1. What kinds of discrimination are against state law in Georgia?
Unlike many other states, Georgia does not have an anti-discrimination statute that covers several protected classes. Instead, Georgia has only a few anti-discrimination statutes that cover specific areas. The following is an outline of Georgia’s anti-discrimination statutes:
The Georgia Age Discrimination Act prohibits discrimination against individuals who are between the ages of 40 and 70. (GA Code Sec. 34-1-2) This statute applies to public and private employers, regardless of size.
Georgia’s Equal Employment for Persons with Disabilities Code prohibits discrimination because of a disability. This statute applies to public and private employers with 15 or more employees. (GA Code Sec. 34-6A-2)
Georgia’s Equal Pay Act requires employers to pay employees of the opposite sex equal wages for equal work. (GA Code Sec. 34-5-1) This statute applies all public employers and private employers with 10 or more employees.
The Georgia Fair Employment Practices Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, disability, religion, sex, national origin, or age. (GA Code Sec. 45-19-20 et seq.) Unlike most state statutes, which apply to both private and public employers, this statute only applies to a state agency with 15 or more employees.
Some cities, such as Atlanta, have enacted local ordinances that prohibit discrimination based on All City of Atlanta non-discrimination laws prohibit discrimination based upon race, color, creed, religion, sex, marital status, parental status, familial status, national origin, age, disability, sexual orientation, and gender identity. Check your local ordinances to see if your city has enacted an anti-discrimination statute.
However, all Georgia citizens are protected under the federal laws, which are enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
2. How do I file a discrimination claim in Georgia?
If you are filing a complaint under the Georgia Fair Employment Practices Act, you may file a complaint with the Georgia Commission on Equal Opportunity (GCEO). More information about filing a claim with the GCEO can be found at the GCEO website.
Georgia Commission on Equal Opportunity (GCEO) Equal Employment Division 7 Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive, S.E. 3rd Floor, Suite 351 Atlanta, Georgia 30334 Phone: (404) 656-5458
Unlike most other states, Georgia does not have a state administrative agency to process discrimination claims under the other Georgia state statutes. However, there are some cities and counties that have their own agency, such as Savannah and Augusta-Richmond County Human Relations, so make sure you check your geographic location.
In order to file a claim based on federal law, you will need to consult your local Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) office. More information about filing a claim with the EEOC can be found at the EEOC How to File page. You can contact the EEOC at:
EEOC’s Atlanta District Office
EEOC’s Savannah Local 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.
Be aware that the Atlanta District office has a tendency to lose documents. Make sure you ask for a copy of the questionnaire and/or charge.
3. What are my time deadlines?
Do not delay in contacting the EEOC or the GCEO to file a claim. There are strict time limits in which charges of employment discrimination must be filed. To preserve your claim, you must file with the EEOC or GCEO within 180 days of the date you believe you were discriminated against. However, as other applicable legal claims may have shorter deadlines, do not wait until your time limit is close to expiring to file your claim. You may wish to consult with an attorney prior to filing your claim, if possible. If you are unable to find an attorney who will assist you, it is not necessary to have an attorney to file your discrimination claim with the EEOC or the GCEO.
You may also wish to check with your city or county to see if you live and/or work in a city or county with a local anti-discrimination law, or “ordinance.” Some cities and counties in Georgia have agencies that process claims under local ordinances and may be able to assist you. These agencies are often called the “Human Rights Commission,” “Human Relations Commission,” or the “Civil Rights Commission.” Check your local telephone directory or government website for further information.
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, they may interview witnesses and gather documents. Once the investigation is complete, they will let you and the employer know the result. If the EEOC 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 Georgia?
If your case is successfully resolved by the EEOC, it may not be necessary to hire an attorney or file a lawsuit. You probably will be required as to sign a release of your legal claims to resolve your case. If your case is not resolved by the EEOC and you 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.
Because Georgia does not have a state anti-discrimination statute, many Georgia attorneys choose to file employment discrimination cases in federal court. 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.
Once the EEOC issues the document known as “Dismissal and Notice of Rights” or “Notice of Right to Sue” 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 after the date you receive the notice. Be sure to mark down that date when you receive the notice.
These deadlines are called the “statute of limitations.” If you have received one of these EEOC notices, do not delay consulting with an attorney. If your lawsuit is not filed by the deadline, you may lose your ability to pursue a discrimination case in court.