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Were you harassed at work, fired, denied a job, denied benefits, or passed over for a promotion, with discrimination as the motive? If so, you might be able to file a claim against your employer and recover compensation.

While any unfair treatment is infuriating, workplace discrimination is only illegal if it was based on your membership in one or more protected groups, according to federal laws enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and under South Carolina’s Human Affairs Law. The state statute covers employers with 15 or more employees.

These protected groups are:

  • Sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation)
  • Age (over 40)
  • Race/color
  • Religion
  • National origin
  • disability
  • Genetic information

Employees are protected from harassment based on a protected class or retaliation if they file or threaten to file an EEOC complaint or participate in an EEOC investigation.

Despite these laws on the books, workplace discrimination can occur. Keep in mind that in an employment-at-will setting (i.e., when there is no contract in place), an employee can be fired for any reason other than one that would violate discrimination laws.

There were over 1,000 EEOC complaints, however, filed in South Carolina alone last year. If you’ve been discriminated against at work because of a legally protected classification, you have recourse, and there are steps you can take to fight for justice. Law Office of William J. Luse maintains an active employment law practice. Contact us today at (843) 839-4795 to learn more about your legal rights when an employer violates the law.

What do I do if I’ve been discriminated against at work?

If you think you are being mistreated at work that rises to the level of illegal discrimination, contact an experienced employment law firm like Law Office of William J. Luse. We can evaluate the facts and circumstances of your case and advise you on your legal options. We have successfully represented clients in wrongful termination lawsuits, sexual harassment claims, retaliation claims, discrimination claims, hostile work environments, wage-hour violations, and in other forms of worker mistreatment.

Typically, you will need to first complain via your employer’s internal channels outlined during your onboarding or in your employee manual. Depending on your employer, this might include things like filing a formal complaint with HR or having an “open door” conversation with your manager.

After your conversation, consider writing with a summary email containing details of your complaint, such the dates, and circumstances of the mistreatment or harassment you experienced, as well as any remedial action the employer promised. Documenting this information, including the timeline, will be helpful if you decide to file an EEOC complaint.

What happens if the issue is not resolved?

If your employer does not respond appropriately to your conversation or resolve the issue, you have a legal right to file a discrimination complaint with the federal or state government, i.e., the EEOC or the South Carolina Human Affairs Commission, depending upon the circumstances.

This serves a valuable process for getting justice, but it involves a complicated amount of paperwork and investigations. Your claim can be dismissed if your complaint isn’t framed correctly, adequately documented, or filed too late.

EEOC Claims in South Carolina

South Carolina law requires you to file a discrimination complaint with the state within 180 days of when the discrimination occurred, while federal law requires that you file an EEOC complaint within 300 days of the discrimination.  In some cases, the EEOC will delegate the investigation to the state agency once you have submitted the necessary paperwork that outlines your complaint against the employer.

After you’ve filed a discrimination complaint, the agency will investigate some extent. Along the way, you can ask the EEOC for “Notice of Right to Sue,” which you typically need to file a lawsuit against your employer and ask the court for damages for things like lost wages, pain, and suffering, and lost benefits. You can submit a request at any time, but the EEOC will usually not grant the request before they’ve had at least 180 days to probe your charge, even if it remains unresolved. You also have the right to sue if the EEOC dismisses your charge based on finding no probable cause for the complaint.

Once you have received this notice, you have only 90 days to file your lawsuit in federal court. Separate deadlines apply in state court.

These deadlines can easily slip by while you’re trying to gather everything you need for your case. However, an experienced employment law attorney will help make sure all agency and court deadlines are met and navigate these complicated legal procedures. They will also know how to complete all required documents thoroughly, represent you during the investigation, and persuasively to help you get the best outcome for your case, even if it heads to a full-blown court trial.

Proving Discrimination in South Carolina

To prove your workplace discrimination claim, it’s critical to understand the complaint process and tools your employer might use to fight against your claim.

When you file an official state or federal discrimination complaint against your employer, the government agency takes your complaint very seriously, although it may take months before any formal resolution emerges because of the agency’s caseload.

They will contact your employer to get their side of the story in writing as well as requesting records and documents relevant to your complaint, such as personnel files, email messages, and copies of HR policies. They might interview managers over the phone and/or also visit the office to interview other employees to get their accounts on the workplace environment, policies, and possible discrimination. EEOC-sponsored mediation between employer and employee is an option.

Throughout this investigation, your employer will typically work hard to prove their innocence and protect their reputation. They might try to discredit you by saying the actions that you perceived as discriminatory were legitimate (and legal) business decisions. In a termination, for example, they might provide copies of negative performance evaluations, poor attendance records, or disciplinary email exchanges to try to show that you were on notice that you could be fired because your work was substandard.

Always keep copies of formal performance appraisals, emails from management, and other similar materials, including contemporaneous notes; it would not be unheard for an employer to edit a performance appraisal after the fact to make their case stronger.

Your employer might also highlight a record of when they treated other people outside of the protected class the same way that they treated you. For example, in an age-discrimination charge, they might say that they also fired three other people under 40 because of their poor attendance records.

There are endless tricks your employer might use to try to dispute your claim, so it’s critical to have a knowledgeable EEOC complaint lawyer on your side. An experienced attorney will foresee these challenges and help you overcome them by building a solid case to prove the discrimination was intentional and could not have been caused by any legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason.

Contact an EEOC Attorney in Myrtle Beach Today

At the Law Office of William J. Luse, we’ve helped clients throughout the Myrtle Beach area recover lost wages and other damages owed to them in EEOC claims. We go above and beyond to help each client get the compensation they deserve, and we want to do the same for you.

Upon taking your employment discrimination case, we’ll provide personal attention, passionately, and aggressively fight for your legal rights, and explain your legal options and the path we’ll take together. If your case goes to trial, we’ll even work with you in our mock courtroom – the only one at a South Carolina law office– to help you feel as comfortable as possible with the situation you might face in federal or state court.

Let us fight for you. Contact us today by calling Law Office of William J. Luse or via our online contact form to set up a confidential consultation.

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