Most employers will find themselves at some time responding to a charge of employment discrimination filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or the state equivalent, the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). In 2012, the EEOC received 99,412 and the DFEH received 19,839 charges of employment discrimination. Here are some steps that you as an employer need to take to successfully respond to employment discrimination charges.
Provide notice to all levels
All levels of a company need to be notified of the complaint in order to preserve documents and participate in preparing a response.
The EEOC or DFEH will send a questionnaire requesting evidence. Collect all the information requested, and interview all company officials involved in the charge. Handwritten notes, emails, and personnel records are important documents that need to be gathered.
Do not retaliate
An employer should never take any adverse employment action against an employee who exercised the right to file a complaint with the EEOC or DFEH.
Designate a point person
Notify the investigative agency that is the point of contact for your company. All communications should go through this one person to avoid miscommunication.
Check the statute of limitations
EEOC claims need to be filed within 180 days and DFEH complaints need to be filed within 300 days of the last alleged act of discrimination.
Examine other complaints with other agencies
If the complainant filed other complaints with other agencies, such as worker’s compensation or the National Labor Relations Board, the facts and claims need to be consistent.
A prima facie case of discrimination requires the complainant to show that he or she was treated differently from employees engaged in similar conduct. To disprove this, you need to comb records and files to find a comparator — a person of the opposite race, sex or religion — who was treated the same.
Federal and state agencies offer free mediation so a mutually satisfactory resolution can be reached quickly and inexpensively. If mediation does not work, the next step is to proceed to discovery and hearing.