Company Response to EEOC Charge
Our company has received Notice from the EEOC that a former employee has filed a discrimination charge. What do we need to know about the process?
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") is the federal agency that investigates charges of workplace discrimination, harassment, or retaliation under several federal employment laws such as Title VII, the ADA or the ADEA. When a person files a formal charge, the EEOC provides written "Notice" to the company and usually requests a response. Here is some information regarding the process.
It may be helpful to know that persons file almost 80,000 charges a year with the EEOC. The vast majority of these charges are dismissed and do not result in subsequent litigation. However, an EEOC charge must be taken seriously.
The EEOC will often ask the company if it is interested in "mediation." A decision to mediate generally means the company is willing to pay or provide something to resolve the charge quickly and confidentially. While mediation should be considered in certain cases, companies often choose not to mediate.
Before responding to the EEOC, we recommend that you consult counsel with experience in employment law. For example, a charge is probably not timely if the alleged adverse employment action occurred more than 300 days before a person filed her charge.
The company will typically provide a written response to the EEOC. It is critical that the statement be truthful. While the company does not want to appear evasive, we generally recommend that the initial response be fairly succinct.
Once it receives the company's response, there are 3 likely alternatives from the EEOC: 1) dismissal of the charge; 2) a request for additional information; or 3) a request to visit the company to interview key witnesses.
If the EEOC finds "reasonable cause" to believe the company has violated the law, it will issue a written determination and then seek to settle the charge. In the absence of a settlement, the EEOC may, but is not required to, initiate litigation.
The more common result is that the EEOC dismisses the charge. By law, however, when the EEOC issues its dismissal notice, it also informs the charging party that she has a right to file her own lawsuit in court. The charging party usually has 90 days to file a lawsuit or she loses her right to sue.
Please let us know if you would like to know more about responding to EEOC charges, or have questions regarding the EEOC's practice in Virginia.