An employee complained about your company to the EEOC, now what?
It happens to Colorado businesses every day. They think they are abiding by the law in their dealings with employees and prospective employees only to be hit with a complaint from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Maybe it was the person you didn’t hire because he refused to comply with internal protocol, or perhaps it was because an employee’s family problems caused them to be absent frequently from their job. Whatever the situation, you’ve found yourself in possession of an EEOC complaint and now it’s time to justify your actions.
How will I know a complaint has been filed?
When an employee files a charge with the EEOC, the commission will notify the employer of the charge within 10 days and request a timely response. You must respond within 180 days or the employee can ask the commission for the right to sue regardless of your response.
What constitutes a complaint?
The commission is concerned with complaints alleging unfair treatment because of race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information. This unfair treatment includes harassment, denial or workplace accommodation to the employee (due to religious beliefs or disability), and any retaliation that might occur because an employee has complained about discrimination or aided in an investigation of discrimination.
What can I do?
- Make sure allegations fall within required timelines. The law requires an employee to file a complaint within 180 days of an alleged incidence of discrimination. If the dates are off, the case is dead from the outset. A simple check of this one fact can save you a lot of heartache and hassle.
- Quietly gather all background information needed for your response. Get the personnel files, manager’s notes, and other background about the situation referenced in the complaint. Meet with the manager and/or co-workers involved in the allegations and gather their insights to include in our response.
- Fight the urge to talk the issue out with the employee. It’s easy to fall into this trap. You think you know this person well and thought you had a good relationship. Your instinct is to go down the hall and have a heart-to-heart chat about their issues, get things out in the open, and try to get the employee to withdraw the complaint. DON’T DO IT. This can be construed as coercion or harassment, which will only hurt you in the long run.
If your company receives an EEOC complaint, call the experienced labor law attorneys at Robinson & Henry, P.C. We will help you craft a response and defend your interests around the mediation table or, if need be, in a court of law.