It’s always interesting to see how the media covers employment cases. Five members of the US Women’s soccer team filed a charge with EEOC against th US Soccer Federation asserting claims related to disparate pay as compared to men. This follows a lawsuit filed last month by US Soccer against the US women’s soccer union over its efforts to seek better bargaining terms. The NY Times provided a very detailed analysis of the alleged disparity between the US men’s team and the US women’s team.
The more interesting thing to me from an employer/employee perspective is the EEOC process. A plaintiff, or in this case plaintiffs, first has to file his/her charge with EEOC before they can proceed with their lawsuit assuming they are asserting claims that relate to statutes the EEOC enforces. The EEOC will then request a response from the party accused of the violation. The party usually provides a written statement, documents, and even affidavits to support their position. There may be some back and forth as the investigation continues and the EEOC offers a mediation process as well. The EEOC can also interview employees and request review of additional documents such as employee files. The caveat on employees interviews is the EEOC maintains it can interview non-management employees outside the presence of an attorney. This should make any lawyer or business owner nervous. The employer is permitted to sit in on management interviews. The EEOC may also conduct a site visit.
Ultimately, and this can take a long time, the EEOC will make a finding as to whether a violation has occurred. Regardless of the finding, the EEOC will provide the complaining party with a right to sue letter. They then have 90 days to file a lawsuit. In limited instances the EEOC can actually represent the complaining party in the lawsuit. In most cases it is up for the employee to find an attorney. Depending on the case, the employee’s attorney may be representing the employee through the EEOC charge process.
Anecdotally, the complaint process seems to be lasting longer. That of course is based on my recent dealings with the EEOC. Generally, an employee/employee’s lawyer that does not want to run through the complaint process can request a right to sue letter after the complaint has been pending for 180 days. The employee then has 90 days to file suit. We’ll see how quickly the EEOC gets to US Women’s complaint. My guess is with the media attention it will be faster than normal. We’ll keep you posted.