A client recently asked me whether I thought that the EEOC’s new online public portal would lead to an avalanche of new charges. Having visited the portal, I think those fears are unfounded.
The first thing that employers should be aware of is that the new system does not allow employees to file charges of discrimination. The portal simply allows a potential charging party to submit an initial complaint and request an intake interview. Charges of discrimination will still need to be prepared by the EEOC, and only after an in-person interview of the charging party.
The EEOC’s online portal, however, will facilitate some aspects of the process. For example, once a charge has been prepared, an individual will be allowed to digitally sign the charge and file it electronically. Moreover, if an individual uses the portal, it will be easier for the EEOC to keep in touch with the charging party who has moved — not unusual for someone who has lost their job — since they will now have the individual’s email. For these reasons, there may be a slight increase in the number of charges and the changes may hasten the processing and advancement of a claim.
On the other hand, one thing that the electronic public portal does do is determine whether the individual’s claim is likely to be barred by limitations because it asks the individual to enter the date on which the discriminatory action occurred. If the individual enters a date more than 300 days earlier (or depending on the state identified, 180 days earlier), the individual will be notified that “from the information that you have given us, it appears that your time has run out.”
At the end of the day, I don’t think that the new portal is going to make much of a difference to employers.