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Enforcement of Workplace Discrimination Laws -- Getting Started


The process for starting a complaint to the appropriate government agency charged with enforcing the American With Disabilities Act and similar laws is straight forward and not complicated.

It is advisable to prepare your case before approaching the agency. Do not let preparation turn into procrastination. If you don't have all your "i's" dotted or "t's" crossed, the representative will help you.

Information you will need to supply in order to file a discrimination claim, includes:

  • Your name, address, and telephone number.
  • The name, address, and telephone number of the employer, employment agency, or union that is alleged to have discriminated against you.
  • The number of employees (or union members), if known.
  • A short description of the alleged violation (the event or events that cause you to believe that your rights were violated);
  • The date(s) of the alleged violation(s);and
  • The names of the individuals involved.

How To Prepare Your Case Before Contacting A Governmental Agency

First look around to see if there are other people similarly situated who have been discriminated against by your employer because of a health condition. If you can get them to join in a complaint, a class discrimination complains is more likely to prevail.

Whether on your own or with other people:

  • Assemble all literature, correspondence, and other written material you believe relates to your case.
  • Write a narrative or chronology (timeline) of the events that led up to the discrimination and about the discriminatory act itself. Your written narrative should be as detailed and as complete as you can make it.

To help jog your memory:

  • Review your work diary if you've been making notations.
  • Perhaps you wrote e-mails or letters to friends as events unfolded.
  • Perhaps you complained to your spouse, significant other or a close friend who can help recall dates and facts.
  • Consider writing the narrative, setting it aside for a day or two, and then returning to it to see what you can add. Let a friend or family member who is aware of the events read it to see that you have included everything and that it clearly explains the situation.

The narrative should include:

  • The chain of events that led up to the discriminatory act.
  • Names of everyone involved and their roles.
  • Names of any witnesses who can confirm what happened.
  • As much as you can recall of quotes or precise paraphrasing of what the individuals involved said.
  • A description of what the people involved did.
  • Any evidence you have, such as notes in your journal or on a calendar, or descriptions in e-mails. Include any evaluations, memos or other correspondence you have from your boss showing what a good job you were doing.
    • Do not correct any notes or try to make them more legible. Notes you took at the time things happened have value precisely because they were made when the events occurred. If you change even one word later, the entire batch of evidence can be discredited.
    • If you already made the change, submit the documents and explain the change.
  • All attempts you made to resolve the situation on a friendly basis. And,
  • As many precise dates of the events as possible.

Once all the material is assembled you are ready to call your nearest EEOC, OFCCP or state office.

How Do I File My Complaint?

The procedure for filing a discrimination complaint is the same for both the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP).

Complaints are made in the field office for the area where your employer is located. To find the field office which covers your employer:

  • EEOCcall 800.669.4000 or see offsite link.
  • OFCCP: call the help desk at: 800.397.6251 or see offsite link.
  • NOTE:  The United States Department of Justice enforces the ADA requirements in three areas:
    • Employment practices by units of state and local government. (Title I)
    • Programs, services and activities of state and local government. (Title II)
    • Public accommodationa and commercial faclities (private businesses and nonprofit service providers). Title III
    • The Department of Justice provides information through a toll-free information line, including information about filing a complaint. Tel.: 800.514.0301 (800.514.0383 TDD) offsite link M-F 9:30 - 5:30 ET Office on the Americans With Disabilities Act, Civil Rights Division, U.S. Department of Justice, P.O. Box 66118, Washington, D.C. 20035-6118. 

There is no complaint form available to the public. Instead, you either write your complaint in the form of a signed letter (in which case you mail or fax it) or tell your complaint to an EEOC or OFCCP representative (either on the phone or in person.)

Whether it is a letter or a conversation, the representative will need:

  • The basis of the discrimination. For example: age, race, color, disability.
  • The issue: For example, you were not promoted, harassed, terminated.
  • Brief description of the alleged discrimination. For example, the narrative described above in How Do I Prepare My Case Before Contacting the Government Agency?
  • How many people work for the employer.
  • Date of the alleged incident.
  • Employer information: At least the employer's name and address. Employer i.d. number is helpful, but not necessary.
  • Your contact information. In addition to home address and phone number, include e-mail address if you have one.

If you tell your complaint to a representative on the phone, be sure to get his or her name, and a direct telephone line or e-mail address if possible. If you write the agency, whether by fax or mail, try to get the name of a person to whom to direct your letter.

If you told your complaint to an agent on the telephone, you should receive a draft copy of a complaint to sign by about two weeks after your conversation. If you don't receive it by then, follow-up.

By mail or fax: If your nearest office is a considerable distance away, or there is another reason you cannot go in person, call and get details on filing a written complaint, including the name of a specific person to whom to address your letter.

Follow-up after a few days to make sure the person you addressed the letter to received the complaint and that it was entered into the system.

We recommend you submit your complaint in person, preferably in writing. If you don't write a complete complaint letter, at least make notes of all of the facts listed above that you can recall. After you write the letter, put it away for a day or two. Then look at it again. You may remember more facts to add.

  • If you go in person you can find out from a counselor whether the agency has jurisdiction over your charge. The counselor can also quickly review your complaint to see if anything is unclear or more facts are needed. You will also be more than a "faceless person on the phone."
  • The best way to file a complaint in person is to call and set an appointment. Some offices do not make appointments and may require you to simply show-up. If so, go early in the morning so you will be there when they open. Do not go on a Monday or a Friday as those days tend to be more crowded but the agencies don't increase the number of staff available on those days.


  • Keep a copy of everything you submit. In fact, it is better to submit a photocopy and keep the original in case a document gets lost. You can always make other copies. Replacing an original may be more difficult.
  • File the originals in a safe place with notes of your conversations.

How To dealing with government agency personnel: When you speak with the person who will be in charge of your case, follow the guidelines described in Speaking With An Insurance Company, including How to Make A Friend.

If you need an accommodation in order to file a charge (for example, a sign language interpreter or print materials in an accessible format) tell the agency so appropriate arrangements can be made.

NOTE: EEOC complaints are private. However, if your complaint turns into an actual lawsuit, keep in mind that lawsuits are public records. As such, a future employer doing a standard investigation will likely learn about the lawsuit and what it was about.

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