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Brown Law Office 972-355-0092
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Employer Law FAQ

What Happens When a Discrimination Charge is Filed with the EEOC?

Notice

Once a discrimination charge has been filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the EEOC will review the charge and determine if there is any basis for the claim. The EEOC may dismiss a claim outright if it does not believe a basis exists for the allegations against the employer. Otherwise, the EEOC will assign an investigator to the claim and provide notice to the employer that a discrimination charge has been filed against it. The notice also will contain the name and contact information of the investigator.

It is important for employers to understand that a charge of discrimination is not tantamount to a finding of illegal action by the employer. The EEOC is required by law to investigate discrimination claims and make a finding based on whether or not there is reasonable cause to believe discrimination took place.

Mediation and Settlement

Employers facing an EEOC discrimination charge may be able to resolve the charge prior to investigation through mediation. Mediation may not be available in every case. However, if mediation is available, employers may want to take advantage of this voluntary process. Mediation is free and confidential, and if the process is successful, the discrimination charge will be closed and no investigation will be necessary. In the event mediation is unsuccessful, the EEOC will proceed with its investigation.

Employers also have the option of entering into settlement with the party who brought the discrimination claim (or the "charging party"). Settlement also is a voluntary process and is available at any time during the investigation. Any settlement that is agreed upon by the parties during the process is fully enforceable and does not require an admission of liability by the employer. If settlement proceedings are successful, the EEOC charge is dismissed.

Investigation

In the event investigation is necessary, the EEOC-appointed investigator will gather information from both parties. This information will serve as the basis for the EEOC's final determination of whether or not discrimination occurred. The EEOC is entitled to request any relevant information to the allegations made in the charge. The EEOC also has the authority to subpoena any relevant information the employer fails to provide upon request. Some of the information that employers may be asked to provide include personnel records, employee policies and procedures and contact information for employee witnesses. Employers also may be asked to permit on-site visits by the investigator and permit the investigator to conduct interviews of employee witnesses.

Employers also should be aware that they have legal obligations to retain certain business records for specific time frames. Employers who fail to retain these records or who destroy these records may face civil and criminal penalties.

It is in the employer's interest to cooperate as much as possible with the EEOC investigation. Employers may want to consult with an attorney about their rights and responsibilities during the process. An EEOC investigation lasts 182 days on average, but the process may take longer if employers are unresponsive to the investigator's requests for information.

Concluding the Investigation

At the conclusion of the investigation, the EEOC will make its determination. The EEOC may issue one of three types of letters to the charging party and employer:

  • Dismissal and Notice of Rights: if the EEOC determines there is no reasonable cause to believe discrimination occurred, the EEOC will send a letter to the parties alerting them of the reasons for its decision. The charging party also has the right to bring a claim in federal court within 90 days of receiving the letter.
  • Letter of Determination: if the EEOC determines there is reasonable cause to believe discrimination occurred, it will issue a letter to both parties explaining the reasons for its decision and offering the parties the opportunity to enter into conciliation. Conciliation is the last voluntary, informal process available to the parties to attempt to resolve the issue outside of court. During conciliation, the parties will work with the EEOC investigator to determine the most appropriate remedy for the discrimination.
  • Notice of Right to Sue: if conciliation fails, litigation is the last option the parties have to resolve the issue. The EEOC has authority to file a lawsuit in federal court on behalf of the charging party against the employer in order to enforce its laws. However, if the EEOC decides not to exercise this right, it will issue a notice of the right to sue to the charging party. The charging party then has 90 days to file a lawsuit against the employer in federal court.

If you are facing an EEOC investigation of a discrimination charge, it is important you understand your rights and obligations during the process. Contact an experienced employment law attorney in your area today for further assistance.

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DISCLAIMER: This site and any information contained herein are intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Seek competent counsel for advice on any legal matter.

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Betty L. Brown
Board Certified by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization
in Labor and Employment Law
Fountain Park
1021 Long Prairie Road, Suite 402
Flower Mound, TX 75022
Phone: 972-355-0092
Fax: 972-899-9635
E-mail: betty@brownemploymentlaw.com