Filing a Discrimination Claim - Louisiana
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 Louisiana employment discrimination. The purpose of the Louisiana Employment Discrimination Law is to protect workers in Louisiana from unlawful discrimination in employment. Read below to learn more about Louisiana employment law and how the law protects you.
1. What kinds of discrimination are against state law in Louisiana?
The Louisiana Employment Discrimination Law makes it illegal for an employer to discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, disability, age, sickle cell trait, pregnancy, childbirth and related medical conditions.
Louisiana law covers only employers with 20 or more employees (25 or more employees for discrimination based on pregnancy, childbirth and related medical conditions), unlike federal law, which covers employers with 15 or more employees (20 or more employees for discrimination based on age).
2. How do I file a discrimination claim in Louisiana?
A discrimination claim can be filed either with the state administrative agency, the Louisiana Commission on Human Rights (LCHR) 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. However, some Louisiana attorneys recommend that you file with the EEOC first.
Filing with the LCHR is not required to pursue a discrimination claim directly in court. If you do not have an attorney, however, you may wish to see whether the LCHR can assist you in resolving your claim without filing in court. LCHR complaints must be filed within 180 days of the date you believe you were discriminated against.
To file a claim with the LCHR, contact its office below. More information about filing a claim with the LCHR can be found at the LCHR website.
Louisiana Commission on Human Rights
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 the EEOC How to File page.
EEOC — New Orleans District Office
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 LCHR or EEOC to file a claim. There are strict time limits in which charges of employment discrimination must be filed. It is not necessary to file a Charge of Discrimination with either the LCHR or the EEOC to preserve your claim under state law. To preserve a claim under state law, you must file a lawsuit (in the correct state or federal court) within 1 year of the discriminatory treatment (or within 1½ years of the date you believe you were discriminated against, as long as you have filed with the LCHR or the EEOC within 300 days of the adverse treatment).
To preserve your claim under federal law, you must file with the LCHR (or cross-file with the EEOC) 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 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 Louisiana?
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 DCR 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. Exhaustion is not required to proceed with your state discrimination claim.
Because Louisiana's state anti-discrimination law does not allow for punitive damages (damages intended to punish the employer), many Louisiana attorneys choose to file employment discrimination cases in federal court using federal law. 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, or because the employer is based in another state. Louisiana state law, however, does not limit or cap the compensatory (emotional pain and suffering) damages for discrimination that are capped under federal law.
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.)
However, in Louisiana you may file a claim under state law without having first gone to either the LCHR or the EEOC. In that case, to preserve your claims under state law a lawsuit based on your state discrimination claims must be filed within1 year of the date you believe you were discriminated against (if you have not gone to either the LCHR or the EEOC).
There are some advantages to alleging state and federal claims together, so even if you have filed timely claims with the LCHR or the EEOC, you must be careful about the time limits under state law. If you filed with the LCHR or the EEOC within 300 days of the date you believe you were discriminated against (preserving your claim under federal law) there is a 6-month extension of time for your state law claim. Therefore, if you have claims pending at either the LCHR or the EEOC, to preserve your claims under state law, you must file a lawsuit no later than 1½ years of the date you believe you were discriminated against (even if the EEOC has not yet issued you a “Notice of Right to Sue”).
These 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, then you may lose your ability to pursue a discrimination case.
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