The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is rolling out a new Digital Charge System Pilot Program in several cities across the country as part of its overall strategic plan to digitize all of its records. Beginning May 1, 2015, the Charlotteand San Francisco field offices will no longer send EEOC Form 131 to employers to notify them that a charge of discrimination has been filed against their companies. Instead, the EEOC in those regions will mail the employer a single, one-page letter titled “Notice of Charge of Discrimination” with referenced online links to view the complete charge.

The new form notice letter will instruct the employer to log on to the EEOC’s “Respondent Portal” through a unique URL and password specifically designated to the particular charge. The employer will use this secure server to access the actual charge of discrimination and to submit any documents to the EEOC, including notices of appearance, requests for extension of time and position statements.

Any documents submitted via the Respondent Portal will be accessible by the respondent and the EEOC. Further, at present, digital submissions through the pilot program will apply with respect to documents and correspondence only up to the point that the employer submits its position statement. While the EEOC plans to expand the digital records management system to encompass the entire charge process, currently the pilot program is set up to receive documents only through the position statement. Thus, if the EEOC wants additional information beyond the position statement, these documents will be transmitted as before via electronic or regular mail (and not through the secure Respondent Portal).

Since the new form letter in the pilot program looks significantly different from the Form 131, employers should notify and train employees who regularly receive initial correspondence from the EEOC on the new program to ensure that employers timely respond to any charges of discrimination. This is especially true since (a) the new program has not been well-publicized, and (b) the new notice may appear to be a phishing or other online scam.

The EEOC plans for the pilot program to expand to other field offices (including Indianapolis, Phoenix, Detroit, Denver and Seattle) by June 1, 2015, and hopes to roll out the Digital Charge System nationwide by October 31, 2015.