Last week, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) launched a pilot program called ACT Digital, which is the agency’s first initiative in digitizing its current paper-based charge process. The EEOC receives about 90,000 charges annually, which makes its charge system the common form of interaction with the public. In launching ACT Digital, the EEOC is attempting to streamline and improve customer service, ease the administrative burden on its staff, and reduce the use of paper. What employers need to know is that when this goes live in your area, the only notice you may get of a charge is an email.

ACT Digital began on May 6 in the EEOC’s Charlotte and San Francisco offices and will start in Denver, Detroit, Indianapolis, and Phoenix by the end of May 2015. The EEOC aims to roll-out this system to all of its offices by October 1, 2015. So, all employers—both public and private—should begin training staff on what to do when they get an email from the EEOC.

The EEOC states that if it has a designated contact to receive charges for an employer, it will send that contact the electronic notice of a charge. We will have to wait and see how this actually works. We have a number of clients who have had the same address and contact for years and the EEOC still sends the notice and charge to the wrong address, wrong contact, and in some cases, the wrong employer. If the EEOC has no contact on file, it will send a paper notice to the address of record for the employer with instructions on how to log into the secure portal through ACT Digital. Importantly, employers have the ability to opt out of the electronic system.

To secure the privacy of the information transmitted, each charge is assigned a unique password. Once the employer receives the notice of a charge and the unique password, the employer is able to download the charge, review an invitation to mediate and respond to it, and submit a position statement.

Consequently, employers should inform employees who handle EEOC charges of this new process and ensure that each employee is aware of any new responsibilities that they may have. Additional information on Phase I of ACT Digital can be found on the EEOC website.