The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is a federal regulatory agency that exists to protect employees or job candidates from discrimination based on certain protected characteristics, including age, gender and race. There are many laws the EEOC considers when analyzing cases. Of paramount importance is Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which deals with employers of 15 or more workers.
For most the last two decades, the number of complaints under the EEOC guidelines has remained steady at about 90,000 per year, despite the increased awareness of EEOC requirements on the part of employers. In some cases, employers can make matters even worse by responding to the complaints in an inappropriate way.
Below are a few of the most common errors employers make when responding to these complaints:
- Ignoring the complaint: In some cases, employers ignore the EEOC complaint because they do not believe the law applied to them. However, in cases of racial discrimination, the Title VII rules previously mentioned do not apply-the law instead covers employers of all sizes. Some locations also offer greater protection to employees that the EEOC, so in those cases, the law dictates that the business follow local rules.
- You do not have an investigation plan: Before you ever address an EEOC complaint, you should have an investigation plan prepared to guide you in your response. This plan should include all the evidence you need to compile, including data, employee statements and various documents. Some of this information you will have accumulated over time, so being able to quickly access it and use it in your investigation and response is crucial.
- Not providing enough information: When you submit your position statement, you must be thorough with the information you provide so that you can be consistent with your claims throughout the entire investigation. If you keep adding information during the process, it can reflect poorly on you.
- Retaliating against the complaining employee: Retaliating against an employee who filed an EEOC complaint against your business can land you in legal hot water. Even small instances of treating an employee differently can be violations of federal law. There are many rules in place that protect workers against retaliation.
- Not taking the process as a learning opportunity: Whether you win or lose in a lawsuit, you should use the process a learning opportunity to improve your practices moving forward. Even if you are cleared of wrongdoing, conduct a review of your company’s policies and implement preventive measures that will provide for consistent EEOC compliance.
For more information and guidance on how to conduct yourself during an EEOC complaint investigation, meet with a skilled employment law attorney in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Ravinder S. Nagi is Assistant Managing Attorney and Chair of the Labor & Employment Practice Group at BoltNagi, an employment and labor law firm serving businesses and organizations throughout the U.S. Virgin Islands.