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Understanding the filing process for a discrimination claim

Under federal laws and state statutes in New York, individuals are protected from discrimination. This means that any person who is treated different due to a number of factors, including race, religion, political affiliation or gender, may have legal recourse. It is also illegal for an employer to not hire or promote a person and for a state agency to delay or fail to offer a person services because they have filed a discrimination complaint of have become involved in a lawsuit.

The type of entity that allegedly discriminates against a person or group affects how a compliant may be filed. For example, if the New York State Department of Labor has discriminated against a group, a claimant might file with the department's Division of Equal Opportunity Development or with the U.S. Department of Labor Civil Rights Center. If an employer is involved in discriminatory behavior, an individual might file with the US Equal Opportunity Commission, New York State Division of Human Rights or the NYS DOL, Division of Equal Opportunity Development.

The complaint must be filed within 180 days of the day when the discriminatory action occurred, and all complaints must be submitted in writing. Information in a complaint should include some personal information, such as the filer's name, address and phone number. The complaint should also describe the discriminatory act by naming the people involved, explaining the situation and the type of discrimination the filer believes occurred in the incident.

While a person may be able to file an employment discrimination complaint without professional help, retaining the services of a lawyer may be beneficial in some cases. A lawyer could provide a person filing a claim with representation and advice throughout proceedings. This may make it easier for the claimant to pursue compensation in court if litigation becomes necessary.

Source: Department of Labor, "How to File a Discrimination Claim", September 19, 2014

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