EEOC Seal

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission



Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is the FOIA? [ - ]

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is a federal law that requires federal agencies to disclose agency records to the public upon written request, unless the record or a portion of the record is protected from disclosure by at least one of FOIA's nine exemptions.  The Assistant Legal Counsel, Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) under the direction of the Chief FOIA Officer and, with assistance from the FOIA Public Liaison, administers the FOIA within EEOC.

2. What are agency records? [ + ]

EEOC agency records are records that were created by EEOC and/or in the possession or under the control of the EEOC at the time the request is received.

3. Who can make a FOIA request? [ + ]

Any person may make a FOIA request.  This includes any corporation, organization, association, or foreign/state/local government.

4. How do I request records? [ + ]

A FOIA request must be made in writing and reasonably describe the records you want.  To reasonably describe the requested records, you should provide as much information as possible to identify the records you are seeking, such as the date, location, subject, names, and charge or complaint numbers.

A FOIA request must be clearly and prominently identified as a "FOIA Request."  This means that the word "FOIA" should be on the envelope or other cover and in the text of the correspondence making the request.

5. Where do I submit a FOIA request? [ + ]

Submit your request for any of the four types of records described below to the District Director responsible for the district, field, area, or local office where you believe the records are located, or where your charge was filed or investigated.  29 C.F.R. § 1610.7(a):

  • investigative employment discrimination charge files filed under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII),  the Equal Pay Act,  the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA),  the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA),  or the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA);
  • agreements between the Commission and Fair Employment Practice Agencies (FEPAs) in that district;
  • non confidential statistical data concerning the district; and
  • information about current or former employees of the district office.

(See District Directors at http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/foia/contact.cfm.)

Submit all other FOIA requests to: Stephanie D. Garner, Assistant Legal Counsel, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Office of Legal Counsel, FOIA Programs, 131 M Street, N.E., Suite 5NW22B, Washington, D.C. 20507; or by fax to (202) 653-6034; by e-mail to foia@eeoc.gov; or via the Internet to https://publicportalfoiapal.eeoc.gov/.

6. When can I make a FOIA request for a copy of my charge file? [ + ]

A charging party may request access to his/her charge file after EEOC has completed its investigation and issues a Notice of Right to Sue letter (NRTS).  After receiving a NRTS, a charging party has 90 days in which to request a copy of the charge file.  When the NRTS expires, the charging party must submit a copy of the "Filed" marked court Complaint on the charge with the request.

7. Can I make a FOIA request for a copy of my charge file after making a request for the same file under Section 83 of the EEOC Compliance Manual? [ + ]

Yes.  A prior request for a copy of your charge file under Section 83 will not preclude you from making a request for the same file under the FOIA.

8. How do I check the status of my FOIA request? [ + ]

You can check the status of the FOIA request by contacting the FOIA Requester Service Center (RSC) by telephone at (202) 663-4500, (213) 894-2840, or 1(877) 859-1802 toll free, by fax at (202) 653-6034, or by contacting the staff member identified in the acknowledgement letter at the telephone number or email address indicated, or, if your request was made on line, by checking via the FOIA Tracking System.

The FOIA RSC is the first place that a FOIA requester should contact to seek information concerning the status of a FOIA request or questions about a FOIA.

9. What is the cost of making a FOIA request? [ + ]

There is no charge associated with submitting a FOIA request.  However, if you are an "other" category requester, as most requesters seeking charge files are, and locating the specific records requested takes more than two hours, a fee for search time beyond the two hours will be charged.  A copy of the first 100 pages of records is provided without charge.  However, after the first 100 "free" pages, you will be charged 15 cents per page.

10. By what format are records disclosed? [ + ]

Generally, records are disclosed in paper format.  Requesters may request that records be disclosed in alternate formats, for example, on a CD, by fax, or by email, if a CD, fax number, or e-mail address is provided.  Records will be disclosed in alternate formats if the records are readily reproducible (that is, when EEOC has the capacity to produce them) in the requested format. 

11. Who duplicates the records for a FOIA request? [ + ]

Disclosed records are either duplicated in-house by EEOC or sent to a contractor for duplication.  Whether your request is sent to a private contractor to copy depends upon the workload of the office, the volume of the request, and your agreement to have the records to be disclosed to you processed by a contractor retained by EEOC.

12. Who can grant or deny a FOIA request? [ + ]

The District Director or designee in each district office has authority to grant or deny a FOIA request within his/her District.

The Legal Counsel or designees, i.e., the Assistant Legal Counsel, FOIA Programs, and the Assistant Legal Counsel, Advice and External Litigation Division, have authority to grant or deny FOIA requests and appeals.

