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The First Step

After being diagnosed with any illness, especially a serious or terminal one, other areas of your life are unfortunately affected as well. When your health does affect your employment, the last thing you expect is to be confronted with harassment or the threat of losing your job, income and health benefits. The following pages are designed to empower you to fully understand what your rights are, to assist you with direction in filing a claim of discrimination and to help you deal with job discrimination.

Steps to follow
When preparing to file a claim, your state Human Relations Committee (see FEPA’s below) or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is normally the first step unless the claim has to do with long-term disability benefits under ERISA or under a private policy, there is no such requirement. Instead, there is generally an administrative appeal process to the insurance carrier and/or Plan Administrator. If the administrative appeal fails, federal court litigation is the very next (and only remaining) step.

You must be patient
The required forms are always mailed unless you go to your local office to pick them up and file. Understand that you must fill out all forms required. Some offices may require that you report to them in person, while others may have you fill out a questionnaire outlining the discriminatory charges. Document all sources such as treating physicians, job supervisors and/or plan administrators. The same applies to witnesses (examples could include family and friends, co-workers, supervisors, doctors, etc.) Document all contacts with your employer and all inquiries made on your behalf regarding the case. The EEOC will suggest mediation with the employer first but you may waive that option. An attorney can get involved in the mediation process, although this is not mandatory. If your case can not be resolved to your satisfaction by mediation, your final recourse could be to hire an attorney to pursue litigation, in which case you will need to be patient, since it may take a year or more to reach a judgment or other conclusion. There are many factors that decide whether or not your case is processed quickly. Location iskey. Of course the larger the city the more complaints there are. Gathering evidence, filing paperwork and follow up interviews with all witnesses are the other factors. The busier the EEOC office the longer the wait for the investigation.

If your state does not have an EEOC office
Your state may have regulations and anti-discrimination laws or acts that mirror federal mandates that may prove valuable to you as well. The agency that enforces equal opportunity may have a different name in your state because many states have anti-discrimination laws and agencies responsible for enforcing those laws. The EEOC refers to these agencies as "Fair Employment Practices Agencies (FEPA’s)." Through the use of "work sharing agreements," the EEOC and the FEPA’s avoid duplicating cases while at the same time ensuring that your rights are protected under both federal and state law. If a charge is filed with an FEPA and is also covered by federal law, the FEPA "dual files" the charge with EEOC to protect federal rights. The charge usually will stay with the FEPA for handling. If a charge is filed with the EEOC and also is covered by state or local law, the EEOC "dual files" the charge with the state or local FEPA, but normally retains the charge.