Do you know what to do if your organization finds itself facing an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Investigation? An EEOC investigation can be intimidating and stressful, but a basic understanding of the process and its potential avenues will assist employers in properly navigating the investigation.
The EEOC is the government agency responsible for enforcing several federal laws relating to discrimination and harassment. If an employee or applicant feels that they have been discriminated against or harassed, they can file a complaint with the EEOC.
Filing a complaint triggers the EEOC investigation process, which begins with notification to an employer that a “Charge of Discrimination” has been filed. The Charge will provide the details of the charging party’s complaint. It is critical for employers to act quickly when a Charge is received and to promptly notify their human resources department, legal counsel, or whomever is responsible for responding to the Charge.
From the outset, the EEOC may offer mediation as an option for resolving the Charge. Mediation provides the parties with an opportunity to discuss the issue with an impartial mediator and potentially resolve the matter without further investigation or future litigation. A party is also able to request mediation as an option.
If mediation is not elected or is unsuccessful, the EEOC investigation will proceed, and the employer will be asked to provide information in the form of a Position Statement. A Position Statement is the employer’s opportunity to tell their side of the story. After the investigator has reviewed the Position Statement, additional information may be requested. The EEOC may continue to investigate and gather information in a variety of ways. An employer may be asked to respond to a Request for Information (RFI), which will require the organization to respond to the investigator’s specific requests for organizational data, personnel policies, personnel files, statements, and other relevant information. The EEOC may also request an on-site visit or ask an employer to provide witness contact information or make employees available for an interview.
Once all the necessary information has been obtained, the EEOC will decide if there is reasonable cause to believe that discrimination occurred. If the EEOC is unable to conclude that there is reasonable cause to believe that discrimination occurred, a Dismissal and Notice of Rights will be issued. This document informs the charging party that they have the right to file a lawsuit in federal court within 90 days from the date of receipt. This is the most common conclusion reached in EEOC investigations. However, if the EEOC concludes that there is reasonable cause to believe discrimination occurred, then the parties will receive a Letter of Determination and will be invited to join the EEOC in resolving the matter in an informal process, conciliation. If conciliation fails, the EEOC has the authority to file a lawsuit against the employer in federal court. If the EEOC decides not to file a lawsuit, the charging party will receive a Notice of Right to Sue and may file a lawsuit themselves against the employer in federal court within 90 days.
Every Charge may not include all the steps outlined above, depending on the facts of the Charge, the EEOC investigator, and the path the investigation takes. It is important to remember that individuals may also file complaints of discrimination and harassment with state and local agencies, which have their own policies and procedures for investigating.
If you need assistance handling an EEOC Charge of Discrimination contact an MBA HR Consultant today at 1-888-622-6460.