EEOC Issues Final Rule for Online Filing in Discrimination Cases

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​The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) plans to accept electronic documents for discrimination charges and promote digital communications between the agency and private employers, according to a final rule that was published in The Federal Register on Oct. 15.

The EEOC enforces federal laws that prohibit employment discrimination, including the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The final rule amends portions of the EEOC's existing regulations to account for the digital transmission of charge-related documents. "The EEOC also made changes to the language in our letters of determination to more clearly communicate with charging parties and respondents about the EEOC's decision to close an investigation," the agency said.

We've rounded up articles and resources from SHRM Online and other trusted media outlets on this topic.

Maintaining Confidentiality

The EEOC launched a pilot program for the digital charge system in 2015, which allowed parties to electronically submit certain documents and communicate with the agency online. In November 2019, the EEOC received money from the government's Technology Modernization Fund to make additional updates to its charge and case management system. In response to the proposed rule, the agency noted, commenters "generally supported the use of digital technology." Some commenters, however, raised concerns about confidentiality and data security. "The EEOC is committed to preserving the confidentiality of charge-related information and is bound by the strict confidentiality requirements … which make it unlawful for commission employees to make public any charge-related information prior to the institution of a lawsuit involving the information," the agency responded. "Further, the EEOC ensures that its data security practices are in compliance with the Federal Information Security Modernization Act."

(The Federal Register)

Existing System

The rule doesn't create a new electronic charge system. "The final rule memorializes changes that have been occurring over the past several years as the EEOC has made significant strides in providing digital services," the agency said.

(Bloomberg Law)

Updates to No-Cause Notice

The rule includes a few modifications to documents that the EEOC issues. For example, the EEOC's "Dismissal and Notice of Rights" form will be modified. After an investigation, the agency sends this form to a charging employee if no cause for a discrimination claim was found. Employees still have the right to file a lawsuit in court after such a determination, and the final rule adds language to EEOC regulations stating that a dismissal will include notice of the employee's statutory right to file a lawsuit. The final rule also adds language clarifying that a "no cause" determination and dismissal does not mean the claims have no merit.

(SHRM Online)

Responding to Discrimination Charges

When the EEOC receives a bias claim from a worker, it will send a notice to the employer. "A charge is a complaint of discrimination, not a determination that discrimination has occurred," according to the agency. The EEOC suggests that employers review charge notices carefully and follow directions. Employers may be asked to provide a response to the charge, which gives them an opportunity to explain why the claims may be incorrect or not illegal. The EEOC recommends that employers consider resolving claims through mediation.

(Equal Employment Opportunity Commission)

More EEOC Updates

The EEOC also published a proposed rule on Oct. 9 that would update its conciliation program and encourage employers to voluntarily resolve employment discrimination charges. Congress authorized the EEOC to file a lawsuit against an employer only when the agency is unable to secure an acceptable voluntary agreement. However, conciliation fails sometimes "as a result of mistrust between the parties," said EEOC Chair Janet Dhillon. Therefore, she said, the agency is proposing a regulation that will "create greater accountability and transparency in the conciliation process" and "bridge the communication gap that [she believes] has interfered with the success of [the agency's] conciliation program." The agency would accomplish this, in part, by providing more information to employers. Employers, worker-advocacy groups and other interested members of the public will have until Nov. 9 to submit comments on the proposal.

(SHRM Online)

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