You just started a new job that seemed perfect - until your supervisor started making inappropriate comments about your appearance. Or your employer suddenly cut your hours after telling them you're pregnant. Maybe you even overheard a colleague making discriminatory remarks about another employee's religion or race.
Situations like these are unfortunately all too common in modern workplaces. But whether you're a young millennial fresh out of college or an early career gen-z employee, you have federal rights protecting you from workplace discrimination and harassment. This is where the EEOC comes in.
What is the EEOC?
EEOC stands for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. This government agency enforces federal laws making it illegal for employers to discriminate against applicants or employees based on protected characteristics like:
- Sex (including pregnancy)
- National origin
- Age (over 40)
- Genetic information
The EEOC oversees the handling of discrimination and harassment complaints in workplaces with 15 or more employees. They investigate charges, mediate disputes, and even file lawsuits against employers violating anti-discrimination laws.
Recognizing Unlawful Discrimination
Discrimination isn't always obvious. Here are some common examples of potentially unlawful treatment by employers:
- You're passed up for a promotion given to a less qualified colleague of a different race
- Your supervisor schedules you for fewer shifts after disclosing a health condition
- You're denied paid paternity leave given to other new parent employees
- A hiring manager asks invasive questions about your plans to have kids
- Your coworker makes derogatory jokes about your Mexican heritage
When any conduct related to your protected status makes you uncomfortable or affects your work conditions or advancement, it may be discrimination.
Unlawful harassment is another form of discrimination. This includes unwelcome conduct targeting your protected status that is severe or pervasive enough to create a work environment a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile, or abusive. Offensive jokes, slurs, threats, intimidation, or physical harassment may be considered unlawful.
Filing an EEOC Complaint
If you believe you're experiencing discrimination or harassment, start keeping records documenting details like dates, times, locations, witnesses, the conduct in question, and how you responded. This information will strengthen an EEOC complaint.
You can file a charge with the EEOC through their public portal or by contacting the nearest EEOC office. A charge must be filed within 180 days of the alleged discrimination. The EEOC will evaluate your claim and decide whether to investigate, mediate, or dismiss the charge.
Realizing Your Worth in the Workplace
As a young employee, you bring valuable skills, talents, and perspective to the workforce. But you also deserve respect and equal treatment, regardless of your age, background, or affiliations. Don't tolerate unlawful discrimination that prevents you from advancing and being your best at work. Lean on the EEOC to protect your hard-won workplace rights.