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Norfolk chosen for EEOC Pilot Project

May 12, 2015 SuAnne Bryant

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced last week that 11 of its 53 offices across the country will begin a pilot program called “ACT Digital” to digitally transmit Charges of Discrimination and related documents to employers. This system applies to private and public employers, unions and employment agencies.The Norfolk Local Office is included in this pilot program. Other cities participating in the pilot program include Raleigh, Richmond, Denver, Detroit, San Francisco and and Charlotte, among others.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee because of the person’s race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability or genetic information. It is also illegal to discriminate against a person because the person complained about discrimination, filed a charge of discrimination, or participated in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit. Most employers with at least 15 employees are covered by EEOC laws (20 employees in age discrimination cases). Most labor unions and employment agencies are also covered. The laws apply to all types of work situations, including hiring, firing, promotions, harassment, training, wages, and benefits.

The EEOC receives about 90,000 charges each year, so the online system is meant to improve customer service and ease the administrative burden of the staff while reducing paper waste. Employers who are the subject of a Charge of Discrimination will still receive notice of the charge through the mail, but will also be directed to an online portal where they can download the charge, review and respond to an invitation to mediate and submit their position statement or other response.  As part of the program, the Charge of Discrimination form has been redesigned.

What does this mean for your business?

Employers should be aware that the notice document will be the only notification the employer will receive regarding the Charge.  In order to access the actual Charge and related documents, the employer must log in to the system. The pilot program features an opt-out provision so that an employer can continue to receive all documents in paper form, but it is unlikely that this opt-out provision will remain in place once the program is put into full use.

If your business receives a notice of the filing of a Charge of Discrimination, you should consult with legal counsel immediately. Legal counsel can help ensure that important deadlines are not missed and can represent you if the charge goes to trial. Discrimination charges can be costly and detrimental to your business, so make sure you have an experienced attorney walking you through the process and representing your best interests.