Filing a Discrimination Claim – Utah
Employment discrimination is the practice of unfairly treating a person or group of people differently from other people or groups of other people at work, because of their membership in a legally protected category such as race, sex, age, or religion. Each state has passed laws and rules to protect your workplace rights: this page covers Utah employment discrimination. The purpose of the Utah Antidiscrimination Act is to protect workers in Utah from unlawful discrimination in employment. Read below to learn more about Utah employment law and how the law protects you.
1. What kinds of discrimination are against state law in Utah?
The Utah Antidiscrimination Act makes it illegal for an employer to discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, gender, religion, age (40+), sexual orientation, gender identity, pregnancy, childbirth, pregnancy-related conditions and disability. Utah’s law also prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or pregnancy-related conditions.
2. How do I file a discrimination claim in Utah?
A discrimination claim can be filed either with the state administrative agency, the Utah Antidiscrimination and Labor Division (UALD) of the Utah Labor Commissioner’s Office or the federal administrative agency, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The two agencies have what is called 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.
Your employer must have at least 15 employees – less for certain cases of National Origin, Citizenship Discrimination or Equal Pay. The Utah anti-discrimination statute covers some smaller employers not covered by federal law for age discrimination claims only. Therefore, if your workplace has between 15 and 20 employees, you should file your age discrimination claim with the UALD, as the EEOC enforces federal law, which covers only employers with 20 or more employees in age discrimination cases, and 15 or more employees in other types of discrimination cases. Some attorneys recommend that you file with the UALD first for all types of discrimination claims.
To file a claim with the UALD, contact its office. More information about filing a claim with the UALD can be found at the UALD website.
Utah Antidiscrimination and Labor Division
To file a claim with the EEOC, contact your EEOC office below. More information about filing a claim with the EEOC can be found at the EEOC Filing a Charge page.
EEOC’s Phoenix District Office 3300 N. Central Avenue Suite 690 Phoenix, AZ 85012-1848 Phone: (602) 640-5000 TTY: (602) 640-5072
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.
3. What are my time deadlines?
Do not delay in contacting the UALD or EEOC to file a claim. There are strict time limits in which charges of employment discrimination must be filed. To preserve your claim, you must file with the UALD (or cross-file with the EEOC) within 180 days or 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. Yet if you are unable to find an attorney who will assist you, it is not necessary to have an attorney to file your 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, the EEOC may interview witnesses and gather documents. Once the investigation is complete, they will let you and the employer know the result. If they 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).
5. How can I or my attorney pursue a claim in court in Utah?
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 UALD or EEOC, and you may want to continue to pursue the matter, you will need to pursue your claim in court. A federal employment discrimination case cannot be filed in court without first going to the EEOC, as discussed above, and having the EEOC dismiss your claim. This process is called “exhaustion” of your administrative remedy. There is no private right of action under Utah law for discrimination claims, which means that you cannot file a lawsuit in court under Utah law.
Due to the speed, low cost, and higher success rate of the administrative process, some Utah attorneys choose to pursue employment discrimination cases before the Utah Labor Commission, rather than filing in federal court. In the Utah administrative process, compensatory (emotional pain and suffering) and punitive damages (damages to punish the employer) for a discrimination claim are not allowed as they are under federal law, although these damages are rarely awarded in Utah federal court cases anyway. However, most discrimination lawsuits can also be filed in federal court using federal law. Utah law does not permit a court action to be filed under state law, and 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 the document known as “Dismissal and Notice of Rights” or “Notice of Right to Sue” (Form 161) 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.) If you have received one of these EEOC notices, do not delay consulting with an attorney.
This deadline is called the “statute of limitations.” If your lawsuit is not filed by the deadline, then you may lose your ability to pursue a discrimination case
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