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Employment commission offers local hours

POSTED May 21, 2010 10:32 p.m.

Victims of workplace discrimination will have a new opportunity to file complaints locally, as the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission will begin offering office hours on some Sundays in Modesto.

“This is a great opportunity to come in and talk to someone,” Local EEOC Director Hea Jung Atkins said.

The EEOC will hold intake sessions at the California Rural Legal Assistance office at 1111 I St., Suite 310 in Modesto from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on June 27, Aug. 1, Oct. 3 and Dec. 5 on a first come, first served basis. Spanish speaking EEOC agents will be available to assist with claims on those Sundays.

The new local office hours come as a boon to those in Stanislaus County who feel they’ve been discriminated against in the workplace.

Previously, locals were forced to drive to San Jose to meet in person with EEOC officials, who were available only from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The EEOC does not offer scheduled appointments, leading many clients to be stuck waiting for hours.

“You have to take practically an entire day off,” said EEOC Investigator Rosa Salazar.

The end result was that most people just phoned in complaints rather than meeting with an investigator face-to-face, Atkins said. But investigators just aren’t able to get the same sort of detail over the phone, Atkins said, leading to fewer investigations.

The EEOC is a federal agency that exists solely to investigate claims that employers, employment agencies, or labor agencies discriminate against employees in certain specific areas. But the law is clear about what the EEOC can and cannot investigate.

“Sometimes they come in to file a claim about something we don’t cover, and sometimes they wait too long to file a claim on something we do cover,” said Juan Vaca, EEOC investigator.

The EEOC only investigates discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, old age, disability and genetic information. That last one is the trickiest to understand, Vaca said, but refers to someone discriminated against because of a family history of disease, for example.

The EEOC does not investigate employers who have less than 15 employees. Also, all claims must have occurred within the past 180 or 300 days, depending on employer.

To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail acantatore@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.

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