The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

When A Charge Is Filed Against My Company

I received a charge form from the EEOC that says my business violated federal law. How can the EEOC say this before anyone has even talked to me or asked for my side of the story?

While there are a few rare exceptions, ordinarily the charge must be filed by a member of the public who has contacted EEOC and alleged that a company has discriminated against him or her. The fact that the EEOC has taken a charge does not mean that the government is accusing you of discrimination. The charging party has alleged that your company has discriminated against him or her and it is the EEOC's job to investigate the matter to determine whether there is reasonable cause to believe that discrimination has occurred.

How will I know if a charge of discrimination has been filed against my company?

EEOC will notify the employer within 10 days of receiving a charge. Notification normally includes a copy of the charge briefly identifying the charging party, the basis (e.g., race, religion, sex, etc.) and issue(s) (e.g., hiring, promotion, discharge, etc.) of the allegation, and the date(s) of the alleged discrimination. Ordinarily, a plain language explanation of the EEOC charge process will be included, as well as explanations of the employer's obligation to retain records pertaining to the charge and of the non-retaliation provisions of the EEOC laws. An invitation to mediate the charge may also be included in the notification package.

What can I expect to happen in an EEOC investigation?

After a charge is filed, you may be asked to provide a statement of position responding to the allegations in the charge. You may also be asked to provide documents or information related to the subject of the EEOC's investigation. Additionally, the EEOC may ask to visit your worksite or to interview some of your employees. Cooperation with EEOC requests for information is helpful to the EEOC in investigating charges. When an employer refuses to provide information, or does not do so in a reasonably timely manner, the EEOC may issue a subpoena. You may retain an attorney to represent you during the EEOC's handling of the charge but you are not required to do so.

What records am I required to keep if I receive an EEOC charge?

The EEOC Notice of Charge form that you receive should explain the agency's record keeping requirements. When an EEOC charge has been filed against your company, you should retain personnel or employment records relating to the issues under investigation as a result of the charge, including those related to the charging party or other persons alleged to be aggrieved and to all other employees holding or seeking positions similar to that held or sought by the affected individual(s).

Once a charge is filed, these records must be kept until the final disposition of the charge or any lawsuit based on the charge. When a charge is not resolved after investigation, and the charging party has received a notice of right to sue, "final disposition" means the date of expiration of the 90-day statutory period within which the aggrieved person may bring suit or, where suit is brought by the charging party or the EEOC, the date on which the litigation is terminated, including any appeals.

My records are not in the format requested by the EEOC. It will be too costly and time-consuming to comply with the request. What should I do?

Talk to the EEOC investigator before submitting information in a format different from that requested or refusing to comply altogether. Explain what business records you have and how you believe you could supply the information in a manner closely resembling the manner requested. Most of these situations can be worked out so that EEOC gets the information it needs without the employer feeling unduly burdened.

The EEOC sent me a Notice of Charge which contains very little information about a claim of discrimination. Nothing was attached and I can't tell what this is about. What should I do?

The EEOC generally sends notice to employers that a charge has been filed within 10 days after the charge is filed. We may occasionally give you notice of a charge without actually including a copy of the charge. When this happens, ordinarily you need do nothing more until we contact you at a later date. However, if you want more information, call the EEOC office that sent the notice and speak with the staff person assigned to handle the charge to obtain more information.

I believe that the EEOC Charge filed against my company is frivolous. Should I respond?

Yes. You should respond. Under the EEOC's current procedures, if the EEOC believes the charge is invalid or frivolous, it will dismiss the charge. If the charge was not dismissed by the EEOC when it was received, there is usually 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 the facts available to you that you believe show the allegations are false.

What happens if a charge is dismissed by the EEOC?

If the EEOC dismisses a charge, it will not proceed further with an investigation. The charging party is notified of his or her right to file a lawsuit in court. A charging party may file a lawsuit within 90 days of receiving his or her dismissal notice.

The laws also permit a charging party to choose to go to court instead of waiting for the EEOC to complete its investigation. Therefore, in some cases, the EEOC may issue a notice of right to sue upon the charging party's request.

What does the EEOC do if it determines that a violation of the law has occurred?

If the EEOC determines that there is reasonable cause to believe that discrimination occurred, a written determination and invitation to enter into conciliation discussions are issued to the parties. If conciliation efforts are not successful, the EEOC and/or the charging party may bring suit.

If my company is found to have violated the law, what could happen?

Under the EEOC-enforced laws, the remedies for unlawful discrimination include:

Monetary remedies available under the laws enforced by the EEOC are as follows:

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This page was last modified on December 17, 2001.

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