Concialiation in a discrimination case

Hi, I recentely received a "reasonable cause letter" from the EEOC, the agency found that it is more likely than not that my employer discriminated and retaliated against me, it states the reasons for its findings as well. It also states that me and my employer will enter into negotiations (conciliation), my question to you is what should I expect from this process? Do I need a lawyer for this process? Is the EEOC an active party in this process? Please help me understand more about the conciliation phase. Thanks.

1 answer  |  asked Aug 20, 2005 02:05 AM [EST]  |  applies to Arizona

Answers (1)

Francis Fanning
Conciliation is a Key part of EEOC Process

The EEOC makes cause determinations in a very small fraction of the charges they receive. When they do, it is because they believe the evidence presented is enough to cause them to believe that discrimination has occurred. This determination triggers the process known as "conciliation." It is much like mediation, except that the EEOC is no longer a neutral mediator. The agency has its own agenda, which involves requiring the employer to take steps to protect its workforce from further discriminatory treatment. This may include posting notices, changing human resource policies or practices, perhaps even providing some kind of relief to other employees. In the process the EEOC will want to know what relief you believe you are entitled to recover. If you can justify your request, the agency will try to get the employer to agree to it. If you submit a list of demands that reads like a letter to Santa Claus, you probably won't get much backing from the EEOC. The one thing the agency does not want to do is to become your legal advisor, so you are well advised to consult with an attorney in the process. This assures that your demands are reasonably related to what you could prove if the case went to court, and also assures that you don't overlook something that should be included.
Like mediation, the conciliation process is voluntary, and the EEOC has no power to force an employer to offer anything to settle your case. Although the EEOC's cause determination is admissible evidence in most cases, it is not a ticket to victory in court, and some lawsuits have even been dismissed on the employer's motion in spite of an EEOC cause determination. So it is important to be realistic and flexible in trying to settle your case at the conciliation stage.
The conciliation process usually involves some active engagement by the EEOC. It may include one or more face-to-face meetings, and often includes negotiation by telephone to iron out details. I would recommend having an attorney for this. If you succeed in reaching a settlement in principle, the employer will typically draft a settlement agreement that requires the terms of settlement to remain confidential. Other provisions in the agreement may have to be tweaked to satisfy all parties. There will usually be a separate agreement resolving the EEOC charge. This enables the EEOC to have a written record of anything the employer has agreed to do to satisfy the agency's expectations while allowing the terms of your settlement (especially the amount of any monetary settlement) to remain confidential, since the EEOC agreement is a matter of public record.
If you case involves other claims, such as state law claims of wrongful discharge, defamation, interference with contract, unpaid wages or overtime, the EEOC does not involve itself in these matters, but the employer usually will insist that all claims be settled at the same time. This is another reason why having a lawyer represent you in the process can be important.

posted by Francis Fanning  |  Aug 22, 2005 12:56 PM [EST]

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