Receiving an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) complaint against your company or agency can be stressful, time-consuming, and expensive. Additionally, if word gets out about the complaint, it can harm your reputation. The good news is that there are ways to resolve the case outside of the EEOC so that your employee gets what he or she needs, and your company or agency is not harmed in the process. It is important to understand how the EEOC complaint process works so you know what to expect.
The EEOC Filing Process
First, the aggrieved employee will file a complaint. They should file this complaint within 45 days of the alleged discriminatory action. However, if they can prove that they did not know the time limits, they may be able to file past the 45-day deadline.
Once the employee has filed the complaint, they will meet with an EEOC counselor to discuss their rights and responsibilities throughout the process and to see if the complaint can be resolved peaceably before going through the investigation and hearings process.
Counseling and Alternative Dispute Resolution
If the individual chooses to attempt to resolve the issue with the agency outside of a hearing, it needs to be done within 30 days of the complaint filing. If both parties agree, the time period can be extended up to 90 days. However, if the parties are not able to come to an agreement in that time period, the case moves on to investigation.
One other possible outcome is dismissal of complaint. This can happen under a couple of different circumstances:
- Lack of compliance with time limits
- Filing a complaint that is already being tried in civil court or with the Merit Systems Protection Board
- The employee stops responding to communications with the EEOC
- The information the employee presents is not relevant
- The employee is clearly misusing the EEO process
When the complaint cannot be dropped, the best outcome for agencies is to resolve the case outside of the system. It can save money, time, and harmful press. Additionally, it can ease tensions with the aggrieved employee, helping them to feel more comfortable continuing to work for your agency.
Investigations and Hearings Process
Investigations are impartial and are meant to collect evidence from both sides to get the full story so that the hearings court can make a fair decision. During this process, your agency can make an offer of resolution to the employee as long as you do so before the date that the hearing is schedule. If the individual chooses to take the resolution, the case is closed.
Otherwise, the parties continue on to the hearing, which is similar to a hearing in a civil claims case. The administrative judge will conduct the hearing, view evidence, and hear testimony. They will then issue a decision within 180 days of receipt of the complaint.
Depending on the outcome, the agency must comply with the administrative judge’s decision and implement any chances they ask for.
Ultimately, settling things outside of the hearing is in your agency’s best interest. Applied Development can help. We offer alternative dispute resolution services to help your agency and your employee come out of the EEOC complaints process with as few damages as possible, ensuring the employee gets what they need and your agency is able to get back to business as normal.