables individuals who have filed a discrimination charge to check the status of their charge online. This service provides a portal to upload and receive documents and communicate with the EEOC, allowing for a faster transmitting period. Those who have filed a charge can access information about their charge at their convenience, and allow entities that have been charged to receive the same information on the status of the charge. All of the EEOC offices now use the Digital Charge System. If you file on or after September 2, 2016, the Online Charge Status System is available for use. The system is not available for charges filed prior to this date or for charges filed with EEOC's state and local Fair Employment Practices Agencies. The system can be accessed at the EEOC website. If you do not have internet or need language assistance, you may call the toll-free number at 1-800-669-4000. For additional help, you may also call the toll free number to retrieve the same information provided in the Online Charge Status System.

3. What are my time deadlines?

Do not delay in contacting the EEOC to file a charge. There are strict time limits in which charges of employment discrimination must be filed. To preserve most discrimination claims, you must file a sworn charge of discrimination with the EEOC within 180 days of the date the discriminatory act, though sometimes acts beyond 180 days that are part of a continuing pattern of discrimination can be included so long as one of the acts is within 180 days. Do not wait to file your claim until your time limit is close to expiring. You do not want to lose a claim because you could not get a charge filed within 180 days.

If possible, you should consult with an attorney prior to filing your charge. Just because the EEOC helps you file a charge of discrimination does not mean it meets all legal requirements. Further, EEOC personnel are generally not lawyers and cannot be expected to understand all the legal complexities that your case may present. Further, important legal strategy decisions often need to be made prior to filing a charge of discrimination. If you are unable to find an attorney who will assist you, it is not necessary to have an attorney to file a charge with the EEOC.

To timely file a lawsuit under the Alabama age discrimination law, you must either file suit within 180 days of the discriminatory act or, if an EEOC charge is filed, within 90 days of your receipt of notice of your right to sue from the EEOC.

4. What happens after I file a charge with the EEOC?

When your charge is filed, the EEOC will give you a copy of your charge with your charge number. Within 10 days, they will also send a notice and a copy of the charge to the employer. At that point, the EEOC may decide to do one of the following:

  • Ask both you and the employer to take part in a mediation program
  • Ask the employer to provide a written answer to your charge and answer questions related to your claim, then your charge will be given to an investigator
  • Dismiss the claim if your charge was not filed in time or if the EEOC does not have jurisdiction
  • If the EEOC decides to investigate your charge, they may interview witnesses and gather documents. Once the investigation is complete, the EEOC will let you and the employer know the result. If they decide that discrimination did not occur then they will send you a “Notice of Right to Sue.” This notice gives you permission to file a lawsuit in a court of law. If the EEOC determines that discrimination occurred then they will try to reach a voluntary settlement with the employer. If a settlement cannot reached, your case will be referred to the EEOC’s legal staff (or the Department of Justice in certain cases), who will decide whether or not the agency should file a lawsuit. If the EEOC decides not to file a lawsuit then they will give you a “Notice of Right to Sue.”

    How long the investigation takes depends on a lot of different things, including the amount of information that needs to be gathered and analyzed. On average, it takes the EEOC nearly 6 months to investigate a charge. A charge is often able to settle faster through mediation (usually in less than 3 months).

    5. How can I or my attorney pursue a claim in court in Alabama?

    If your case is not resolved by the EEOC and you want to continue to pursue the matter, you will need to pursue your claim in court. Because Alabama does not have a state anti-discrimination law except for an age discrimination law, many Alabama attorneys choose to file employment discrimination cases in federal court using federal law. A case filed in state court using federal law, however, may be "removed" (transferred) to federal court by the employer because it involves a federal statute, such as Title VII or the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.

    The EEOC generally must first issue a document known as "Dismissal and Notice of Rights" or "Notice of Right to Sue" (Form 161) before you can go to court with your claim. A lawsuit must be filed in federal or state court within 90 days of the date you receive the notice. (Be sure to mark down that date when you receive the notice.) Because 90 days is a short period of time in which to find a lawyer and get the lawsuit filed, you should contact an attorney before receiving the notice.

    This 90-day deadline is called a "statute of limitations." If your lawsuit is not filed by the deadline, then you may lose your ability to pursue a discrimination case. If you receive one of these EEOC letters before you hire an attorney, do not delay consulting with an attorney.

    Some employment discrimination claims can be filed in court without first going to the EEOC. The process of going through the EEOC process is called "exhaustion" of your administrative remedy. Exhaustion is not required for some discrimination claims, including Alabama age discrimination claims. Such claims do not require an EEOC charge but still must be filed in court within their applicable statutes of limitation.

    To timely file a lawsuit under the Alabama age discrimination law, you must either file suit within 180 days of the discriminatory act or, if an EEOC charge is filed, within 90 days of your receipt of notice of your right to sue from the EEOC.

    Other discrimination claims that do not require exhaustion must generally be filed within two to four years. Issues relating to statutes of limitation are complex, and you should consult an attorney knowledgeable in employment law before making any assumptions about your deadlines.