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FAQs - Civil Rights Enforcement
- What happens when the OCRE receives a complaint?
- What is the investigative process?
- Is there a fee for services?
- Is this a lawsuit?
- How long does it take to investigate a complaint, and why?
- Why is age discrimination based only on 40 years of age and over?
- Do I need an attorney?
- What will happen after the investigation is completed?
- What does the OCRE do if discrimination is found and what do I get out of it?
- What is the difference between the Office of Civil Rights Enforcement (OCRE) and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)?
- Is OCRE my attorney, and do you represent me?
- What is the deadline for filing a discrimination complaint?
What happens when the OCRE receives a complaint?
The OCRE promptly reviews the complaint to determine if it was timely filed and if it states a legal claim that warrants investigation. If it is untimely or fails to state a valid legal claim, the OCRE will issue a notice of dismissal.
If the claim is valid, the OCRE sends a copy of the complaint to the accused party.
The OCRE then contacts the complainant to assist in preparing a formal Charge of Discrimination, which is a legal document signed by the complainant under oath that summarizes allegations and legal claims. A copy of the charge goes to all respondents.
The OCRE also requests a statement of position from the respondent in response to the allegations, along with evidence supporting their position.
During the investigation, relevant witnesses will be interviewed, evidence from all parties will be analyzed and a determination as to whether there is reasonable cause to believe discrimination occurred will be made.
If there is not sufficient evidence to conclude discrimination occurred, all parties will receive notice of dismissal of the complaint.
If evidence determines discrimination occurred, the OCRE may issue a notice of the complainant’s right to file suit in state court. Or the OCRE may elect to file its own enforcement action to obtain appropriate relief on behalf of the state of Oklahoma and the victim of discrimination.
At any time in during the investigative process, the parties may attempt to settle the complaint through free conciliation or mediation, facilitated by the OCRE and the attorney general’s office.
By law, the OCRE must review and approve the terms and conditions of all settlement agreements entered into by the parties.
What is the investigative process?
After a sworn complaint is filed, OCRE assigns an investigator to the case and sends a copy of the complaint to the party or parties accused of engaging in discrimination. The accused party is called the “Respondent” and will be required to respond to the allegations and provide evidence supporting its position. The investigator will gather evidence and testimony from the complaining party, the Respondent, and any third parties who may have relevant evidence. After a thorough investigation is completed, OCRE will decide whether there is reasonable cause to believe unlawful discrimination or retaliation occurred.
Is there a fee for services?
Does filing a complaint start a lawsuit?
No. Filing a complaint initiates an administrative process that must be completed before a lawsuit may be filed. As a result of the administrative investigative process, the OCRE may file a civil enforcement action or may issue a “Dismissal and Notice of Right to Sue” to the complainant.
How long does it take to investigate a complaint, and why?
The amount of time required to investigate a complaint depends upon the nature of the complaint, the number of issues involved, the complexity of the issues, the degree of participation and cooperation of the parties and various additional factors, including but not limited to the existing caseload of the investigator. Each complaint is different and investigated accordingly. The OCRE works as diligently as possible to complete the investigation promptly.
Why is age discrimination based only on 40 years of age and over?
The age requirement of at least 40 years and above is set by state and federal statute.
Do I need an attorney?
No, you are not required to obtain an attorney, but you may do so at any time. If you do obtain an attorney, you must advise the assigned investigator immediately so that OCRE may contact your attorney regarding your complaint.
What will happen after the investigation is completed?
There are several things that can happen once your investigation is completed depending upon the determination made by the OCRE. Examples include, but are not limited to, administrative closure of the case, notice of a finding of cause that a discriminatory act occurred, no cause finding, dismissal and notice of your right to file suit within 90 days, conciliation and settlement of the complaint, or the filing of a civil enforcement action.
What does the OCRE do if discrimination is found?
If OCRE determines after the investigation that there is reasonable cause that discrimination occurred, the parties are notified and conciliation attempts are made available to the parties in an effort to resolve the complaint. With employment discrimination complaints, if resolution attempts are unsuccessful, the complaining party may request his or her state and federal right to sue, the complaint may be forwarded to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) for possible further processing, or the OCRE may file a civil enforcement action in State court. In housing discrimination complaints, if resolution attempts are unsuccessful, the parties may elect to proceed with a civil action in a court of competent jurisdiction over the matter.
What is the difference between the Office of Civil Rights Enforcement (OCRE) and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)?
The OCRE is a unit of the Oklahoma Attorney General's Office that has jurisdiction to investigate, conciliate, and litigate employment, housing, and public accommodation discrimination complaints. The EEOC is the federal agency that investigates employment discrimination complaints alleging violations of federal law by employers with at least 15 or more employees.
Is the OCRE my attorney?
No. The OCRE does not represent or serve as counsel for individual complainants. The OCRE is a neutral state agency that represents the interests of the State of Oklahoma and that is charged with the responsibility of investigating, conciliating, and litigating discrimination complaints on behalf of the citizens of the State of Oklahoma.
What is the deadline for filing a discrimination complaint?
Complaints of employment discrimination must be filed with the OCRE within 180 days from the last alleged discriminatory act or the right to seek legal relief may be lost.
Complaints of public accommodation discrimination also must be filed within 180 days from the last alleged discriminatory act or the right to seek legal relief may be lost.
Complaints of housing discrimination must be filed within one (1) year from the last alleged discriminatory act or the right to seek legal relief may be lost.
If you have questions or concerns not resolved by the information above, please call (405) 521-3921. We will be glad to help however we can.