The Right-to-Sue and You

“I filed my civil rights complaint with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission (“ICRC”) or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), my claim is being investigated, and more than 60 days has elapsed.  I have the option of requesting my Right-to-Sue letter now.  Should I request it on my own without speaking to an attorney?

The short answer is no.

First, your civil rights complaint is important. You can only file a lawsuit for civil rights claims that the ICRC or the EEOC have investigated and these commissions will only investigate claims identified in your civil rights complaint.  If you request your Right-to-Sue letter prematurely, it may be too late to add something you forgot and you might miss your opportunity to bring legitimate claims later in court.  A good employment lawyer can help you draft or amend your civil rights complaint to make sure all the important facts are included.

Second, after your Right-to-Sue letter has been issued, you only have 90 days to file a lawsuit.  After 90 days, you are blocked from bringing your claims by what is called the “statute of limitations,” so requesting your right to sue before hiring an attorney puts unnecessary pressure on you.  While 90 days may feel like a long time, it can fly by.  It may take you a while to find a lawyer that feels like a good fit.  Setting up appointments, meeting with different attorneys, and finding that fit can take time.  This can be frustrating and make you feel more and more desperate because the time period to file your claim is getting shorter by the day.  You do not want to place yourself in a position where you feel forced to hire an attorney that you are uncomfortable with because of a time crunch.

Third, most lawyers have other clients and deadlines to juggle, so waiting until after you have your right to sue puts unnecessary pressure on your attorney.  Your attorney has ethical obligations to investigate your claims and confirm there is a legal basis for moving forward.  After this investigation, your attorney still must draft and file your lawsuit.  Waiting until after you have your right to sue is usually not enough time to take all the necessary steps to represent you properly and file your lawsuit.

Finding the right attorney can take time.  If your case is currently being investigated by the ICRC or the EEOC and you think you might need representation, please contact an experienced employment law attorney right away!

Madison Fiedler-Carlson is an employment law attorney in the Johnston office of Fiedler Law Firm, P.L.C.