The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the federal agency with responsibility for
investigating and attempting to settle discrimination and retaliation claims before a lawsuit is filed.
The EEOC has administrative jurisdiction over claims arising under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964,
as amended (Title VII); The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, as amended (ADA); the Age
Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA); and the Equal Pay Act (EPA).
Title VII and the ADA apply to employers with 15 or more employees. The ADEA applies to employers
with 20 or more employees. The EPA applies to virtually all employers.
Most states have a civil rights agency counterpart to the EEOC. The Colorado Civil Rights Division (CCRD)
has administrative jurisdiction over state law discrimination and retaliation claims arising under the
Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act (CADA). CADA generally tracks the Title VII and ADA laws, but also
prohibits discrimination and retaliation on the basis of sexual orientation. CADA generally applies to
smaller employers with one or more employees. It is recommend that you consult with an attorney
before deciding whether to file your charge with the EEOC or CCRD.
The EEOC and CCRD have statutory duties to investigate charges that fall within their jurisdiction.
A charging party must timely file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC or CCRD; otherwise, the
claims likely are barred forever. EEOC and CCRD have a “work sharing” agreement. If your charge is
filed with both agencies, the EEOC and CCRD will determine which agency will handle the charge.
In Colorado, a charging party typically has 300 days from the first discriminatory or retaliatory event to
file a charge with the EEOC. In contrast, a charge of discrimination arising under CADA generally must
be filed within 180 days of the first discriminatory or retaliatory event. As there are nuanced rules, it is
critical that you promptly consult with an attorney so your charge covers all the claims and is not
Typically, the EEOC or CCRD has jurisdiction over a charge for at least 6 months after it has been filed
with the agency. For EEOC charges asserting age discrimination under ADEA, the charging party may
terminate the EEOC investigation and request a Notice of Right to Sue (NRTS) letter after 90 days from
the filing of the charge.
When a charge is filed, the EEOC or CCRD typically asks the employer if it is willing to participate in
informal Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) to settle the charge. If the parties are unwilling to
participate in informal ADR or if they cannot settle in ADR, the charge is transferred to the agency’s
investigative unit. At that point, an investigator will ask the employer to submit a position statement, to
identify witnesses, and to provide information and documents requested by the agency. Sometimes the
agency will contact the parties to request additional time to investigate the charge.
Upon completion of its investigation, the agency may: i) find “cause” that a violation of the
discrimination or retaliation laws has occurred; ii) find “no cause” that a violation has occurred; or iii)
terminate the investigation (at the request of the charging party or at the behest of the agency).
If the EEOC or CCRD makes a finding of “cause” that a violation has occurred, it must attempt to
conciliate (settle) the charge between the parties. If efforts to conciliate the charge fail, the agency
typically then issues the NRTS letter to the charging party. The agency won’t issue a NRTS letter until
termination of the investigation or conciliation efforts, or the charging party requests such. You need to
receive a NRTS letter before you can bring suit on these claims.
Additionally, a charging party may have significant state law claims against the employer or its managers
and employees. In those instances it is critical to have your legal matter evaluated by your attorney at
the earliest possible date. An experienced employment lawyer will determine any statutes of limitations
or legal deadlines that apply to any state law claims.
In relatively rare instances that involve an affected class of members or in cases of inadequate employer
policies, procedures and training, the EEOC may utilize its limited resources to bring suit on behalf of a
charging party or a class of affected class members.
You generally have 90 days from your receipt of EEOC or CCRD’s NRTS letter to file your lawsuit in
federal or state court. A lawyer should advise as to your court filing deadlines. You might have a case
with additional legal claims that have different filing deadlines.
If you don’t properly frame the facts and claims in your charge (or if you don’t timely amend the charge,
if necessary), your case might be compromised or subject to dismissal. It’s best to have an attorney
draft and file your charge and to guide you through the EEOC or CCRD administrative proceedings
before bringing your lawsuit.