Why it matters

Employers, take note: the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has initiated the rollout of its electronic complaint program, the first step in moving toward an all-digital system of filing charges with the agency. The “ACT Digital” pilot program began earlier this month in 11 of the agency’s field offices (including the San Francisco and Charlotte districts). Instead of a paper form for EEOC charges, employers will receive an e-mail notifying them that a charge has been filed containing a link to an online portal. Once logged in to the secure portal, an employer can view and download the charge, submit representation information and position statements, review and respond to the invitation to mediate, and otherwise communicate with the EEOC. The agency intends for all field offices to be participating in the ACT Digital program by October 2015. Employers should ensure that the agency has the correct e-mail address for the company’s EEOC representative and that the representative is ready to respond to any e-mails from the Commission.

Detailed discussion

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has begun the process of a completely digital charge system. In early May, 11 of the agency’s 53 field offices launched Phase One of the Action Council for Transformation to a Digital Charge System (ACT Digital), under which all employers—including public and private employers, employment agencies, and unions—will no longer receive paper forms when facing an EEOC charge.

Instead, the Commission will send the employer’s designated EEOC representative an e-mail notification that a charge has been filed. The e-mail will include a link to the agency’s secure online portal. Once logged in, the employer can learn about the charge and respond.

The portal offers employers the opportunity to view and download the charge, provide information about representation, submit position statements, update the designated contact information or provide other information about the company, review and respond to the invitation to mediate, and communicate with the EEOC.

“The EEOC’s pilot of a digital charge system is an important first step forward that will benefit the public and our staff,” Commission Chair Jenny R. Yang said in a statement about the program’s launch. “This will improve our responsiveness to the public, efficiently utilize our resources, and protect the security of documents in our online system. We encourage employers to provide candid feedback and suggestions during the pilots so we can make adjustments to strengthen the system.”

For those employers that have not supplied an e-mail address for the designated EEOC representative, the agency will mail a paper notice to inform the company of the charge along with instructions for logging in to the portal.

The EEOC intends to complete the rollout to all 53 field offices by October 1, 2015. A number of the agency’s field offices began the program (including Charlotte, Greensboro, Greenville, Norfolk, Raleigh, and Richmond, North Carolina; Oakland, San Francisco, and San Jose, California; and Seattle). Next up: Denver, Detroit, Indianapolis, and Phoenix.

Employers do have the choice to opt out of the online charge program and continue to receive and submit all documents and communications in paper form. However, it is unclear how long that option will exist.

As the ACT Digital program moves forward, the Commission will expand the capabilities of the online portal, including the ability to file electronic submissions of responses to Requests for Information and a portal for individuals who file a charge of employment discrimination.

Why the change? The agency is striving for compliance with Executive Order 13571, “Streaming Service Delivery and Improving Customer Service,” which mandated that federal agencies improve customer experience by expanding online services, among other requirements.

“The EEOC receives about 90,000 charges per year, making its charge system the agency’s most common interaction with the public,” the Commission explained in a statement about the program’s launch. “The EEOC’s ACT Digital initiative aims to improve customer service, ease the administrative burden on staff, and reduce the use of paper submissions and files.”

To read more about the ACT Digital program, click here.

To view the EEOC’s User’s Guide to the online portal, click here.