13. How long does EEOC have to respond to a FOIA request? [ + ]

The FOIA specifies that agencies have 20 working days, excluding Saturdays, Sundays, and federal holidays after receipt of the FOIA request to issue a determination.  The 20 working day period does not begin until the FOIA request is received by a FOIA component, an office authorized by the agency to process FOIA requests.  When a FOIA request is sent to the incorrect FOIA component, that component has an additional 10 working days to forward the FOIA request to the correct office.

 If it is not possible to issue a determination within the 10 working day extension period, EEOC will contact you and attempt to negotiate a new due date or to ask you to refine your request.

EEOC may also toll the 20-day response time to obtain clarifying or fee information from the requester.  When unusual circumstances prevent EEOC from issuing the determination on your request within the 20 working days, the FOIA permits EEOC to take a 10 working day extension.  EEOC will notify you in writing before the expiration of the 20 working days expire should it becomes necessary to toll or extend our response time.

14. What type of records can I inspect and duplicate at EEOC without a FOIA request? [ + ]

You may view and duplicate EEOC records available in the FOIA library located in the library at EEOC Headquarters, 131 M Street, N.E., Suite 4SW16N, Washington, D.C. 20507, or at any EEOC District Office.  (See http://www.eeoc.gov/field/index.cfm for a list of EEOC District Offices).  Documents such as the following are available to the public for inspection and copying:

  • The Commission's notices and regulatory amendments that are not yet published in the Code of Federal Regulations;
  • EEOC annual reports;
  • The Commission's Compliance Manual;
  • Blank forms affecting the public;
  • The Commission's Orders  (EEOC directives);
  • Commission awarded contracts; and
  • "CCH Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Decisions" (1973 and 1983.)

15. What types of EEOC records are not disclosed to the public? [ + ]

EEOC will not disclose to the public charges of employment discrimination, charge conciliation information or unaggregated EEO survey data.  Federal sector complaint files are not discloseable to third parties.  Records containing inter or intra agency pre-decisional deliberations, recommendations, analyses and opinions, attorney-client communications, attorney work product, information given to EEOC by confidential sources, matters involving personal privacy, and confidential commercial or financial information from a person will not be disclosed.  As examples, EEOC does not disclose non-factual portions of the Investigative Memorandum; charge categorization codes; or the name, telephone number, address, social security number, or other personal information concerning a third party.

16. Are there any other requirements for disclosure that must be followed? [ + ]

A request for EEO-1 data of a particular employer or EEO-4 data of particular state or local government must be accompanied by a copy of a court complaint stamped "Filed," indicating that the charging party has filed under Title VII and/or the ADA against the named respondent.

17. What action can I take if I am dissatisfied with a FOIA determination? [ + ]

When a request for records has been denied completely or partially, the requester may administratively appeal to the Legal Counsel or designee within 30 calendar days of receipt of the District Director or Assistant Legal Counsel FOIA Programs' determination letter.  The following procedure must be followed:

The appeal must be:

  • in writing;
  • addressed to the Assistant Legal Counsel, Office of Legal Counsel, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 131 M Street, N.E., Suite 5NW02E, Washington, D.C. 20507;
  • clearly labeled as a "FOIA Appeal" on the envelope or other cover; and
  • include a copy of the District Director's determination letter.  If the District Director's determination letter is not included with the requester's appeal, the appeal is not "perfected," and does not comply with EEOC regulations.  Therefore, it is deemed not received and will not be processed until the EEOC receives a copy of the determination letter.

Failure to follow EEOC regulations will delay the time within which the appeal will be reviewed and a determination issued.  If the regulations are not followed, the appeal may be administratively dismissed.

If you are dissatisfied with the determination on appeal, you have several options.  You may contact the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) within the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) to resolve your dispute with the EEOC or you have the right to file a civil suit in Federal District Court.

18. Must a FOIA request be made in English? [ + ]

No, a FOIA request may be made in any language.

19. Is there a special form I have to use to make a FOIA request? [ + ]

No special form is required to make a FOIA request; however the request must be in writing and thoroughly describe the requests sought.

20. How is FOIA request processed? [ + ]

See the FOIA flow chart or text description.

After EEOC receives your FOIA request, you will receive a letter acknowledging the request with an assigned tracking number.  If we require additional information before it can begin to process your request, we will contact you.  EEOC typically searches for records in response to your request and then reviews those records to determine which - and what parts of each - can be released.  We will redact, or withhold any information protected from disclosure by one of the FOIA's nine exemptions.  The releasable records will then be sent to you.

