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The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is the federal agency charged with enforcing workplace discrimination laws in Tennessee and across the country. An analysis of EEOC cases filed between 1997 and 2018, though, indicates that the agency is less effective than it might be in enforcing those laws. An administrative services outsourcer, Paychex, Inc., conducted the study and found that the EEOC did not act regarding 87% of the nearly 1.9 million complaints filed during the 21 years through 2018.

In those cases, the EEOC either found that no reasonable cause for pursuing the complaint existed or it dismissed the case for administrative reasons. The agency found reasonable cause to pursue a discrimination action in only 4.6% of the cases filed. It considered filing a lawsuit related to only 3.2% of the complaints it received.

Federal law requires that victims of discrimination file complaints with the EEOC before they can look to the federal court system for relief. The goal of Congress in setting the system up this way was to incentivize employers to comply with discrimination laws voluntarily. However, with the EEOC so rarely imposing sanctions on employers, it is likely that Congressional goals have not panned out. Another negative effect of the system is that employees are often discouraged by their interactions with the EEOC, and so they may be less likely to take discriminatory employers to court even after going through the required steps.

In Tennessee, employers are required to provide employees with a safe environment in which to work, free from unlawful discriminatory behavior. An attorney may be able to help in cases where an employee believes he or she has faced workplace discrimination. An attorney might examine the facts of the situation and advise the client regarding potential avenues for relief or gather evidence and conduct witness interviews to prepare for trial.