The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has implemented a new online portal by which respondent employers will submit information and documents pertinent to a charge of discrimination. While piloted last year in a handful of EEOC offices, as of January 1, 2016, this system is now in place in all 53 EEOC offices.
Employers will access this secure EEOC Respondent Portal through a unique password. Each charge will have its own specific password. As a result, each charge must be viewed and responded to separately.
The new digital system will support various functions, including viewing and downloading the charge, reviewing and responding to an EEOC invitation to mediate, submitting a Position Statement and exhibits, submitting a response to a Request for Information, verifying contact information, designating a legal representative, and enabling online communications with the agency. There is no limit on the type or size of files which may be uploaded electronically by the employer.
Employers will no longer receive a hard copy of the notice of the charge and the charge itself in the mail. The EEOC acknowledges that it is possible electronic notice may not be initially received by the respondent because of a bad email address or a SPAM filter. Accordingly, if a respondent has not logged into the system within 10 days after the notice has been sent, the EEOC will attempt to re-serve the notice.
Documents and other information submitted by an employer are only accessible by authorized EEOC staff. Although the charging party will not have online access, the EEOC may still share Position Statements and non-confidential information with the charging party. The only information submitted by the charging party that is available online for the employer is the charge of discrimination.
The EEOC has provided assurance that the portal is secure. As stated in an EEOC Q&A: “There are many layers of security utilizing different physical and software components in order to provide the highest level of protection. These security controls and measures are audited frequently and monitored continuously with state of the art automated vulnerability and compliance software suites.”
Takeaway: Employers should be alert to the fact that EEOC charges of discrimination will now be transmitted by the agency electronically, and not in hard copy. Accordingly, companies should put processes in place to ensure that any such notice received is promptly forwarded to responsible persons within the organization.