Home : Disability basics : Facts & figures :

Discrimination in Employment: What to Do

If a person with a disability feels they have been discriminated against in employment in violation of the ADA, he or she should contact the EEOC. A charge of discrimination generally must be filed within 180 days of the alleged discrimination. An individual may have up to 300 days to file a charge if there is a state or local law that provides relief for discrimination on the basis of disability. However, to ensure that the individuals rights are protected, it is best to contact EEOC promptly if discrimination is suspected.

An individual may file a charge of discrimination on the basis of disability by contacting any EEOC field office, located in cities throughout the United States.

Getting Additional Assistance

In addition to directly contacting the EEOC, an individual can:

  • file a complaint with the state anti-discrimination board (if the state has such an entity).
  • contact a legal advocacy organization for advice and/or to determine if they would be willing to accept the case. Such organizations include Protection and Advocacy Organizations, Legal Aid Organizations, etc.
  • hiring a private attorney to provide representation with the EEOC, or file suit against the business.

Alternative Dispute Resolution

The ADA supports the use of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) as a quick and fair method for settling complaints without going to court. ADR is a non-judicial means of settling ADA disputes outside of the courtroom, avoiding costly and time-consuming litigation after a complaint or dispute arises. The use of ADR mechanisms is intended to supplement, not replace, other enforcement mechanisms available under the ADA. Two of the ADAs provisions, reasonable accommodation and readily achievable, have often been successfully resolved through ADR conflict-resolution strategies. ADR techniques include:

  • Arbitration: use of a neutral third party to resolve a dispute after hearing arguments and reviewing evidence from both parties.
  • Conciliation: use of a neutral third party to help resolve disputes by improving communications, lowering tensions and identifying issues and potential solutions by shuttling information between the disputing parties.
  • An Ombudsman: investigates and expedites complaints, helping either of the parties settle a dispute or proposing changes to make the employer, government agency, business, etc. more responsive to the needs of the complainant.
  • Mediation: Mediation is an informal process in which a neutral third party assists the opposing parties to reach a voluntary, negotiated resolution of a charge of discrimination. The decision to mediate is completely voluntary for the charging party and the employer. Mediation gives the parties the opportunity to discuss the issues raised in the charge, clear up misunderstandings, determine the underlying interests or concerns, find areas of agreement and, ultimately, to incorporate those areas of agreements into resolutions. A mediator does not resolve the charge or impose a decision on the parties. Instead, the mediator helps the parties to agree on a mutually acceptable resolution. The mediation process is strictly confidential. Information disclosed during mediation will not be revealed to anyone, including other EEOC employees.

EEOC Mediation Services

The EEOC provides mediation services to those interested in using this type of ADR technique. An EEOC representative will contact the employee and employer concerning their participation in the program. If both parties agree, a mediation session conducted by a trained and experienced mediator is scheduled. While it is not necessary to have an attorney in order to participate in EEOCs Mediation Program, either party may choose to do so. If mediation is unsuccessful, the charge is investigated like any other charge. Successful mediation avoids a time consuming investigation and achieves a prompt resolution of the charge. The majority of mediations are completed in one session, which usually lasts for one to five hours.

For additional information about the mediation program at EEOC, visit EEOCs web page at or call the EEOC field office nearest you: Voice - (800) 669-4000; TTY - (800) 669-6820.

Based in part on materials from the Presidents Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities and EEOC. Used with permission.