How to File a Pregnancy Discrimination Claim in VirginiaPregnancy Discrimination
Are you experiencing problems at work because you are pregnant? Perhaps you are thinking about doing something about it. Would it be helpful to at least know the steps of filing a pregnancy discrimination case?
It’s good that you’re doing your research. Deciding to move forward on your claim is a big step. You want to make sure that you do it right. Sadly, a wrong move could mean that you lose what rights you have, even if you have a great case!
When to File a Pregnancy Discrimination Charge: Meet the 300-Day Deadline
The federal law that makes pregnancy discrimination illegal is the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), which is part of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. These employment laws and others like them are full of tricky and arbitrary deadlines.
For instance, for most discrimination claims, like pregnancy discrimination, you have 300 days to file what is called a “charge” with either the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or with a county office of human rights. (Not all counties have them.)
As the EEOC notes:
In general, you need to file a charge within 180 calendar days from the day the discrimination took place. The 180 calendar day filing deadline is extended to 300 calendar days if a state or local agency enforces a law that prohibits employment discrimination on the same basis.
When should you start counting those days? They start from the last “adverse employment action,” which usually is something that involves your pay or status within the organization. For instance, if you have been fired, you begin counting the days from the day you got the pink slip. If you are still at work, you count the days from the discrimination event: for instance, a denial of a promotion or a cut in sales territory.
HOWEVER, if you are a federal employee, you may have only 45 days to report discrimination. You must do so with your agency’s EEO officer.
Where to File a Pregnancy Discrimination Charge: The EEOC or Office of Human Rights?
Now that you know when to file a charge, you have to decide where to file it. In most counties in Northern Virginia, like Arlington, Alexandria, and Fairfax, you have the option to file with the EEOC or a county office of human rights. For instance, in Fairfax, you have the option to file with the Office of Human Rights and Equity.
If you want to know whether your county has such an office, just Google the name of your county and “office of human rights.” You’ll want to make sure that it is what is called a Fair Employment Practices Agency (FEPA) with a worksharing agreement with the EEOC. How do you know? Ask the human rights office or call your local EEOC office.
Most agencies will indicate FEPA status right on the website, just like the Alexandria Office of Human Rights does here when it says:
The Office was designated in 1975 as a Fair Employment Practices Agency (FEPA), and has been under contract with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) since 1978 to receive and investigate complaints brought under federal antidiscrimination laws.
What are the differences between the EEOC and a county office of human rights?
While there are important procedural differences, they are the same in one very important way: filing with either the EEOC or your local FEPA will stop the clock on that 300-day deadline. So, if you file your pregnancy discrimination case on day 299 with the EEOC or a local FEPA, then your pregnancy discrimination claim is “protected,” which means your employer cannot argue that you are out of time to file.
The moral of that story is to pick either agency and file before hitting that 300-day time limit!
Can’t I file my discrimination case in court?
Eventually, yes. But you are required by law to file a charge with the EEOC or a FEPA before you can file in federal court, which in Virginia is your only option. There are no Virginia state laws that provide any real protection to pregnant workers. (Note that other localities and states, like the District of Columbia, do have laws that protect pregnant women, so filing in state court is an additional option.)
How to File a Pregnancy Discrimination Claim With the EEOC or Office of Human Rights
So you’ve decided when and where to file your claim. Now let’s talk about how to do it. Fortunately, the EEOC and most human rights offices make this pretty easy. With the EEOC, you can call, fax your charge, or file it online. You can also just walk into your branch office and file in person, but bring a book because you may have to wait a number of hours!
Summing It Up
If you’ve been the victim of pregnancy discrimination, it is important that you act timely and that you take the right steps to protect your case. This means you should do three things:
1. File your claim within 300 days.
2. Find out whether you have a county human rights office that cooperates with the EEOC.
3. Pick either the EEOC or the human rights office and file your claim in one of these ways:
- online, or
- in person.
As you can see, protecting your rights at work while you are pregnant can be difficult.