The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

EEOC Investigations - What An Employer Should Know

What is EEOC?

  1. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is an independent federal agency created by Congress in 1964 to eradicate discrimination in employment. The various statutes enforced by the Commission prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, religion, retaliation, age and disability.
  2. EEOC has authority to receive, initiate and investigate charges of discrimination filed against employers who have a statutory minimum number of employees.
  3. EEOC's role in an investigation is to fairly and accurately evaluate the charge allegations in light of all the evidence obtained.

What happens when a charge has been filed against me?

  1. You will always be notified that a charge of discrimination has been filed and you will be provided with the name and contact information for the investigator assigned to your case. A charge does not constitute a finding that your company engaged in discrimination. The EEOC has a responsibility to investigate and determine whether there is a reasonable cause to believe discrimination occurred.
  2. In many cases, you may opt to resolve a charge early in the process through mediation or settlement. At the start of an investigation, EEOC will advise you if your charge is eligible for mediation, but feel free to ask the investigator about the settlement option. Mediation and settlement are voluntary resolutions.
  3. During the investigation, you and the Charging Party will be asked to provide information. Your investigator will evaluate the information submitted to determine whether unlawful discrimination has taken place. You may be asked to:
  4. If the charge was not dismissed by the EEOC when it was received, that means there was some basis for proceeding with further investigation. There are many cases where it is unclear whether discrimination may have occurred and an investigation is necessary. You are encouraged to present any facts that you believe show the allegations are incorrect or do not amount to a violation of the law. An employer's input and cooperation will assist EEOC in promptly and thoroughly investigating a charge.
  5. Your investigator will:
  6. Once the investigator has completed the investigation, EEOC will make a determination on the merits of the charge.

How does a charge get resolved?

EEOC offers employers many opportunities to resolve charges of discrimination. Successfully resolving the case through one of these voluntary processes may save you time, effort and money. Methods of resolution include:


EEOC has greatly expanded it's mediation program. The program is free, quick, voluntary and confidential. If mediation is successful, there is no investigation.

If the charge filed against your company is eligible for mediation, you will be invited to take part in the mediation process. If mediation is unsuccessful, the charge is referred for investigation.

Advantages of Mediation

  1. EEOC's mediation program is free.
  2. Mediation is efficient. The process is initiated before an investigation begins and most mediations are completed in one session, which usually lasts for one to five hours.
  3. The average processing time for mediation is 84 days.
  4. The mediation program is completely voluntary.
  5. Successful mediation results in the closure of the charge filed with EEOC. If mediation is unsuccessful, the charge is referred for investigation.
  6. Mediators are neutral third parties who have no interest in the outcome of the mediation.
  7. Mediation is a confidential process. The sessions are not tape-recorded or transcribed. Mediator notes taken during the mediation are discarded. Information learned during the mediation can not be used during an EEOC investigation if the mediation is unsuccessful.
  8. Mediation is an informal process. The goal of mediation is not fact finding. The purpose is to discuss the charge and reach an agreement that is satisfactory to all parties.
  9. Settlement agreements secured during mediation are not admissions by the employer of any violation of laws enforced by the EEOC.
  10. Mediation avoids lengthy and unnecessary litigation.
  11. Settlement agreements secured during mediation are enforceable.
  12. The overwhelming majority of employers and charging parties participating in EEOC mediation program are satisfied with the process and would use it again.
  13. Mediation can help the parties understand why the employment relationship broke down.
  14. Mediation can help the parties identify ways to repair an ongoing relationship.

To learn more about EEOC's mediation program, and how to participate in it, visit the mediation section of the website.


Charges of discrimination may be settled at any time during the investigation. EEOC investigators are experienced in working with the parties to reach satisfactory settlements. You should contact the investigator if you are interested in resolving your charge through settlement.

Advantages of Settlement

  1. Voluntary settlement efforts can be pursued at any time during the investigation, but settling a charge early may save you the time and effort associated with investigations.
  2. Settlement is an informal process. The goal of settlement is to reach an agreement that is satisfactory to all parties.
  3. There is no admission of liability.
  4. If the parties, including EEOC, reach a voluntary agreement, the charge will be dismissed.
  5. Settlement agreements are enforceable.
  6. Settlement avoids lengthy and unnecessary litigation.


EEOC is statutorily required to attempt to resolve findings of discrimination through "informal methods of conference, conciliation, and persuasion." See 42 U.S.C. 2000e-5. After the parties have been informed by letter that the evidence gathered during the investigation establishes that there is "reasonable cause" to believe that discrimination has occurred, the parties will be invited to participate in conciliation discussions. During conciliation, your investigator will work with you and the Charging Party to develop an appropriate remedy for the discrimination. We encourage you to take advantage of this final opportunity to resolve the charge prior to EEOC considering the matter for litigation.

Advantages of Conciliation

  1. Conciliation is a voluntary process.
  2. Conciliation discussions are negotiations and counter-offers may be presented.
  3. Conciliation offers the parties a final opportunity to resolve the charge informally - - after an investigation has been conducted, but before a litigation decision has been reached.
  4. Conciliation agreements remove the uncertainty, cost and animosity surrounding litigation.

How else can EEOC assist me?

EEOC's outreach, education, and technical assistance efforts are vital components of our mission to eradicate employment discrimination. Our outreach program is designed to encourage voluntary compliance with the anti-discrimination laws and to assist employers, employees and stakeholder groups to understand and prevent discrimination. Take advantage of our expertise in the area of employment discrimination.

For more information on how we can assist you, visit the Outreach and Training section of the website.

Statutory Minimums

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 applies to employers with fifteen (15) or more employees.

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) applies to employers with twenty (20) or more employees.

Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) applies to employers with fifteen (15) or more employees.

The Equal Pay Act of 1963 (EPA) applies to most employers with one or more employees.

This page was last modified on March 3, 2003.

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