Imagine this. It’s October 11th, 2013. You have been experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace, and have reported it to your Human Resources department many times. Around 1:30 in the afternoon, you are called into your boss’s office and your employment is terminated. You feel this is due to you reporting the sexual harassment. You get home, upset and frustrated, and go to google.com to search for assistance. Maybe you search “wrongful termination Kansas City,” or something of that nature. You do some reading and discover you need to file something called a “Charge of Discrimination.” You look up “Charge of Discrimination,” and the internet guides you to the EEOC website. You quickly realize that, as the government is shut down, you cannot contact your local EEOC office. Although you read the website and somewhat comprehend the Charge of Discrimination process, you are not exactly sure how to proceed, as this is something you have never had to deal with. Frustrated and upset from the events of the day, you decide to sit back and wait until the federal government opens again. Hopefully, that is within the statute of limitations for filing your Charge of Discrimination.
This scenario is but one of many which may or have occurred due to the shutdown of the EEOC. Luckily for that employee, they likely have at least 180 days to file their Charge of Discrimination. Hopefully, the government will reopen by then. But, it is easy to imagine a situation where, due to this shutdown, an individual may completely lose their right to file a Charge of Discrimination, and in turn, lose their right to sue their former employer based on discrimination. For example, an individual may have been terminated 179 days ago, and wishes to file a Charge of Discrimination on day 179, as they did not realize the statute of limitations was so limited in employment discrimination matters. They may try to call the EEOC on a day it is shutdown, and decide to wait until the next week. At that point, it may be too late.
The statute of limitations in these situations is confusing and, likely, most individuals do not realize the extremely short time constraints they are facing. If an individual wants to file a Charge of Discrimination in state court, and preserve that right to sue, they likely need to file their Charge within 180 days. You may say, well, why don’t they call their state agency? Likely, many individuals do not realize they have a state agency. The bottom line is that every day the EEOC is shut down, there is a likelihood individuals are losing their right to sue. They are losing their right to confront a former employer who terminated them because of race. Or sex. Or because of their religion. These things happen in our Kansas City community everyday. The only way to protect these rights is to fight this behavior. Many times, it must be in a courtroom. This makes the EEOC vitally important to the protection of our basic civil rights.
If you, or anyone you know, is or has suffered from discrimination in the workplace, they should contact an employment law attorney. An employment law attorney can explain their options, their time limitations, and can assist them through the process. The EEOC employees work hard at assisting many individuals with this process everyday, but, with the shutdown, they are not there to assist at this time. Even when the EEOC is up and running, it is smart to contact an employment law attorney to explain your rights.
The EEOC and similar state agencies, such as the Missouri Commission on Human Rights are in place to help victims of workplace discrimination. Employment law attorneys also exist to assist victims of discrimination and harassment, and can help explain your rights. Do not let workplace discrimination or harassment go unpunished. Call a Kansas City employment attorney today.