The Charge Handling Process
When a charge is filed against you, you will be notified within 10 days that a charge of discrimination has been filed and you will be provided with the name and contact information for the investigator assigned to your case. A charge does not constitute a finding that your company engaged in discrimination. The EEOC has a responsibility to investigate and determine whether there is a reasonable cause to believe discrimination occurred.
In many cases, you may opt to resolve a charge early in the process through mediation or settlement. At the start of an investigation, EEOC will advise you if your charge is eligible for mediation, but feel free to ask the investigator about the settlement option. Mediation and settlement are voluntary resolutions.
During the investigation, you and the Charging Party will be asked to provide information. Your investigator will evaluate the information submitted to determine whether unlawful discrimination has taken place. You may be asked to:
- submit a statement of position. This is your opportunity to tell your side of the story and you should take advantage of it.
- respond to a Request for Information (RFI). The RFI may ask you to submit copies of personnel policies, Charging Party's personnel files, the personnel files of other individuals and other relevant information.
- permit an on-site visit. While you may view such a visit as being disruptive to your operations, our experience has been that such visits greatly expedite the fact- finding process and may help achieve quicker resolutions. In some cases, an on- site visit may be an alternative to a RFI if requested documents are made available for viewing or photocopying.
- provide contact information for or have employees available for witness interviews. You may be present during interviews with management personnel, but an investigator is allowed to conduct interviews of non-management level employees without your presence or permission.
If the charge was not dismissed by the EEOC when it was received, that means there was some basis for proceeding with further investigation. There are many cases where it is unclear whether discrimination may have occurred and an investigation is necessary. You are encouraged to present any facts that you believe show the allegations are incorrect or do not amount to a violation of the law. An employer's input and cooperation will assist EEOC in promptly and thoroughly investigating a charge.
- Work with the investigator to identify the most efficient and least burdensome way to gather relevant evidence.
- You should submit a prompt response to the EEOC and provide the information requested, even if you believe the charge is frivolous.
- If there are extenuating circumstances preventing a timely response from you, contact your investigator to work out a new due date for the information.
- Provide complete and accurate information in response to requests from your investigator.
- The average time it takes to process an EEOC investigation is about 182 days.
- Our experience shows that undue delay in responding to requests for information extends the time it takes to complete an investigation.
- If you have concerns regarding the scope of the information being sought, advise the investigator. Although EEOC is entitled to all information relevant to the allegations contained in the charge, and has the authority to subpoena such information, in some instances, the information request may be modified.
- Keep relevant documents. If you are unsure whether a document is needed, ask your investigator. By law, you are required to keep certain documents for a set period of time.
Your investigator will:
- be available to answer most questions you have about the process.
- keep you informed about the charge process, including the rights and responsibilities of the parties at the conclusion of the investigation.
- conduct an appropriate, thorough and timely investigation.
- allow you to respond to the allegations.
- inform you of the outcome of the investigation.
Once the investigator has completed the investigation, EEOC will make a determination on the merits of the charge.
- If EEOC determines that there is no reasonable cause to believe that discrimination occurred, the charging party will be issued a letter called a Dismissal and Notice of Rights that tells the charging party s/he has the right to file a lawsuit in federal court within 90 days from the date of receipt of the letter. The employer will also receive a copy of this document.
- If EEOC determines there is reasonable cause to believe discrimination has occurred, both parties will be issued a Letter of Determination stating that there is reason to believe that discrimination occurred and inviting the parties to join the agency in seeking to resolve the charge, through an informal process known as conciliation.
- Where conciliation fails, EEOC has the authority to enforce violations of its statutes by filing a lawsuit in federal court. If the EEOC decides not to litigate, the charging party will receive a Notice of Right to Sue and may file a lawsuit in federal court within 90 days.