As an El Paso employment lawyer I often have people call me who have a “Right to Sue” from the EEOC but can’t find a lawyer to help them. Why?
First, you must understand that for most wrongful termination claims you can file a claim under both Texas State Law or under Federal Law. The laws to some degree mirror each other but the time limits to file a lawsuit vary dramatically.
Under Federal law for most discrimination claims from the EEOC you must file a claim with the EEOC within 300 days of the discrimination. Once the EEOC completes its investigation it will issue a Right to Sue letter which gives you 90 days to file a lawsuit. If you miss the 90 days you almost certainly will lose your right to file a lawsuit for wrongful termination against your employer under Federal law.
Under Texas State Law you must file a claim with the EEOC (who represents the Texas Workforce Commission Division of Civil Rights) 180 days. (you could also file a claim directly with the Texas Workforce Commission Division of Civil Rights however that has consequences of its own as stated below). Unless you receive a “Right to Sue” from the Texas Workforce Commission Division of Civil Rights you will usually have two years from the date of your discriminatory event to file a lawsuit. (If you do receive a Right to sue from the Texas Workforce Commission Division of Civil Rights you have only 60 days to file a lawsuit under Texas law; however if you filed your claim with the EEOC as opposed to the Texas Workforce Commission Division of Civil Rights you will probably not receive a Texas Right to Sue letter).
Therefore if you do receive a Right to Sue from the EEOC (But not from the Texas Workforce Commission Division of Civil Rights) and you filed your claim within 180 days of the discriminatory event you probably have up to two years from the discriminatory event to file a lawsuit under Texas State law. But you only have 90 days to file a lawsuit under Federal law.
So this gets us back to the original question of why you can’t find a lawyer to help you. If you filed your claim with the EEOC after 180 days but before 300 days then your only choice will be to file a claim under Federal Law and this lawsuit must be filed within 90 days. Most lawyers hate to be faced with this scenario. While 90 days may sound like plenty of time for experienced lawyers 90 days can be a tough time limit to evaluate a claim and file it under Federal law. Also, for many lawyers filing a claim under Federal law almost certainly means that the claim will end up in Federal Court and because of many reasons this can cause a more unfavorable outcome for the employee (and the lawyer as well). Therefore lawyers don’t like to face this scenario and would rather just not take your claim.
So what can you do so you don’t face this dilemma. First, go see a lawyer before you file a claim with the EEOC and certainly before you receive a Right to Sue from the EEOC. Second, try and file your claim before 180 days. This gives you the choice to file your claim under Federal or Texas State law. This is important because depending on your claim a lawyer can make a decision on which law best applies to you for the best outcome.
I often see employees that don’t want to go to a lawyer because the hope the EEOC will help them settle their claim without the need to hire and pay a lawyer. This is a high risk endeavor because it may mean that if your case does not settle through conciliation you may have a difficult time finding a lawyer. My advise — Go see a competent Board Certified Employment lawyer as early in the process as possible. Get advise on how to file a charge of discrimination and when to file a charge of discrimination. There are mine fields everywhere in the field of employment law and a competent employment lawyer should be able to advise you on the best way to handle your situation.