So, you are thinking about filing an official discrimination complaint against your employer. Maybe it was because of some offensive material in the break room. Or maybe your boss fired you because of your race or religion. Regardless of how you arrived at the crossroads, this article will explain what you can expect from an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission investigation. Specifically, what steps you may have to take and how you may seek compensation.

The first thing you do is file a formal charge with the EEOC. This alerts them to the potential unlawful conduct and jump-starts the investigation. You must file your complaint within 180 days of the discriminatory act. For example, if your boss refuses to promote you because of your religion on New Year’s Day, then you must file your complaint before June or else you will be barred by law from pursuing any actions.

Within 10 days of filing your charge, the EEOC will send a notice to your boss informing them of your charge. After this, the EEOC formally investigates your employer for discriminatory behavior. This usually means interviewing employees, other managers and reviewing the books for evidence of discrimination. Depending on the size of your employer, it is possible that they may have discriminated against other people before. Once the investigation is complete, the EEOC will determine if there is “cause” to support your allegation of discrimination. But, if the EEOC makes a “no cause” finding then you have 14 days to request a review of the findings. If the EEOC affirms their investigation, then your claim with the EEOC ends.

Assuming that the EEOC finds “cause” to support your charge, it then will start a process called conciliation. Conciliation is a way for you and your employer to resolve your differences by avoiding court. It is preferred because you can negotiate with your employer directly, so it is cheaper than involving the courts and paperwork. If the conciliation fails, then the EEOC will either let you sue your employer directly for discrimination or file a suit on your behalf.

If you believe you have been discriminated against, then you may want to speak to an attorney. An EEOC investigation can be complex, so it is usually best to sit down with someone knowledgeable about its procedures.