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What should you do when facing an EEOC investigation?

On Behalf of | Jun 2, 2023 | Employment Law For Employers |

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) helps to enforce federal laws concerning employment discrimination. If people claim that a company discriminated against them on the basis of their race, religion, sex or other protected characteristic, the EEOC may investigate.

If the investigation substantiates the allegations against the business, then the EEOC may file charges of discrimination against the business that can result in financial penalties and other consequences. Executives and owners at companies facing an investigation may start to panic and worry about the possible consequences.

Before the EEOC can attempt to penalize a business, it will first need to conduct an investigation based on reports made by workers. How should businesses respond to an EEOC investigation?

Conduct its own internal investigation

Perhaps the worker in question never made use of internal reporting systems, or maybe a prior review of their complaints did not lead to substantiation and internal action. If someone has a compelling enough claim to push the EEOC to investigate, the employer may need to review the claims internally. Companies that take the appropriate action, even after the EEOC begins investigating, can show a good faith attempt to prevent discrimination in the workplace. They can also counter the narrative provided by the worker with a more complete version of events.

Comply with record requests

Any destruction of internal records or retaliation against workers could lead to secondary allegations against a business already accused of discriminating in its employment practices. Allowing the EEOC access to company records and to individual employees with appropriate safeguards in place, such as the presence of an attorney representing the company, is often necessary. While there is something to be said for having oversight throughout the process and asserting the company’s rights, as well as the rights of individual workers to privacy, cooperating with the investigation as opposed to fighting it at every turn can actually benefit the company by showing its commitment to transparency.

Seek legal guidance

Even if the company already has an in-house attorney, they are likely a general business practitioner who may not have the necessary experience to navigate an EEOC investigation or a charge that results from the investigation. Those who bring in the right legal support will have an easier time managing the investigation process and responding to whatever results come from the investigation.

Being proactive and seeking legal guidance when responding to an EEOC investigation may help a company minimize the risks involved in being named in a discrimination claim.