The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has taken its first steps towards moving to an all-digital charge system. On Wednesday, May 6, 2015, the agency announced that 11 of its 53 field offices would begin a pilot program called “Act Digital.” The new online system will affect all new charges filed against public and private employers, employment agencies, and unions.
Under the new process, employers will no longer receive paper forms for EEOC charges. Instead, employers will receive an email notifying them that a charge has been filed. The electronic notice will contain a web link to a secure online portal hosting information about the specific charge.
Through the online portal, the employer can take the following actions:
- view and download the charge;
- submit representation information;
- submit position statements;
- provide and update organizational and designated contract information;
- review and respond to the invitation to mediate;
- communicate with the EEOC.
If the EEOC does not have an email address of a designated contact at the respondent employer, the agency will send the employer paper notice informing it of the charge and instructions for logging on to the online portal.
As of May 6, 2015, the ACT Digital program is operating in EEOC offices within the Charlotte, North Carolina district (which covers Charlotte, Greenville, Norfolk, Raleigh, and Richmond) and the San Francisco, California district (which covers San Francisco, Oakland, Seattle, and San Jose). The agency announced that its offices in Denver, Detroit, Indianapolis, and Phoenix will begin the program in late May 2015.
Given the lack of publicity surrounding the new process (the EEOC has issued a single press release about it), it is important that employers: (1) confirm their designated EEOC representative and the email address for that representative; and (2) make sure that the representative is diligently tending to his or her inbox so the employer can respond to charges in a timely manner.
While employers may opt out of the online charge program, it is unclear how long the paper process will remain an option. The agency expects to expand the Act Digital program to all of its field offices by October 1, 2015.