What to do if you are feeling Sexually Harassed at Work — Part II: The EEOC Charge and Mediation

This is Part II in a series directed answering the most pressing questions  of victims suffering from sexual harassment. It discusses the next step after reporting the harassment: The EEOC Charge and Mediation..  Part I, reporting the harassment can be found here.

This series, was developed to answer the frequently asked question, “What should an employee do if she is feeling sexually harassed at work.”  We have said before, and we will say it again in each of these blogs, the very short answer is: call an attorney immediately. Do not wait; do not let the pain, frustration and anger build. AND DO NOT QUIT. You will have all kinds of concerns about what will happen if you take certain actions and how to best proceed. Each situation is different and these blogs are not intended as legal advice as to a particular situation. A consultation with a lawyer will give you the opportunity to explore the issues related to your particular situation.

The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or EEOC, is the agency responsible for investigating complaints of sexual harassment and other kinds of discrimination and to resolve them if it can.  You can make an appointment with the EEOC to meet with an intake investigator who will interview you and prepare the charge.  Your own private lawyer can also prepare and file the EEOC charge without the need for you to go to the EEOC.  In either case, you must file an EEOC charge before you can file a case under Title VII in Federal Court.

The EEOC charge itself is a relatively simple document and is usually one page.  Once it is filed, the EEOC will send it to your employer and will probably invite you both to mediate the dispute.  If the parties agree to mediation, the charge will get referred to the mediation unit where a mediator who does not make any decisions in the case will try to assist the parties in reaching an agreement.  If not, it will be referred directly to the investigation unit.

Sometimes the mediator will simply talk to the parties by telephone, but most mediations occur in person.  Each side will have an opportunity to present its view of the case and then they will typically exchange offers to settle.  An EEOC settlement can include certain changes at the workplace including new procedures, a new position for victim or for the harasser, and money.  Sometimes the best result is for the employee is to leave her job. In that case, the parties can negotiate a settlement for an employee to leave and with enough money to last until she can find a new job.  There are lots of ways to resolve a case at the mediation stage. Do not expect the other side to make an initial offer that you think is reasonable.  It takes time.  If you have an attorney, your attorney will be present to assist you in the mediation.

If the mediation succeeds, then a settlement agreement will be drafted, signed by the parties, and will go into effect in as short as a week or two.  The mediator will review it as well as your lawyer.  It may take a few days after the mediation for the final written document to be completed.  If the mediation fails, the charge will be referred to the investigation unit.  In Part III of this series, we will discuss the EEOC Investigation.

If you feel that you have been a victim of sexual harassment, contact Maduff & Maduff. Our attorneys have been specializing in discrimination, wage and overtime theft, and civil rights for more than 20 years. Contact us with your employment legal concerns today.