Ways to Respond to an EEOC Charge and Why You Need a Lawyer

If you receive an Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC) Notice of Charge of Discrimination, one of your employees has formally accused you of job discrimination. This is not a time to panic, but it is a time to get organized because you must submit a good response to protect yourself. This is also a time to speak to an attorney who can help make sure you give the best response. 

We can help you at Batson Nolan, PLC. Our Tennessee employment attorneys specialize in protecting employers’ rights in many legal situations, including EEOC discrimination complaints. 

What Is in an EEOC Notice of Charge of Discrimination?

An EEOC Notice of Charge of Discrimination (Notice) alerts you to a discrimination complaint. It contains basic contact and background information such as the name and address of the EEOC office handling your case and the date of the Notice. The Notice also contains details about:

  • Who filed the complaint against you;
  • What laws the complaining party claims you violated;
  • What your employee claims were the circumstances of the alleged violation;
  • When the alleged violation occurred; and 
  • How to use the EEOC’s online system to manage your case. 

Once you log into the EEOC’s online portal for your case, you can submit information to defend yourself. Now that you know what is in a Notice, let’s discuss how to respond to an EEOC charge of discrimination.  

What Should I Do to Respond to an EEOC Charge of Discrimination?

A charge of discrimination could lead to a settlement, an administrative hearing, a civil lawsuit, or a dismissal. You increase your chances of resolving an employment complaint faster and less painfully if you provide a thorough and well-researched response to the allegations. There are many actions you should take to respond effectively, and we will cover them below. 

Conduct a Thorough Review of the Notice and the Charge of Discrimination

The first step to providing a good response to complaint allegations is to study the Notice and your employee’s charge of discrimination. The Notice gives instructions about what type of response the EEOC requires from you. One form of response the EEOC might request is a position statement, which explains your version of the facts, responds to the allegations, and provides supporting documentation. 

The Notice and charge of discrimination also give details about the alleged discrimination in your case. Once you understand the details of the allegations and the type of response you need to provide, you can establish defenses to the allegations. 

Identify Clear Defenses to Each Allegation

A good response to a charge of discrimination provides an explanation and defense for each allegation your employee makes. There are two main ways to defend yourself against any allegation of discriminatory conduct:

  • Deny that the events surrounding the complaint occurred the way your employee alleges or
  • Assert that your actions against your employee were not illegal.

You might need to include both types of defenses in your response to make sure you adequately protect yourself. 

Identifying all good defenses in your case requires hours of evidence review and understanding of the laws relevant to your case. As a business owner or manager, you likely won’t have time to review your files and study your legal options. An experienced attorney can research and handle your case. 

Carefully Review and Submit Relevant Evidence

Barebones denials of complaint accusations are insufficient to limit (or eliminate) your liability in a discrimination charge. You need to provide specific facts and supporting documents (if possible) for each denial of each allegation. 

To help make sure you provide the proper supporting documents, you should conduct a thorough review of the following materials:

  • Personnel records of the complaining employee and other employees similarly situated;
  • Employer handbooks, policies, and procedures;
  • Performance reviews of the complaining employee and other employees similarly situated;
  • Employee correspondence;
  • Disciplinary records of the complaining employee and other employees similarly situated; 
  • Witness accounts; and
  • Grievance records of the complaining employee and other employees similarly situated.

Providing documents that show a complaining employee’s communications, disciplinary history, performance history, and grievance history can help you establish that any adverse actions you took against the employee were for cause. Providing the records of other similarly situated employees can prove that you are consistent and non-discriminatory when disciplining your workforce. 

Also, a complaining employee’s failure to file an internal grievance can be a complete defense to some allegations of harassment. To effectively defend yourself, you want to make sure you review and submit any helpful grievance histories. 

Additionally, you want to make sure that you speak to all witnesses of the alleged misconduct. You can submit witness affidavits to corroborate your responses. And if a witness’s account of the events could damage your defense, understanding their position can help you mitigate any harmful effects of their testimony.  

Draft and Submit a Detailed Explanation of Your Business and Its Structure

EEOC investigators can draw better conclusions when they have context. The EEOC prefers to receive information about what your business does and its management structure so it can better focus its investigation. This information can help the EEOC conclude when employer behavior is inappropriate and when the discipline of an employee is reasonable. You also need to identify your representative for the investigation so that all EEOC correspondence goes to the right place. 

Do Not Discourage Employee Involvement in the Investigation

It is illegal to discriminate against an employee for their membership in a protected class. It is also illegal to retaliate against an employee for participating in a discrimination investigation. This is why you should make it clear to your employees that they can freely participate in EEOC investigations. Your attorney can help you determine the best way to achieve this without damaging your defenses. 

How Long Does an Employer Have to Respond to an EEOC Charge?

How long does a company have to respond to an EEOC charge? It depends on the requests of your investigator. 

Pay close attention to all correspondence from the EEOC and comply with the deadlines it gives you for submitting position statements, submitting evidence, and allowing access for investigations of your workplace. Sometimes you can ask for an extension to deliver the requested materials, but do not rely on this possibility. Failure to timely submit materials or allow access can lead an investigator to conclude that your defenses are not valid. 

We Have the Experience You Need

At Batson Nolan, our employment attorneys have trained and practiced for years to protect employers like you. Our firm has provided exceptional legal services to the people of Tennessee for more than 150 years. We have the experience you need to properly respond to an EEOC charge. Do not hesitate to call us at 931-647-1501 or reach out to us online for a consultation.