The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC” or “Agency”) has issued new procedural regulations for handling employment discrimination charges. 29 CFR 1601; 29 CFR 1626. The regulations now provide for the digital filing of charge-related documents. The EEOC’s digital charge filing system was piloted in 2015 and has been in place for some time on certain charges. While digital filing is not compulsory, it is now codified as the preferred option for charging parties and respondents to submit documents to the agency.
The new regulations also update procedures for no-cause determinations, aiming for increased clarity about the charging party’s options. After a no-cause determination, the EEOC will issue a revised Notice of Right to Sue letter stating in plain language that the charging party still has options for relief. The revised Notice of Right to Sue states: “This does not mean the claims have no merit.”
The most controversial procedural change was the EEOC’s expansion of who at the Agency can render a final decision on a charge. Investigators will now have the authority to dismiss and discharge claims whereas previously only local office directors had that authority. Commenters on both sides raised concerns about this decision because the expanded authority means less experienced investigators will have final decision making abilities. The EEOC stressed that it would "maintain internal controls to ensure that EEOC personnel selected as designees for this purpose have the requisite experience to perform this function." This change comes in an effort to create efficiencies at the Agency, which handles a high volume of claims. As shown below, the EEOC has seen a decreasing trend in charge volume since 2015, but it can still be more than a year before the Agency is able to render a decision. This is likely to continue for charges filed in 2020 given the upheaval in employment nationwide due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The new regulations also clarify filing timelines in an effort to help charging parties understand whether the 180-day or 300-day deadline applies to their claim. The new rule clarifies that charging parties have the benefit of the lengthened filing timeframe if they are from a state with an anti-discrimination agency that enforces laws prohibiting the same category of discrimination as they allege. Most claimants will get this benefit because nearly all states including Maryland have agencies broadly protecting against employment discrimination.
The new regulations go into effect November 16, 2020.
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