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? W h a t h a p p e n s w h e n a c h a r g e i s f i l e d a g a i n s t a n e m p l o y e r ?

When an employee files a charge of age discrimination, the EEOC notifies the employ- er. The EEOC has several different options for proceeding, including dismissal if the case does not appear strong or an investigation depending on whether the case has merit. If the agency believes that evidence of discrimination is strong, it may undertake a “priority investigation” that might include requesting documents, testi- mony and interviews from the employer and employee(s).

At any time, the parties may agree to resolve the charges through mediation, concilia- tion, or a settlement. The EEOC may suggest that the case go to media- tion, an informal process in which a neu- tral party assists with negotiating a volun- tary resolution of the charge. Under this scenario, the mediator can neither resolve the charge nor require implementation of the decision.

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EEOC can attempt to resolve the case through conciliation, where the employer is per- suaded to voluntarily elimi- nate and remedy the discrimi- nation. This alternative may mitigate the ambiguity and costs associated with litigation. If mediation and conciliation do not work, EEOC can file a lawsuit against the employer. At any time, the EEOC may also decide that further exam- ination will not result in a finding of a violation of the law, and terminate the investigation.

At any time at least 60 days after the charge has been filed, an employee may file a lawsuit and have access to a jury trial. Litigation can be a time- consuming and expensive process for both parties. If the lawsuit is decided in favor of the employee, the court has the right to require the employer to provide back pay, wages and benefits the court deems that the employee lost as a result of discrimination; reinstatement to a job; and/or front pay, which is future wages

and benefits the employee would have received had the discrimination not occurred. An employer who loses a case may also have to pay the employee’s attorney’s fees.

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