Employers are legally bound by federal law to provide fair and equal opportunity to all employees and applicants for employment, regardless of the individual's race, religion, national origin, sex, disability, or age. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, also known as the EEOC (E-E-O-C), is responsible for ensuring equality of opportunity for all Americans by vigorously enforcing all federal anti-discrimination legislation, investigating complaints of employment discrimination, and initiating legal action when necessary. If a violation of an anti-discriminatory law has occurred and has been reported to the commission within 180 days of the discriminatory act, the EEOC will work to conciliate an agreement with the employer, or they'll offer the employer and employee voluntary mediation. The EEOC's mediation program provides the employer with an alternative to formal litigation. The mediation is conducted by a neutral third party that works to resolve misunderstandings, finds areas of agreement, and develops a voluntary negotiated resolution to the employee's charge of discrimination. Mediation, provided free of charge to all participants, can be conducted without attorneys unless you or the employer wishes to have an attorney present. Remember that there are strict time frames in which charges of employment discrimination must be filed. To guarantee the ability of EEOC to act on your behalf and to protect your right to file a private lawsuit, should you need to, you'll be required to adhere to all EEOC guidelines when filing a charge.