How To File an EEOC Complaint

The EEOC is the federal agency charged with enforcing the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) which prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of a disability (including being HIV-positive).

In Michigan, you must file an EEOC complaint within 300 days of the discriminatory action. You do not have to have an attorney to file a complaint with the EEOC.

You should make your EEOC complaint as specific as possible, including names and dates and a clear description of what happened. If you live outside a metropolitan area like Detroit, you will be able to file your EEOC complaint by mail.

The EEOC will investigate your complaint, and will either act to correct the problem for you or will issue you a “right to sue” letter. That letter allows you to sue the employer in federal court for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) if you and a lawyer decide to do so, but you will only have 90 days from the date of the right to sue letter to file that lawsuit. You may be entitled to get your job back, or get benefits that were denied to you, or get lost wages or money for other damages. For more information on the ADA, consult this resource on our site: The Americans With Disabilities Act.

Report disability-related discrimination by your current (or former) employer to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission hotline, at (800) 669-3362 or visit the EEOC website.

Things to include in an EEOC complaint of employment discrimination:

1. Explain that you qualify for protection under Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act:

a. you are a “qualified individual with a disability” (use that exact phrase)

b. Your disability is (HIV infection or whatever else)

c. You are/were able to do the “essential functions” of your job (use that exact phrase)

d. The name of your employer

Sample: “I am a qualified individual with a disability, HIV infection. I am qualified to work as a (your job), and I am able to perform the essential functions of that job. I worked as a (your job) for the ABC Corporation until (date of event) when I was (demoted, fired, whatever).

2. Explain that your Employer denied you a “benefit of employment” because of your disability.

a. Benefit of employment includes promotions, transfers, pay raises, and continued employment - so, firing.

b. Also includes regular and vacation scheduling

Sample: “My supervisor repeatedly refused to give me time off, refused to recommend me for a promotion or raise, and finally fired me. She told me she did not like me or want to be around me because I have AIDS.”

3. State when the incident occurred - include all relevant EXACT dates.

4. Say that the ADA controls the Employer:

a. The employer is a corporation (Use the company’s full legal name including the “Inc.” and mailing address, and the name of the CEO or President if you know it).

b. The employer has more than 15 employees.

Sample: “Employer is ABC Corporation of 1234 Hazel Drive, Southfield, Michigan, which is a private Michigan corporation with more than 15 employees. I worked at the office at (your work address).”

5. Say that the event that you are complaining about was discriminatory.

a. What happened

b. When it happened

c. How it was related to your disability

d. It could have been avoided if only.....

e. Did you specifically ask for a “reasonable accommodation”  - something or some change that would have allowed you to keep working despite your disability?

f. If you did not, did your employer have enough information about your disability that they should have known that you needed a reasonable accommodation?

Sample: “I repeatedly told my supervisor that I needed time off for doctor appointments and that I was willing to use vacation time to do it, but she fired me anyway. My supervisor knew I was disabled, because I told her I was HIV-infected on (date you told)
to explain (why you told).”

6. Explain what you want to have happen as a result of filing the complaint. Explain that you have a goal now that the EEOC can help with, such as:

a. Stop the company’s discriminatory practices

b. Get your job back

c. Get your lost pay

d. Make the company get training.

Sample: “I want my job back, but I don’t want to work for the same supervisor. And I will still need time off for medical appointments, but I will almost always be able to let them know in advance or I will use my paid time off.”

When your complaint is written and ready to send in, sign it at the bottom and date it. Include your address, telephone numbers, and email address if you have one. Make a copy, and keep the copy where you can find it. (The EEOC will telephone you to talk about your complaint, and it would be helpful if you can look at the same document they have.)

The EEOC will decide if your complaint is credible and if it makes the case that the law was broken. If so, then the EEOC will do an investigation. That investigation will involve contacting your employer for their side of the story, either in writing or through interviews.
After the investigation, the EEOC will reach one of three conclusions:

1. The law was not broken and your complaint will be dismissed.

2. The law was broken, and you should be allowed to sue the employer in court. EEOC will send you a “Right to Sue” letter, which is like a permission slip. You will then have 90 days to hire a lawyer to file a lawsuit in federal court.

3. The law was broken and the discriminatory action involved fits within the EEOC’s litigation priorities, so they will file a lawsuit against your employer themselves.

Mail your complaint to the regional office nearest you. In Michigan, that is: EEOC, 477 Michigan Avenue, Room 865, Detroit, MI 48226

To locate free or low cost legal assistance:

  • Visit the home page and search for local assistance by entering your zip code in the box marked “Find a lawyer, organization or related service to help you with your problem.” or

  • Look under "attorneys" in the yellow pages to find your local legal aid office, or

  • Contact the Michigan State Bar Lawyer Referral Service at (800) 968- 0738. 

  • Persons age 60 or older, regardless of their income, may be able to receive free advice from the Legal Hotline for Michigan Seniors by calling (800) 347-5297.

  • For more information or questions about HIV law specifically, contact Kendra S. Kleber & Associates, PLLC. P.O. Box 20787, Ferndale, MI. 48220-0787. (248) 591-0301.

This article appears courtesy of Kendra S. Kleber, J.D.