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When you've been relieved of your responsibilities or if you resigned from a company that you believe treated you unfairly, you might consider seeking redress for what might be unfair treatment. With so many public sector agencies addressing the needs of applicants, current workers and former employees, the key is to knowing what enforcement agencies handle which types of complaints. Federal and state agency websites generally have a "File a Complaint" link that explains precisely what information you need to lodge a complaint against your former employer.
If you believe that you were treated unfairly based on age, color, disability, genetic information, national origin, race, religion or sex, you can file a "Charge of Discrimination" with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The EEOC enforces anti-discrimination laws, such as the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, Americans with Disabilities Act, Genetic Nondiscrimination Information Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. You must contact the EEOC within 180 days after what you believe was discriminatory treatment, but if there's a companion law enforced by the state in which the company resides, you could have up to 300 days to file a complaint.
The U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division enforces the Fair Labor Standards Act, which mandates minimum wage rates, overtime pay, working hours and nonexempt and exempt employee classification. If your complaint has to do with being paid subminimum wages when you are neither an employee with a disability nor a youth worker -- both of whom the federal government allows employers to pay less than minimum wage -- contact the DOL to file your complaint. Also, if you weren't compensated for overtime or if you believe the company violated child labor laws, this is the agency to contact.
Safety and Ethics
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration protects employees and former employees through its Whistleblower Protection Program, which covers a number of statutory laws to which employers must adhere. You can complain about an organization's lack of attention to safety measures, its violation of environmental standards or noncompliance with Sarbanes-Oxley regulations by contacting OSHA.
Leave of Absence
If you qualified for Family and Medical Leave Act leave, met the eligibility criteria and your doctor provided certifying information to support your request for leave and you were denied the time off, you may have a complaint against your former employer under the FMLA regulations. The DOL Wage and Hour Division also enforces FMLA so your contact will be the same regional office where you would file a wage complaint.
Employees who try to garner the support of their peers in forming a union often are strongly discouraged by their employers and, in egregious circumstances, terminated for engaging in collective activity. The U.S. National Labor Relations Board investigates what are called "Unfair Labor Practices" charges against employers who violate the National Labor Relations Act or labor unions who violate the Taft-Hartley Act. A board agent can usually tell you whether your former employer's actions justify filing a ULP charge.
You needn't do any investigative work yourself when you file a complaint against your former employer. These agencies' enforcement powers also give them authority to demand copies of your employment records, as well as the records of other employees who may have been subjected to the unfair employment practices. Naturally, if you have your own personal files that contain employment records, pay stubs, employee termination notices and copies of employer-employee communication, that helps the agency put things into perspective before it orders documents and files from your employer.
- U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission: How to File a Charge of Employment Discrimination
- U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration: The Whistleblower Protection Program: File a Complaint
- U.S. Department of Labor: Need Time? The Employee's Guide to The Family and Medical Leave Act?
- U.S. Department of Labor: How to File a Complaint
Ruth Mayhew has been writing since the mid-1980s, and she has been an HR subject matter expert since 1995. Her work appears in "The Multi-Generational Workforce in the Health Care Industry," and she has been cited in numerous publications, including journals and textbooks that focus on human resources management practices. She holds a Master of Arts in sociology from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Ruth resides in the nation's capital, Washington, D.C.