Workforce discrimination has been hot news for the past several decades, especially in the United States. Nonetheless, it still exists in various forms and can involve race, disability status, gender, sexual orientation, religion and more. It’s not hard for any employee to file a complaint with the Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). As an employer, you should do everything in your power to prevent employee discrimination, but here’s what you can expect should one of your staff members file a complaint.
1. The Offense
Discrimination is becoming a very broad term. With so many acceptable gender identities, gender roles, mixed races and religions, you may find yourself facing a claim without even knowing what you did wrong. Offenses are often very subtle, and in many cases, steadily progressive. Plus, discrimination is subjective and naturally favors the victim. Your job is to read up on the laws and make sure you are creating a neutral hiring process and a neutral environment.
2. The Claim
If your employee does file a claim with the EEOC, he or she must do so within 180 days of the most recent incident. This is basically a formal complaint. The EEOC operates a handful of regional offices in major cities across the United States, and victims can either call or visit their closest location in person.
You will receive a formal notice from EEOC within ten days of the date that the complaint was received. This is much like a notice of hearing in a criminal case. A charge doesn’t automatically mean you’re guilty of discrimination. The EEOC will want to perform an investigation, the details of which will be provided in your letter.
Before formulating a game plan, you need to fully understand the charges against you. If you’re unclear about anything in the letter, call an EEOC office and ask. Are you dealing with age discrimination, gender discrimination or something more obscure? Was there a single incident or is the employee claiming that unfair treatment occurred regularly over a period of time? This is probably a good time to get a lawyer involved.
4. Your Response
Regardless of whether or not you feel the claim is valid, it’s important to send a prompt reply. Send your requestor all required documents, and save the arguments for later.
5. The Investigation
The EEOC will proceed to determine the validity of the claim. In other words, they will most likely visit your location to find out whether or not you are at fault. Be prepared to supply a slew of documents, and be cooperative about sharing private databases. Hesitation looks suspicious, so you want to remain fully transparent. It’s also a good idea to have information prepared ahead of time. Make copies of documents and work with your investigator to conduct the investigation as efficiently as possible. According the EEOC, the average investigation in 2015 took about 10 months to complete.
Following the investigation, the EEOC agent(s) will state whether or not there is a finding of cause. If no cause is found, you will have access to review the investigation report within 14 days of the decision. You will also be instructed on your rights to sue.
If the agent does find cause to believe that you discriminated against the employee, the case will begin conciliation. This is where your lawyer plays a big role. Both parties must come to an agreement or settlement on how best to resolve the situation. If conciliation fails, you will be granted the right to sue, but you must file within 90 days.
Discrimination situations vary considerably from case to case, but legal assistance is imperative, especially after the investigation. This can be a sticky situation for any size business, so make sure that you’re aware of your contingent liability.
The content on our website is only meant to provide general information and is not legal advice. We make our best efforts to make sure the information is accurate, but we cannot guarantee it. Do not rely on the content as legal advice. For assistance with legal problems or for a legal inquiry please contact you attorney.