Title VII establishes an enforcement scheme that is divided into three stages: state or local administrative proceedings to enforce state law or local ordinances against employment discrimination; investigation and conciliation by the EEOC; and litigation, either in public actions by the EEOC or the Attorney General, or in private actions. The first stage, state or local administrative remedies, must be exhausted only if a state or locality has enacted a statute or ordinance against employment discrimination. An EEOC regulation contains an authoritative list of states and localities with appropriate agencies. The EEOC must give "substantial weight" to the findings of state and local agencies, but the courts are not bound by any administrative findings, whether by state or local agencies or by the EEOC. Federal courts, however, are bound by the decisions of state courts reviewing state or local administrative agencies.
At the second stage, the EEOC exercises no adjudicatory authority, except in cases filed by federal employees and certain high-level state employees, for which special procedures apply. The only powers of the EEOC are to investigate charges, determine whether there is reasonable cause to support them, attempt to reach a settlement through conciliation, and decide whether to sue or, if the charge is filed against a state or local government agency, refer it to the Attorney General for a decision whether to sue. If conciliation does not result in a settlement satisfactory to the charging party and if the EEOC or the Attorney General decides not to sue, the EEOC issues a right-to-sue letter to the charging party. Apart from the requirement of exhaustion of state and local administrative remedies and timely filing with the EEOC, the details of prior administrative proceedings are not generally significant in Title VII litigation.
At the third stage, after receipt of a right-to-sue letter, the charging party can sue in either federal or state court.
. Section 706(c), (d), 42 U.S.C. ~ 2000e-5(c), (d) (2000); 29 C.F.R. ~ 1601.70 (2000).
. 29 C.F.R. ~ 1601.74 (2000).
. Section 706(b), 42 U.S.C. ~ 2000e-5(b) (2000).