You may request a waiver of fees.  Under the FOIA fee waivers are limited to situations in which a requester can show that the disclosure of the requested information is in the public interest because it is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations and activities of the government and is not primarily in the commercial interest of the requester.  Requests for fee waivers from individuals who are seeking records pertaining to themselves usually do not meet this standard.  In addition, a requester's inability to pay fees is not a legal basis for granting a fee waiver.

22.  Can I ever have my request processed faster than usual or expedited? [ + ]

Under certain conditions you may be entitled to have your request processed on an expedited basis.  There are two specific situations where a request will be expedited, which means that it is handled as soon as practicable.  First, a request will be expedited if the lack of expedited treatment could reasonably be expected to pose an imminent threat to someone's life or physical safety.  Second, when the requester  is a "representative of the media" such as a television or radio station broadcasting to the public, or a publisher disseminating "news" periodicals to the general public for a fee or for no fee, or a freelance journalist working for a news-media entity and reasonably expecting publication, there is an urgency to inform the public concerning actual or alleged federal government activity. 

The requester must submit with the FOIA request a statement, certified to be true and correct to the best of his knowledge and belief, explaining the basis of the "compelling need" requiring expedited processing of the FOIA.  A "compelling need" means that failure to expedite processing of the request could either reasonably be expected to threaten someone's life or physical safety, or that the requester is a 'representative of the news media" in the business of disseminating information and there is an urgency to inform the public about alleged or actual activity.  A request will not normally be expedited merely because the requester is facing a court deadline in a judicial proceeding. 

23. What are exemptions? [ + ]

Not all records can be released under the FOIA.  Congress established certain categories of information that are not required to be released in response to a FOIA request because release would be harmful to governmental or private interests. These categories are called "exemptions" from disclosures.  Still, even if an exemption applies, agencies may use their discretion to release information when there is no foreseeable harm in doing so and disclosure is not otherwise prohibited by law.  There are nine categories of exempt information and each is described below.

Exemption 1: Information that is classified to protect national security.  The material must be properly classified under an Executive Order.

Exemption 2: Information related solely to the internal personnel rules and practices of an agency.

Exemption 3: Information that is prohibited from disclosure by another federal law.  Additional resources on the use of Exemption 3 can be found on the Department of Justice FOIA Resources page.

Exemption 4: Information that concerns business trade secrets or other confidential commercial or financial information.

Exemption 5: Information that concerns communications within or between agencies that are protected by legal privileges, that include but are not limited to:

  1. Attorney-Work Product Privilege
  2. Attorney-Client Privilege
  3. Deliberative Process Privilege
  4. Presidential Communications Privilege

Exemption 6: Information that, if disclosed, would invade another     individual's personal privacy.

Exemption 7: Information compiled for law enforcement purposes if one of the following harms would occur.  Law enforcement information is exempt if it: 

  • 7(A).  Could reasonably be expected to interfere with enforcement proceedings
  • 7(B).  Would deprive a person of a right to a fair trial or an impartial adjudication
  • 7(C).  Could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy
  • 7(D).  Could reasonably be expected to disclose the identity of a confidential source
  • 7(E).  Would disclose techniques and procedures for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions
  • 7(F).  Could reasonably be expected to endanger the life or physical safety of any individual

Exemption 8: Information that concerns the supervision of financial institutions.

Exemption 9: Geological information on wells.

24. What is the Office of Government Information Service? [ + ]

The Office of Government Information Services, which opened in early September 2009, offers mediation services to resolve disputes between FOIA requesters and agencies as an alternative to litigation.  OGIS also reviews agency FOIA compliance, policies, and procedures and makes recommendations for improvement.  The Office is a part of the National Archives and Records Administration, and was created by Congress as part of the OPEN Government Act of 2007, which amended the FOIA.

25. What is the difference between a Section 83 request and a FOIA request? [ + ]

Section 83's special disclosure rules only apply to requests for disclosure of investigatory employment discrimination charge files.  The special disclosure rules are discussed in § 1610.17(d) of 29 C.F.R. and in Section 83.  Section 83 is another means for aggrieved parties (persons on whose behalf a charge is filed), charging parties (individuals who file charges), respondents (entities that the charges are filed against), and their attorneys to access charge files after the Commission has completed its processing of a charge.  Section 83 is a simpler means, with few formal requirements, for gaining access to your charge file.

FOIA applies to all types of agency records, including charge files.  FOIA requests must be processed in accordance with the statutory dictates of the FOIA and EEOC regulations.  As an illustration, EEOC regulations require that the request be identified as a "FOIA Request" on the envelope or other cover, and the FOIA specifically requires that federal agencies inform the requester in writing of the amount of information withheld, the exemption used, and how the exemption applies to the information withheld.