By Kimberly D. Gray, Senior HR Services Partner
Receiving a notice of a discrimination charge from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) can feel like a slap in the face to an employer. Regardless of whether you think the claim is valid or even if you are fully aware that the negative action the employee is complaining about is a direct result of their own misconduct, it still feels like you are facing an expensive and stressful road ahead, especially for small businesses.
But if you’re in a partnership with a Professional Employer Organization (PEO) like Resourcing Edge you will have HR pros helping you every step of the way. In addition, the EEOC charge will likely be covered by the Employer Practices Liability Insurance (EPLI) proved by your PEO.
Understanding the EEOC claim filing process:
- Employees have 180 days from the date of the alleged discriminatory act to file a charge with the EEOC.
- Within 10 days of the charge being received, the EEOC will notify the employer.
- Upon notification it is very important that you not attempt to resolve the charge yourself. Contacting the employee to try and resolve the matter could be viewed as harassment or retaliation if you appear to be taking an adverse action.
Your first step after receiving a notice of complaint should be to contact your employment attorney unless your are in a PEO like Resourcing Edge. RE clients can contact the HR Services team so that the EPLI carrier is notified of the claim and counsel is retained on the employer’s behalf. Once counsel is on board, the employer and counsel will work together to defend the matter.
The Process of Handling a Workplace Discrimination Charge
Step One: POSITION STATEMENT
As the employer you will be asked to provide a position statement, which contains your response to the charges of discrimination. This is an opportunity to provide your side of the story.
This step will consist of gathering information from your managers and other employees to piece together the facts of the incident from which the allegations are stemming.
You will want to provide as much pertinent information as you can to defend the claims against you. This may include email correspondence, write ups, meeting notes, and any other documentation related to this employee or any other employees named in the charge.
The position statement provides the EEOC with the full picture and events leading up to filing of the charge.
Step Two: MEDIATION
You may be given the opportunity to participate in pre-investigation mediation. This is an attempt to settle the claim through a neutral third party (mediator). Your attorney may advise that mediation is your best option given the circumstances. If you are confident that the claim has no merit, you may forego mediation and allow the EEOC to continue with its investigation.
Step Three: INVESTIGATION
A local investigator will be assigned the case. Communication from the investigator may be delayed weeks or even months as they process the charge and work through the investigation. The EEOC investigator may ask to speak to you or your employees or may request to visit your location to get a better understanding of your business.
If the EEOC decides they are not going to prosecute the claim of discrimination on behalf of the employee, it will issue a right to sue letter. If the investigation is not completed within 180 days, the claimant may request a Notice of Right to Sue.
You can learn more about employer’s rights and responsibilities under EEO law by visiting EEOC.gov or by contacting the experienced HR professionals at Resourcing Edge.
Kimberly D. Gray is a Senior HR Services Partner at Resourcing Edge, who has 25 years of experience in employee relations, training, and compliance.