When employees feel they have been discriminated against in the workplace, they can file a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). When employers are faced with EEOC charges, it’s crucial to understand the complaint process and seek legal counsel as soon as possible to learn how to best proceed with their case. Without skilled legal representation, businesses risk making costly mistakes during EEOC investigations that can impact the future of their company’s reputation and bottom line.
The Process of an EEOC Complaint
From start to finish, the average time it takes to complete the investigation and come to a resolution is 10 months according to the EEOC.
Typically, the process is as follows:
The Notification Period
After being charged with a complaint, the EEOC will notify the employer within 10 days. Being charged with an EEOC complaint does not automatically mean the employer engaged with discrimination. The EEOC can dismiss the case based on lack of merit, lack of violations or the statute of limitations has passed.
The Investigation & Subpoena Period
However, if they believe the case could be upheld, they will conduct an investigation to determine whether it is reasonable for discrimination to have occurred. Both the employer and the employee will have to submit information to the investigator on the case, who will then make a recommendation if there is reasonable cause for discrimination to have taken place in the workplace.
The EEOC may ask the employer to provide the following:
Submit a Position Statement - this is the employer’s side of the story.
Respond to a Request for Information (RFI) - this may require the employer to submit their policies, personnel files of individuals involved, and any other relevant information.
Permit an On-Site Visit - the on-site visit can make the fact-checking process faster, which can result in a quicker resolution. Additionally, it may be an alternative to the RFI if the investigator can view or photocopy the requested information.
Provide Contact Information of Employees Available for Witness Interviews - during these interviews, the EEOC can get firsthand accounts that are vital in determining whether discrimination took place. These can take place with employees with or without the permission of the employer.
If an employer doesn’t comply with the EEOC, they can submit a subpoena to the employee in order to obtain the relevant documents and witness statements they need to complete the investigation. By working with a Texas business litigation attorney, employers can protect their rights and interests. Your attorney will be able to help you explore your legal options to ensure that all investigator requests are reasonable, and litigate strategic negotiations and responses.
The Determination Period
Following the investigation, the EEOC has two options for proceeding with the charge:
There is no reasonable evidence of proof of discrimination, and issue a dismissal and notification to the employee letting them know they have 90 days to file a federal lawsuit; or
There is reasonable evidence proving discrimination occurred, and both parties will be provided with the option to participate in conciliation. This gives employers and employees an informal and voluntary option to negotiate resolutions with one another without admitting liability.
If one party denies conciliation or neither can come to a resolution, the EEOC can step in and file a federal lawsuit against the employer. This route is more common in companies with a history of discrimination.
Another option the EEOC might provide is to not file a lawsuit against the employer, but notify the employee of their right to file a lawsuit within 90 days. This course of action gives employees the ability to proceed with further legal action in front of the federal court.
The Need for Skilled Legal Representation During EEOC Complaints
During EEOC cases, it’s crucial to secure sound legal representation. With the help of a Houston business attorney, employers can rest assured that they will have an experienced lawyer who not only understands the complaint process but will walk them through it step-by-step.
At Hendershot Cowart P.C., our legal team is skilled in creating customized EEOC defense strategies that protect employer's interests and rights. We will help you pursue a positive resolution to your case that reduces the risk of potential lawsuits, loss of business, and civil liability, all while minimizing disruption and expenses to your company’s daily operations.
If you have questions about defending your business against an EEOC complaint, call Hendershot Cowart P.C. at (713) 909-7323 to discuss your case with our Houston business litigation attorneys today.