Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Advice and Counseling Service?
ERA’s Advice and Counseling Service is here to help you understand your legal rights. ERA can provide you with information and referrals if you are facing discrimination or harassment at work or at school based on your sex, gender, pregnancy, or caregiving responsibilities; problems accessing pregnancy or family medical leave; other sex discrimination-related conditions at work or school; or retaliation for exercising any of your rights in these areas.
How does the Advice and Counseling Service work?
You can access ERA’s Advice and Counseling Service online or by telephone. To access the service online, please fill out an intake form, briefly describe the issue you are facing, and select a day and time when you can be reached by an A&C counselor here. To access the service by phone, call our toll-free number (800-839-4372), and leave a detailed message as instructed on the outgoing voice message.
If the problem you are facing relates to an issue that ERA works on, a counselor will contact you to discuss the problem in more detail. If your problem at work or school relates to something outside of ERA’s areas of expertise, an ERA counselor will contact you via email or letter to refer you to another resource.
What will happen after I contact ERA by telephone or online?
After we receive your intake form or phone message, an ERA counselor will contact you via telephone to explain how the Advice & Counseling Service works and request some background information. The counselor will then ask you a series of questions designed to help her assess what your rights are under the circumstances. This initial call usually takes between 30 and 60 minutes.
After you speak with the counselor by phone, she will research your questions, consult with a supervising attorney, and call you back. Your counselor will give you information about the law that applies to your situation. She also may explain how to take legal action, give non-legal suggestions, or give you the names of attorneys or legal organizations in your area that can provide further assistance. Afterward, you will usually receive a letter or email detailing the legal and referral information that you discussed by phone.
How long will it take before I get to speak with an ERA counselor?
ERA answers inquiries in the order in which they are received. Regardless of how you contact us, we will do our best to get in touch you within 5 to 7 business days. However, due to the volume of inquiries ERA receives, it may take up to two weeks for a counselor to follow up with you.
It is very important to note that there may be legal deadlines which apply to some or all of your potential legal claims. These deadlines are called “statutes of limitations,” and you should be aware that contacting ERA does not affect or change those deadlines. Statutes of limitations determine how much time a person has to file a lawsuit in court. Once such a deadline passes, you could lose your right to bring a lawsuit, regardless of how strong your legal claims may be. ERA is not responsible if you miss a statute of limitations deadline while trying to access our Advice & Counseling Service.
Will I interact with a lawyer when I contact the Advice & Counseling Service?
When you call or send an intake form to ERA’s Advice & Counseling Service, you will likely interact with one of ERA’s trained counselors, who are law students and volunteer attorneys. All ERA counselors receive training about laws relating to sex discrimination. After they speak to you, they review your situation with a supervising attorney before providing you with information about your rights and making referrals. All of your communications with ERA counselors will be kept strictly confidential and will not be disclosed to anyone outside of ERA unless you request and authorize ERA to make such disclosure.
I would rather talk to someone in person. Can I visit the ERA office?
ERA does not accept drop-in appointments. If you come to our office, you will be asked to leave your information so that an Advice & Counseling Service counselor can reach you during telephone hours.
Will ERA be my lawyer?
Probably not. In most cases, ERA will not be able to represent you as your attorney, and contacting the Advice & Counseling Service does not mean you are forming an attorney-client relationship with ERA. ERA does not have the resources to provide legal representation to each person who calls our Advice & Counseling Service. Instead, we try to assist callers in understanding their legal rights at work or at school, and may also provide referrals to attorneys, government agencies, or other organizations in their geographic area who handle cases involving similar circumstances or claims. Please note that ERA does not endorse or evaluate the attorneys to whom we make referrals, and you should always use your own discretion in choosing an attorney.
What issues can the Advice and Counseling Service help me with?
ERA’s Advice & Counseling Service can help you if you are facing:
- Unfair treatment at work or school because of sex
- Unequal pay at work because of sex or other denial of wages
- Unfair treatment because of pregnancy
- Sexual harassment at work or school
- Retaliation for complaining about sex discrimination at work or school
- Problems at work accessing pregnancy or family medical leave or other workplace accommodations because of pregnancy
What information do I need to provide to the counselor so that ERA can help me?
Getting some information together before you contact the Advice & Counseling Service will make it easier to get the help you need. We recommend taking the following steps before you call us:
- Try to write down notes about the things that happened at work or in school, and
the dates when each thing happened. If you don’t know or can’t remember exact dates, try to remember the months and year of each event, and write them down in the order that they occurred.
- Think about any formal or informal complaints you have made about the problem you are facing, so you can let the ERA counseling know about when, how, and to whom you complained.
- If you have made an internal complaint or grievance with your employer or school, or have filed a charge or complaint with an outside agency, gather that paperwork and have it nearby when the ERA counselor calls you. We may need you to review these papers for dates or other information during the intake.
- If you have experienced being treated differently (worse) at work or in school after complaining or taking other action to address the problem, think about when and how this change took place, and consider jotting down some notes about it before you speak with the ERA counselor.
Will ERA contact my employer or disclose the details of what we talk about with anyone?
