As an employer, you are likely to receive an EEOC charge sooner or later. An individual charge empowers the EEOC to investigate not only an individual employee’s charge, but also your policies and practices in general.
These EEOC investigations can become the gateway to potential federal litigation or investigation by another federal agency. Responding to an investigation requires an assessment of the employer’s potential liability, plus a strategy to bring the investigation to a favorable conclusion: dismissal or resolution. One of the challenges employers face in EEOC investigations is assessing potential exposure and liability that may arise from the EEOC uncovering additional discrimination claims and/or other workplace practices that may be of interest to other federal agencies, such as the wage and hour division.
The EEOC utilizes two investigation methods:
- The individual charge of discrimination and
- A directed charge searching for company practices, policies and procedures that may adversely affect one of more protected groups.
Information obtained during the investigation of an individual charge of discrimination may lead to discovery of information to support a broad-based investigation of the employer’s hiring, promotion, discipline and termination practices, with emphasis on the composition of the employer’s workforce and workplace policies and procedures. The EEOC may also share information with other federal agencies, such as the NLRB, which has been aggressively pursuing its agenda with non-union employers.
Every employer’s toolbox should include knowledge about the EEOC process, including your rights when responding to an EEOC charge and the scope of the EEOC’s investigatory power.
Contributed by Maureen Rouse-Ayoub, Bodman PLC.
View the on-demand webinar “EEOC: Facing a Discrimination Complaint Investigation” with Maureen Rouse-Ayoub.