If you believe you’ve been discriminated against by a Knoxville Tennessee employer, you have rights that could be lost if you do not act immediately. Both state and federal law prohibit employers from discriminating against individuals in a number of protected classes, and you may be entitled to financial compensation for having been discriminated against.
Knoxville, Tennessee is the county seat of Knox County. It occupies a total area of 104.2 square miles, 5.6 square miles of which is water and 98.5 square miles of which is land. The city’s population was approximately 183,270 in 2013, and the population of the Knoxville Metropolitan Statistical Area is about 852,715. Knoxville is the third largest city in the state, following Memphis and Nashville. Knoxville is home to the University of Tennessee, which was founded in 1794. As of January 2015, Knoxville had a civilian labor force of approximately 399,300 with employment of 373,200, for an unemployment rate of 6.5%.
You have two options for filing a claim. Claims of employment discrimination claim may be filed with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (the “EEOC”) or the Tennessee Human Rights Commission (the “THRC”). You may also file your discrimination claim against an employer directly in state court without filing a claim with the EEOC or THRC. Filing a claim with either the federal or the state agency does not necessarily limit your claim. Due to a “work-sharing agreement” between the agencies, a claim with one agency can be cross-filed with the other by indicating in the claim of your desire to do so. Determining whether to file an employment discrimination claim in state or federal court requires experience with these cases and a detailed understanding of both substantive and procedural law.
A Tennessee law called the Tennessee Human Rights Act prohibits employers from discriminating based on race, color, creed, sex, age, national origin, or religion (The Tennessee Human Rights Act, Tennessee Code Annotated §4-21-401). Age discrimination is discrimination based on a person being aged 40 or over and does not cover younger employees. Employers are also prohibited from discriminating based on mental, physical or visual disability (The Tennessee Disability Act, Ten. Code Ann. §8-50-103).
There are a number of federal discrimination laws. Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”) covers discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, or sex. The Equal Pay Act of 1963 (“EPA”), makes it illegal for an employer to pay different wages to men and women who perform equal work. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (“ADEA”) prohibits discrimination those who are 40 or older because of their age. Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (“ADA”) covers discrimination based on disability, and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (“GINA”) prohibits discrimination against based on genetic information. All of the foregoing anti-discrimination laws are administered by the EEOC. There are additional federal anti-discrimination statutes that are not administered by the EEOC.
The EEOC has jurisdiction over employers who have 15 or more employees, but the THRC is less restrictive and covers smaller employers. Claims against Tennessee employers with 15 or more employees may be brought with either agency. Disability discrimination is prohibited for employers of any size under the Tennessee Disability Act. The THRC has Offices in Nashville, Memphis and Knoxville. The EEOC has offices in Memphis and Nashville.
You can preserve your rights under Tennessee law by filing a claim with the THRC; however, you are not required to do so. You may file a discrimination claim in state court without filing a claim with the THRC. In contrast, federal employment discrimination claims must first be brought before the EEOC before a claim may be filed in court. The EEOC must issue a “Dismissal and Notice of Rights” or “Notice of Right to Sue” before you may bring your federal employment discrimination claim. You have 90 days to file your employment discrimination case in either state or federal court after the EEOC issues the notice.
There are deadlines for filing a claim with the Tennessee Human Right Commission. EEOC claims must be filed within 300 days. Your deadline for filing a court claim in Tennessee is one year. But because it may be difficult to decide when your time limit starts, and you may have other claims with shorter deadlines, so contact us immediately for a consultation with one of our experienced employment discrimination attorneys.
Although you may file a claim with the THRC, EEOC and state courts without an attorney, employment discrimination claims are very challenging and require specific knowledge of state and federal law. If, for instance, you bring your claim before the EEOC or THRC and win, you may be required to release your right to bring a future claim in court based on the discrimination. Without experience in this area of law, you likely won’t know whether the amount being offered in the settlement is fair. An experienced, aggressive Knoxville, Tennessee employment discrimination attorney can help you understand whether your rights are being fully respected.
Tennessee law permits compensatory damages. Federal law permits both compensatory and punitive damages. Fortunately, claims based on both federal and state law may be brought in state court. Federal discrimination claims that are brought in state court may be moved from state to federal court by a defendant employer, so there’s no guarantee that your claim will stay in state court.
Whether you have already brought your employment discrimination claim before the EEOC or THRC or only suspect that you may have been discriminated against by an employer, call our offices right away for a consultation with one of our employment discrimination attorneys. Your rights are time limited and may be lost.