The recent federal government shutdown closed the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for 35 days. During the shutdown, we speculated about its impact on parties facing statutory deadlines to file charges of discrimination with the agency. With the shutdown ended but another one possibly looming, the EEOC released a guidance document on how these situations affect complaints.
During the shutdown, the EEOC continued to accept new charges. Commission staff is reaching out to parties who sent correspondence about new charge allegations during the closure. Intake appointments set during the shutdown are being rescheduled. Employers facing charges may contend that despite the shutdown, failure of a charging party to meet formal charge filing requirements constitutes grounds for dismissal of the claim. We doubt that either the EEOC or federal courts will end up penalizing individuals who attempted to notify the agency of their claims during the shutdown.
For employers, the EEOC’s online charge portal was closed during the shutdown. The agency explained that any deadlines that fell during the shutdown are automatically extended to February 12 without need for a request. If the employer received the charge during the shutdown (meaning it was mailed beforehand), the deadline for responding will be March 1. These timeframes may be out the window if another closure occurs, requiring an additional reset.