Filing a Discrimination Claim - North Carolina

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

The North Carolina Equal Employment Practices Act makes it illegal for an employer to discriminate on the basis of race, religion, color, national origin, age, sex, or handicap (disability). A separate statute makes it illegal for an employer to discriminate on the basis of traits for sickle cell or hemoglobin C, or other genetic information. None of these laws provide a specific remedy, so the only way to enforce them is through a lawsuit in court based on the common law.

Another statute makes it illegal to discriminate on the basis of AIDS or HIV condition, but allows an employer to require applicants to take a pre-employment HIV test. Employers are permitted to deny employment based upon a positive test result, but may not test or discriminate against current employees. Another specific statute protects handicapped persons from discrimination, including discrimination in employment. The only way to enforce a discrimination claim under these statutes is to file a lawsuit in court. The lawsuit is tried to a judge, not to a jury. You must file such a lawsuit within 180 days of the discrimination.

2. How do I file a discrimination claim in North Carolina?

Unlike most other states, North Carolina's state administrative agency does not process claims under the state anti-discrimination law.

In order to file a claim, you will need to contact your closest local Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) office below. More information about filing a claim with the EEOC can be found at http://www.eeoc.gov/facts/howtofil.html.

EEOC Charlotte District Office
129 West Trade Street
Suite 400
Charlotte, NC 28202
Phone: (704) 344-6682
TTY: (704) 344-6684

EEOC Greensboro Local Office
2303 W. Meadowview Road
Suite 201
Greensboro, NC 27405-7813
Phone: (336) 547-4188
TTY: (336) 333-5542
EEOC Raleigh Area Office
1309 Annapolis Drive
Raleigh, NC 27608-2129
Phone: (919) 856-4064
TTY: (919) 856-429

3. What are my time deadlines?

Do not delay in contacting the EEOC 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 within 180 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.

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 North Carolina (including Durham, New Hanover County and Orange County) 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. How can I or my attorney pursue a claim in court in North Carolina?

If your case is successfully resolved by the EEOC, 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 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 heard in court without first going to the EEOC, as detailed above, and having the EEOC dismiss your case, a process called "exhaustion." Exhaustion is not required for state claims, due to the lack of a state law with comprehensive remedies.

Many North Carolina attorneys choose to file employment discrimination cases in state court under federal law. However, cases may be brought in either state or federal court. If a case is filed in state court under federal law, it may be subject to removal, which means that a defendant employer requests to move the case to federal court because it involves a federal statute, such as Title VII or the ADEA.

Only once the EEOC issues the document known as "Dismissal and Notice of Rights" or "Notice of Right to Sue" (Form 161) can you 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.) A lawsuit based on your state discrimination claim must be brought within 3 years as a wrongful termination in violation of public policy claim. Other claims under specific North Carolina statutes have to be filed in court within 180 days, as set out above. 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, then you may lose your ability to pursue a discrimination case.