First of all, don’t panic!
Your company has NOT been found guilty of discrimination by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
This is the beginning of a multi-step process alerting you that a complaint has been filed against your company. The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws protecting non-discrimination in the workplace. If your company has 15+ employees, you must abide by these laws and protect employees from discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, sexual orientation), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or generic information. According to the EEOC’s Progress Report, the overwhelming majority of the agency’s work is accomplished through voluntary resolutions. This is good news for employers because it means complaints only progress to litigation if other means fail.
Now that you’re past the initial shock, it’s time to figure out your plan of action.
- Review the charge and follow directions – Start by reviewing the notice carefully so you understand the complaint. This is when careful record-keeping is critical. Go through any documentation so you can understand what happened and the documented resolution. Try to interpret the motivation behind the complaint. You will then submit a position statement explaining your side of the story.
- Consider the mediation program – EEOC offers a free, voluntary and informal process for resolving disputes with the help of a neutral mediator. Unlike in a courtroom where guilt or innocence is decreed, this process allows the employer and employee to come up with a mutually acceptable solution. This confidential option saves time and money with EEOC reporting that many mediations are completed in one meeting.
- Respond to investigator requests – Even if you believe the charge is frivolous, you still must respond to any document, interview and on-site inspection requests. Keep in mind, this evidence could help your case be dismissed.
- Protect against retaliation – Retaliation is illegal. Make sure employees are not punished for filing a charge or participating in the investigation.
As a top CPEO in Chicago (certified professional employer organization), MidwestHR partners with clients to create workplaces where harassment and discrimination are not tolerated. It is not enough to proactively institute HR policies that help prevent EEOC complaints. Companies must also enforce policies and hold people accountable for any discriminatory actions. From recruitment and hiring practices to fair wages, promotions, benefits and termination policies, our team of HR experts know what it takes to create an atmosphere dedicated to the rights of all employees.
If your company is in the midst of this process, it can be very stressful, disruptive and expensive. Your goal is to resolve the complaint as quickly as possible. MidwestHR has assisted many clients through the process of gathering evidence and advising when counsel should be engaged. Whether facing an EEOC complaint or wanting to protect against it, give us a call at 630-836-3000 to learn how we can help.