The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

An Overview of the EEOC and Small Businesses

What laws does the EEOC enforce and do they apply to my business?

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) prohibits race, color, religion, sex, and national origin discrimination. Title VII applies to:

Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) prohibits age discrimination against individuals who are forty (40) years of age or older. The ADEA applies to:

Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) prohibits employment discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities. The ADA applies to:

Equal Pay Act of 1963 (EPA) prohibits wage discrimination between men and women in substantially equal jobs within the same establishment. The EPA applies to:

These laws prohibit employment discrimination based on race, color, sex, religion, national origin, age, disability, and prohibit retaliation for opposing job discrimination, filing a charge, or participating in proceedings under these laws.

For more details on the types of discrimination covered by these laws, see Discriminatory Practices.

How do I determine if a business of my size is covered by the EEO laws?

All employees, including part-time and temporary workers, are counted for purposes of determining whether an employer has a sufficient number of employees.

An employee is someone with whom the employer has an employment relationship. The existence of an employment relationship is most easily shown by a person's appearance on the employer's payroll, but this alone does not necessarily answer the question. Determining whether an employer has enough employees to be covered by these laws is, ultimately, a legal question. This subject is addressed in:

Independent contractors are not counted as employees. Determining whether an individual is, under the law, an independent contractor, also is a legal question that may not be as easy to answer as you might think. For more information on how to determine whether a person is an "employee" or an "independent contractor" visit Section 2 of the new Compliance Manual on "Threshold Issues

If you are unsure whether your business is covered, or whether an individual who works for you is covered, you may wish to consult with an attorney.

Who may file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC?

Anyone who believes that his or her employment rights have been violated because of race, color, sex, religion, national origin, age, disability or because of retaliation may file a charge of discrimination with EEOC. By law, EEOC must accept the filing of a charge.

When can a charge of discrimination be filed?

In most geographic areas, a charge must be filed with EEOC within 300 days from the date of the alleged discrimination. In a very small number of areas where a state or local employment discrimination law does not apply, a charge must be filed within 180 days.

Can a small business resolve a charge without undergoing an investigation or facing a lawsuit?

Yes. EEOC has a free mediation program. The program is voluntary and all parties must agree to take part. The mediation process is also confidential. Neutral mediators provide employers and charging parties the opportunity to reach mutually agreeable solutions. If the charge filed against your company is eligible for mediation, you will be notified by the EEOC of your opportunity to take part in the mediation process. In the event that mediation does not succeed, the charge is referred for investigation. If you would like more information on the EEOC's mediation program, see Mediation.

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This page was last modified on January 6, 2004.

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