Is Your Company At Risk? Follow These Steps When an EEOC Complaint is Filed
As an HR manager or company owner, you would probably agree that one of the last things you’d want to deal with would be a discrimination charge notice from the EEOC. In the wake of the last year where harassment claims and lawsuits have pervaded both corporate and popular culture, the potential of such charges crossing your own desk looms large. If you and your organization do find yourselves in this precarious position, the cautious steps you take to navigate through this EEOC complaint process may be your saving grace.
Do (or Have Done) Your Due Diligence
If one of your company’s applicants or employees feels that he/she has been a victim of discrimination or harassment, he/she can file a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the government arm that enforces compliance with laws which dictates workplace equality. Receiving a copy of the formal EEOC complaint, or charge of discrimination, signals the onset of the EEOC's investigation process within 10 days of being filed. The first step you should take is to immediately forward the letter to your in-house point of contact, such as an employee relations specialist, or your outside representative or counsel who handles these types of investigations. Then promptly apprise the EEOC of the name(s) of the person(s) representing or handling the matter from your end.
If outside counsel or a consultant is handling the charge, HR must provide carte-blanche access to your employment files in order for him/her to prepare a position statement, and the same holds true for the EEOC investigator. You must also prepare your employees that there is potential for them to be interviewed as witnesses, if they were present during the alleged discrimination or harassment, by either your outside counsel, an EEOC representative, or both. It is also important to note that if the EEOC investigator does conduct interviews with non-management personnel, that your company representative cannot be present.
Don’t Meditate; Mediate!
Mediation services are available and are often successful. Provided by the EEOC, mediation can be a much more expedient and cost-effective process than going the traditional legal route, where the party who filed the charge and the employer can meet and discuss the matter with an impartial mediator on hand. During this meeting, the company representative acknowledges the employee's complaint and demonstrates willingness to hear out the claimant’s assertion. Mediation is an attractive option to both sides since it often saves time and money and the ruling or outcome is kept confidential and can result in a mutually beneficial settlement.
Investigation Thrives on Cooperation
With many of these investigations averaging about six months to complete, it is in your company’s best interest to be prepared and to cooperate with the EEOC every step of the way to ensure a quick and painless investigation. With the power of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the enforcement of Title VII behind them, the EEOC has the right to ask for the presentation of documents at any time throughout the investigation. The EEOC will ultimately contact your company to issue a determination of the charge, resulting in either its dismissal or its confirmation. If the determination by the EEOC is the latter, the claimant him/herself may choose to file a private lawsuit or the EEOC can file its own lawsuit on the claimant’s behalf against your company.
While no HR manager or business owner ever wants to find him/herself in the throes of a lawsuit or even an investigation, the best thing you could do is to cooperate with the EEOC. While the outcome may be out of your hands, willingness to cooperate and preparedness are your best allies if your company finds itself in such an investigation.
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Contact us for a customized demonstration and learn how LaborSoft can help you improve communications, build a more collaborative, safe, and supportive workplace, while reducing the likelihood of costly litigation.