Filing a Discrimination Claim – Arizona
1. What kinds of discrimination are against state law in Arizona?
The Arizona Civil Rights Act makes it illegal for an employer to discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, gender, age, physical disability (excluding current alcohol or drug use), and national origin.
2. How do I file a discrimination claim in Arizona?
A discrimination claim may be filed either with the state, through the state attorney general’s Civil Rights Division (CRD), or with the federal administrative agency, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The two agencies have a work-sharing agreement, which means that the agencies cooperate with each other to process claims. Filing a claim with both agencies is unnecessary, as long as you indicate to one of the agencies that you want it to cross-file the claim with the other agency.
The Arizona anti-discrimination statute covers some smaller employers not covered by federal law for sexual harassment claims only. Therefore, if your workplace has between 1 and 14 employees and you have a sexual harassment claim, you should file with the CRD, as the EEOC enforces federal law, which covers only employers with 15 or more employees. If your workplace has 15 or more employees, you may file with either agency.
To file a claim with the CRD, contact the nearest office below. More information about filing a claim with the CRD can be found at the: Arizona Attorney General’s website.
Office of the Attorney General
Civil Rights Division
1275 West Washington Street
Phoenix, Arizona 85007-2997
Main Phone: 602-542-5263
Toll-Free TDD: 877-624-8090
Office of the Attorney General
Civil Rights Division
400 West Congress, S-315
Tucson, Arizona 85701-1367
Main Phone: 520-628-6500
Toll-Free TDD: 877-881-7552
Office of the Attorney General
1000 Ainsworth Drive, Suite A-210
Prescott, Arizona 86305-1610
Main Phone: 928-778-1265
To file a claim with the EEOC, contact your local EEOC office below. More information about filing a claim with the EEOC can be found at their How to File page.
|EEOC’s Phoenix District Office
3300 North Central Avenue
Phoenix, AZ 85012-1848
Toll Free: 800-669-4000
Office Hours: Monday – Friday from 8:00 to 4:30
If you are unable to file a claim in person, you are able to file a charge by mail by sending a letter that includes the following information:
- Your name, address, and telephone number
- The name, address and telephone number of the employer (or employment agency or union) you want to file your charge against
- The number of employees employed there (if known)
- A short description of the events you believe were discriminatory (for example, you were fired, demoted, harassed)
- When the events took place
- Why you believe you were discriminated against (for example, because of your race, color, religion, gender (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), or disability)
- Your signature
Don’t forget to sign your letter. You must sign the letter in order for the EEOC to investigate your claim.
Your letter will be reviewed and if more information is needed, the EEOC will contact you. Then, the EEOC will put the information into an official EEOC charge form and ask you to sign it.
EEOC has launched an online service that enables individuals who have filed a discrimination charge to check the status of their charge online. This service provides a portal to upload and receive documents and communicate with the EEOC, allowing for a faster transmitting period. Those who have filed a charge can access information about their charge at their convenience, and allow entities that have been charged to receive the same information on the status of the charge. All of the EEOC offices now use the Digital Charge System. If you file on or after September 2, 2016, the Online Charge Status System is available for use. The system is not available for charges filed prior to this date or for charges filed with EEOC’s state and local Fair Employment Practices Agencies. The system can be accessed at the EEOC website. If you do not have internet or need language assistance, you may call the toll-free number at 1-800-669-4000. For additional help, you may also call the toll free number to retrieve the same information provided in the Online Charge Status System.
You may also wish to check with your city or county to see if you live and/or work in a city or county with a local anti-discrimination ordinance. Some cities and counties in Arizona have agencies that process claims under local ordinances and may be able to assist you. These agencies are often called the Human Rights Commission, Human Relations Commission, or the Civil Rights Commission. Check your local telephone directory or government website for further information. You can find a list of Arizona cities and counties, with links to government websites, at http://www.azcommerce.com/CommAsst/Profiles/.
3. What are my time deadlines?
Do not delay in contacting the CRD or EEOC to file a claim. To proceed with your state claim, you must file with the CRD (or cross-file with the EEOC) within 180 days of the date you believe you were discriminated against. To proceed with your federal claim, you must file with the EEOC (or cross-file with the state agency) within 300 days of the date you believe you were discriminated against. However, as you might have other legal claims with shorter deadlines, do not wait to file your claim until your time limit is close to expiring. You may wish to consult with an attorney prior to filing your claim, if possible. But if you are unable to find an attorney who will assist you, it is not necessary to have an attorney to file a discrimination claim with the state and federal administrative agencies.
4. What happens after I file a charge with the EEOC?
When your charge is filed, the EEOC will give you a copy of your charge with your charge number. Within 10 days, the EEOC will also send a notice and a copy of the charge to the employer. At that point, the EEOC may decide to do one of the following:
- Ask both you and the employer to take part in a mediation program
- Ask the employer to provide a written answer to your charge and answer questions related to your claim, then your charge will be given to an investigator
- Dismiss the claim if your charge was not filed in time or if the EEOC does not have jurisdiction
If the EEOC decides to investigate your charge, they may interview witnesses and gather documents. Once the investigation is complete, they will let you and the employer know the result. If the EEOC decides that discrimination did not occur then they will send you a “Notice of Right to Sue.” This notice gives you permission to file a lawsuit in a court of law. If the EEOC determines that discrimination occurred then they will try to reach a voluntary settlement with the employer. If a settlement cannot reached, your case will be referred to the EEOC’s legal staff (or the Department of Justice in certain cases), who will decide whether or not the agency should file a lawsuit. If the EEOC decides not to file a lawsuit then they will give you a “Notice of Right to Sue.”
How long the investigation takes depends on a lot of different things, including the amount of information that needs to be gathered and analyzed. On average, it takes the EEOC nearly 6 months to investigate a charge. A charge is often able to settle faster through mediation (usually in less than 3 months).
If you file a charge with the CRD, the investigation and resolution process will be substantially similar to the EEOC process.
5. How can I or my attorney pursue a claim in court in Arizona?
If your case is successfully resolved by an administrative agency, it may not be necessary to hire an attorney or file a lawsuit (to resolve your case, you probably will be required as to sign a release of your legal claims). If your case is not resolved by the CRD or EEOC, however, you may need to pursue your claim in court.
A federal employment discrimination case cannot be filed in court until the claim is filed with the EEOC, as discussed above, and the EEOC dismisses your claim. This process is called exhaustion of your administrative remedy. Similarly, before you can proceed with a lawsuit based on your state discrimination claim, you must file with the CRD.
Because Arizona state law limits the damages recoverable for a discrimination claim, many Arizona attorneys choose to file employment discrimination cases in state court using federal law; however, cases may be brought in either state or federal court. A case filed in state court using federal law may be removed to federal court by the employer, because it involves a federal statute such as Title VII or the ADEA.
The EEOC must first issue a Dismissal and Notice of Rights or Notice of Right to Sue, before you can file a case based upon your federal claim. A lawsuit based on your federal discrimination claim must be filed in federal or state court within 90 days of the date you receive the notice. (Be sure to mark down that date when you receive the notice.) A lawsuit based on your state claim must be filed within 90 days of receiving a similar notice from the CRD.
These legal deadlines are called the statute of limitations. If you have received one of these agency dismissal notices, do not delay consulting with an attorney. If your lawsuit is not filed by the deadline, you may lose your ability to pursue a discrimination case.
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