For those of you who think they have been discriminated against because of race, color, religion, nation origin, gender (sex), disability you have to file a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (which automatically causes your claim to be filed for Texas Law with the Texas Civil Rights Division). When you go in to the EEOC they have you file an Intake Questionnaire. As you may remember from previous articles I have written to file a claim under Texas State Law, you have to file your claim within six months from the discriminating event to preserve your claim of discrimination. The problem is with the EEOC questionnaire. May fired and injured workers in El Paso, Texas go to the EEOC to file a claim, but when they get there they are not sure what are their rights. In fact, I would say the majority of discriminated workers who have not seen a competent employment lawyer in the El Paso area go to the EEOC for advice and help with their claim. Unfortunantly many are confronted with an intake questionnaire that they don’t understand completely. In fact, most don’t know that they the questionnaire is not a formal charge of discrimination. Under Federal law the Courts have sometimes allowed emloyees to use the date they filled out the questionnair as the date they filed their charge, but under state law this may not always be the case. In the case of —Charge of Yeh v. Chesloff, ___ S.W.3d ___, 2015 W L 9304108 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] 2015) ), the Houston Appeals Court addressed the circumstances under which an EEOC “intake questionnaire” might be deemed a “charge” of discrimination. The Court found that the EEOC revised its intake questionnaire form to offer two options for persons filling out the form at the intake stage: Box 1 (“I want to file a charge of discrimination”); and Box 2 (“I want to talk to an EEOC employee before deciding whether to file a charge of discrimination. I understand that by checking this box, I have not filed a charge with the EEOC”). In this case, the employee marked box 2 and did not file a formal administrative complaint until the time for doing so had expired. The court held that under these circumstances the plaintiff’s intake questionnaire was not a “charge” (or a “complaint” for purposes of Texas law) and that her later formal charge was untimely. The plaintiff argued that the untimely formal charge should “relate back” to the earlier-filed intake questionnaire under Section 21.201 of the Labor Code, but the court held that this provision only allows an amendment to relate back to an earlier filed “complaint.” So what does this mean for El Paso employees who are discriminated against? It means that if you want your claim to count you should check the “I want to file a complaint”. The problem is that when a discriminated against employee goes to the EEOC they are usually just given the Federal Deadline and not the State Deadlines (300 days under federal law and 180 days under state law). So many employees who were discriminated against think they 300 days when in reality they only have 180 days and they miss the State deadlines. If you file within the 180 day deadline you preserve both your State and Federal Claims. There is no reason why you should waive your State law claims which can be much better than your Federal Claims under Title VII. So the bottom line, go see a competent employment lawyer before your go to the EEOC. A competent employment attorney can help you preserve your rights if you have a claim for wrongful termination.