Filing a Discrimination Claim - Louisiana

1. What kinds of discrimination are against state law in Louisiana?

The Louisiana Employment Discrimination Law makes it illegal for an employer to discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, disability, age, sickle cell trait, pregnancy, childbirth and related medical conditions.

Louisiana law covers only employers with 20 or more employees (25 or more employees for discrimination based on pregnancy, childbirth and related medical conditions), unlike federal law, which covers employers with 15 or more employees (20 or more employees for discrimination based on age).

2. How do I file a discrimination claim in Louisiana?

A discrimination claim can be filed either with the state administrative agency, the Louisiana Commission on Human Rights (LCHR) or the federal administrative agency, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The two agencies have what is called a work-sharing agreement, which means that the agencies cooperate with each other to process claims. Filing a claim with both agencies is unnecessary, as long as you indicate to one of the agencies that you want it to cross-file the claim with the other agency. However, some Louisiana attorneys recommend that you file with the EEOC first.

Filing with the LCHR is not required to pursue a discrimination claim directly in court. If you do not have an attorney, however, you may wish to see whether the LCHR can assist you in resolving your claim without filing in court. LCHR complaints must be filed within 180 days of the date you believe you were discriminated against.

To file a claim with the LCHR, contact its office below. More information about filing a claim with the LCHR can be found at: http://www.gov.state.la.us/HumanRights/humanrightshome.htm.

Louisiana Commission on Human Rights
Mailing Address: P.O. Box 94094
Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70804-9004
Physical Address: 1001 N. 23rd St., Suite 262
Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70802
Phone: (225) 342-6969
Fax: (225) 342-2063
TDD: (888) 248-0859

To file a claim with the EEOC, contact your local EEOC office below. More information about filing a claim with the EEOC can be found at http://www.eeoc.gov/facts/howtofil.html.

EEOC New Orleans District Office
701 Loyola Avenue
Suite 600
New Orleans, LA 70113-9936
Phone: (504) 589-2329
TTY: (504) 589-2958

3. What are my time deadlines?

Do not delay in contacting the LCHR or EEOC to file a claim. There are strict time limits in which charges of employment discrimination must be filed. It is not necessary to file a Charge of Discrimination with either the LCHR or the EEOC to preserve your claim under state law. To preserve a claim under state law, you must file a lawsuit (in the correct state or federal court) within 1 year of the discriminatory treatment (or within 1 years of the date you believe you were discriminated against, as long as you have filed with the LCHR or the EEOC within 300 days of the adverse treatment).

To preserve your claim under federal law, you must file with the LCHR (or cross-file with the EEOC) within 300 days of the date you believe you were discriminated against. However, as you might have other legal claims with shorter deadlines, do not wait to file your claim until your time limit is close to expiring. You may wish to consult with an attorney prior to filing your claim, if possible. Yet if you are unable to find an attorney who will assist you, it is not necessary to have an attorney to file your claim with the state and federal administrative agencies.

4. How can I or my attorney pursue a claim in court in Louisiana?

If your case is successfully resolved by an administrative agency, it may not be necessary to hire an attorney or file a lawsuit (to resolve your case, you probably will be required as to sign a release of your legal claims). If your case is not resolved by the DCR or EEOC, and you may 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. Exhaustion is not required to proceed with your state discrimination claim.

Because Louisiana's state anti-discrimination law does not allow for punitive damages (damages intended to punish the employer), many Louisiana attorneys choose to file employment discrimination cases in federal court using federal law. 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, or because the employer is based in another state. Louisiana state law, however, does not limit or cap the compensatory (emotional pain and suffering) damages for discrimination that are capped under federal law.

The EEOC must first issue the document known as Dismissal and Notice of Rights or Notice of Right to Sue (Form 161) 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 of the date you receive the notice. (Be sure to mark down that date when you receive the notice.)

However, in Louisiana you may file a claim under state law without having first gone to either the LCHR or the EEOC. In that case, to preserve your claims under state law a lawsuit based on your state discrimination claims must be filed within 1 year of the date you believe you were discriminated against (if you have not gone to either the LCHR or the EEOC).

There are some advantages to alleging state and federal claims together, so even if you have filed timely claims with the LCHR or the EEOC, you must be careful about the time limits under state law. If you filed with the LCHR or the EEOC within 300 days of the date you believe you were discriminated against (preserving your claim under federal law) there is a 6-month extension of time for your state law claim. Therefore, if you have claims pending at either the LCHR or the EEOC, to preserve your claims under state law, you must file a lawsuit no later than 1 years of the date you believe you were discriminated against (even if the EEOC has not yet issued you a Notice of Right to Sue).

These deadlines are called the statute of limitations. If you have received one of these agency dismissal notices, do not delay consulting with an attorney. If your lawsuit is not filed by the deadline, then you may lose your ability to pursue a discrimination case.