No. Your call to ERA and your discussion with an ERA counselor are confidential. While each ERA counselor will review your situation with her supervising attorney, none of the matters you discuss will be disclosed to anyone outside of ERA, unless you expressly give ERA your consent and authorization to make such disclosure.
In order to fulfill our mission of educating the public about women’s rights and problems relating to sex discrimination, ERA may use anonymous information collected through the Advice and Counseling Service to demonstrate how widespread certain problems are, or to illustrate the need for better laws or greater law enforcement. We will never use or publish a caller’s name or other personal identifying information for these education efforts unless we first receive her permission in writing to do so.
What kind of questions will the Advice & Counseling Service counselor ask?
Because ERA helps people with problems relating to sex discrimination in employment and education, you will be asked a number of questions about the facts relating to your problem at work or in school. In order to give you the most accurate assessment of how the law applies to your specific situation and to keep track of the types of problems callers are facing, the counselor will also ask you certain questions about your personal background (like your race, age, family size, and income). All of the information you share with us is voluntary and will be kept confidential.
What does ERA do?
EERA works to defend laws that prohibit sex-based discrimination and advance gender equality in the workplace and in educational institutions [or, in employment and education] . We do this through representing women and girls in lawsuits, advocating for public policies that expand and protect the civil rights of workers and students, and educating women and girls about their legal rights through programs like the Advice and Counseling Service. Learn more about ERA.
Is ERA a government agency?
No. ERA is a private, non-profit organization founded in 1974, and we are not affiliated with any agency or branch of government.
What kinds of issues are NOT handled by ERA’s Advice & Counseling Service?
Through our Advice & Counseling Service, ERA only provides legal information and referrals about issues related to gender discrimination in the workplace or in educational settings. ERA does not provide legal advice or counseling about:
- Domestic violence
- Sexual harassment outside of work or school
- Divorce, child custody, or other family law matters
- Personal injury
- Workplace injuries/accidents or workers’ compensation
- Criminal matters
- Police misconduct
Although ERA cannot help you with regard to the above issue areas, we can provide referrals to other organizations that may be able to help you with these issues.
Who Can Use the Advice and Counseling Service?
Do I have to have a certain income in order to access ERA’s Advice & Counseling
No. Anyone who has a question about a problem at work or school that relates to one of the issues ERA handles may access the Service, regardless of income.
Do I need to be a U.S. citizen to access the Service?
No. ERA’s Advice and Counseling Service provides confidential legal information to anyone, regardless of citizenship or immigration status. While we may ask you for information about your immigration status to help us evaluate your situation and assess your legal rights under the circumstances, ERA will not disclose information about your citizenship or immigration status to anyone.
Can a non-English speaker access the Service?
Yes. ERA’s hotline accepts voicemail messages from callers who speak Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin and Vietnamese. ERA’s counselors have access to live tele-interpreters in approximately 150 languages. If you wish to leave a message on behalf of a non-English speaker, please include the person’s name, contact information, and spoken language in the message. You may also fill out an online intake form on behalf of a non-English speaker. Whether accessed through our voicemail or online intake form, someone from ERA will call the non-English speaker back with a counselor or an interpreter who is fluent in their language. ERA’s counselors also have access to TDD services for the deaf or hearing impaired.
Please note that while counseling services over the phone are available in multiple languages, ERA may not have the capacity to provide written correspondence in languages other than English or Spanish.
May I contact the Advice & Counseling Service to get information on behalf of
Unless you are a parent or guardian calling on behalf of your minor child, we prefer to speak directly to the person with the problem. Communicating directly with the individual who has the problem helps us to safeguard client confidentiality and ensure that we get the most accurate information about the problem. If you are calling on behalf of someone with a disability that prevents her/him from communicating with an ERA counselor, you may call and describe her/his disability so that we can make arrangements to communicate with her/him.
I already have an attorney; may I still get help from ERA’s Advice & Counseling
If you already have an attorney for the problem you are calling us about, then ERA may not be able to advise you. If you are unsatisfied with your attorney and you are looking for a replacement, we may be able to provide you with the names of other attorneys in your area who may be interested in taking on your case. ERA does not evaluate or endorse any of the attorneys for whom we provide referral information, and you should always use your own discretion in hiring or choosing an attorney.
What should I do if I need to talk to someone about my legal problem right away?
The ERA Advice & Counseling Service is not an emergency hotline, and ERA’s counselors usually cannot provide same-day assistance. After we receive your voicemail or online intake form, it may take up to two weeks to schedule and conduct an initial telephone intake with you. After this initial intake, the ERA counselor has to consult with a supervising attorney and may have to do additional research about your situation in order to provide you with accurate information and/or referrals. Since the amount of the time it takes to complete the advice and counseling process varies and may take several weeks, if you have an approaching legal deadline or need immediate legal assistance, contact your local (county or state) bar association.
What should I do if I’ve been sexually assaulted, threatened with harm, or if I am concerned for my safety?
If you have been sexual assaulted or feel that your physical safety is in danger, you should contact the police immediately. If you were assaulted at work or school, ERA may be able to offer information, advice, and/or referrals about pursuing civil legal claims in such a situation, but you should secure your immediate safety and health situation before pursuing legal remedies.