In June 2015, we reported here that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission launched a pilot program called ACT Digital to digitally transmit employment discrimination charges and related documents. The program was initially piloted in 11 EEOC offices, including San Francisco. In March 2017, EEOC announced its Online Inquiry and Appointment System, which was available as a pilot in five cities through September 30, 2017. The system allowed individuals to make initial contact with EEOC online, but without assurance that the EEOC would file a charge against an employer.
The EEOC’s online Public Portal went live nationwide on November 1, 2017. As with the pilot version, the Public Portal allows individuals to submit online initial inquiries and requests for intake interviews with the agency. If the EEOC prepares a charge based on the intake interview, the charging party can digitally sign and file the charge online and use the Public Portal to update contact information, upload documents, receive messages and materials from EEOC, and check on the status of the charge. These features are available for newly filed charges and those filed on or after January 1, 2016 that are in investigation or mediation.
An employer may also be advised through electronic means of the filing of a charge, and directed to a “Respondent Portal,” accessible by entering the charge number and a password provided by EEOC. Employers may file position statements and supporting documents through the Respondent Portal.
While the EEOC’s privacy assessment indicates the technology used by the portal is secure, the agency frequently asks employers to provide highly confidential information such as personnel files, performance evaluations, and disciplinary documents when responding to charges of discrimination. A charging party can request a charge file up to 90 days after receiving a Right to Sue letter or filing a discrimination lawsuit in federal or state court. Regardless of the security of the portal, responding employers should consider whether to produce all the records requested by the agency (absent a subpoena), or to object to certain requests on privacy or other grounds.
According to the EEOC, in fiscal year 2017, the agency responded to over 550,000 calls to its toll-free number and more than 140,600 inquiries in its field offices. The agency expects greater efficiency by handling contacts through an online system.