For some types of employee complaints or inquiries there are both state and federal offices. When there are both state and federal offices, the state office enforces only the state laws, while the federal office only enforces the federal laws.
The following are the common issues that employees have and which department or agency handles that issue:
• Unemployment. Each state has its own agency that distributes unemployment benefits and its own laws regulating the distribution. Across the country most states have almost identical requirements for an employee to qualify for benefits. The major differences are in how each program is funded. The federal office merely oversees the state offices.
• Discrimination. The federal office of the EEOC has an office in each state to allow for the filing of discrimination complaints. The EEOC offices all enforce the same laws and handle investigations in the same manner. Because of this, it is not unusual for an EEOC complaint that is filed at one of the more active offices to be forwarded to another office in a different state to be processed faster.
The majority of states also have their own discrimination laws that mirror the laws enforced by the EEOC, although many states have additional discrimination bases. State offices are departments of that individual state’s government. Some states have complex human rights agencies that contain not only an investigative branch but a trial and an appellate branch within the complex. On the other hand, there are states that merely refer their citizens to the local EEOC office and do not have any additional laws other than what the EEOC enforces.
• Workers’ compensation. For the issue of workers’ compensation each state has its own agency and set of laws. As with unemployment, there is federal oversight for all state offices.
• Department of Labor. The Department of Labor (DOL) is a multifunctional, multioffice conglomerate within both state and federal areas. Technically, the Secretary of the Department of Labor is the head of all DOL offices.
The structure of the DOL offices is complex. A state may have several DOL offices. These offices enforce state DOL rules along with some federal regulations. Some state offices have more power and handle more work than others. These state offices may have websites where an employee can download a complaint form and find extensive information.
The federal DOL also enforces federal labor laws and specialty areas such as OSHA. The federal DOL has all of its information available online. Its website is the most complete repository of anything related to the Department of Labor. Its website is www. dol.gov. To find your state’s DOL office see Appendix B.