Employment Discrimination FAQ
1. Where do I file a discrimination complaint?
Usually you must begin an employment discrimination case in an administrative agency such as the Wisconsin Equal Rights Division (ERD), the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), or a local agency such as the Madison Equal Opportunities Commission. These agencies have complaint forms online.
If the discrimination is based on race or national origin, you may go directly to state or federal court under a federal statute 42 U.S.C. sec. 1981 without first filing with an administrative agency.
If the discrimination claim is against a government or government official, you may go directly to state or federal court under 42 U.S.C. sec. 1983 without first filing with an administrative agency.
2. How long do I have to file a discrimination complaint?
Generally you have 300 days from the date of the discriminatory act. For example, if you are fired from a job because of your race or because you complained about sexual harassment, you have 300 days from the date of the termination to file your discrimination complaint.
If your discrimination complaint is based on repeated illegal harassment such as sexual harassment or racial harassment, you have 300 days from the last incident of the illegal harassment to file your discrimination complaint.
The deadline for filing a race or national origin discrimination claim under 42 U.S.C. section 1981 is 4 years.
The deadline for filing a discrimination case against a government or government official under 42 U.S.C. sec. 1983 is 3 years.
A claim under the Wisconsin Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) must be filed within 30 days of the violation of your rights.
3. What may I seek in a discrimination case?
What you may seek depends on the circumstances of your situation. In general, possible damages include past and future lost wages, compensatory damages to compensate you for physical and/or emotional injuries, medical expenses, and, in cases where you can show that the employer recklessly disregarded your rights, punitive damages to punish the employer and to discourage employers from engaging in the same wrongful conduct in the future.
If your case is settled before trial, you might also have the opportunity to negotiate other benefits such as a positive or neutral recommendation letter.