In the coming months and years, the way your company learns of and addresses EEOC charges is going to change. In order to expand online services and improve customer experience, the EEOC has created a new online interface for employers. Dubbed the “Digital Charge System,” this new program sends an employer’s designated EEOC representative an email notification that a charge has been filed and creates an online mechanism for employers to respond to charges. At least for the moment, employers can choose to opt-in to the new system or opt-out and continue to receive and submit all communication on paper.
Using the new online portal, employers will be able to go online to view and download charges, submit position statements, review and respond to invitations to mediate, verify representation and contact information, and communicate directly with the EEOC. The agency hopes the new system will improve its responsiveness to the public, streamline the enforcement system with deadlines triggering messages and reminders, promote efficiency, and safeguard sensitive documents. The program, however, does not currently provide access for charging parties or allow employers to ask for extensions through the online system.
TIP: As the EEOC launches its new Digital Charge System, employers are advised to take stock of the processes they use to receive and address EEOC charges. Be proactive and learn about the new digital program now, and consider contacting the EEOC to confirm the contact information for your company’s representative or counsel of record.
The EEOC indicates that the system will have unique security features. Rather than allow employers to create individual user accounts, each electronic notice of charge will contain a case-specific password. As a result, each charge must be viewed separately. Other than position statements that may be shared with the charging parties or their counsel, only EEOC representatives will have access to view documents, information, and evidence submitted by employers. Charging parties will not have online access, and employers will not have any "new" access to materials submitted by charging parties.
The Digital Charge System is expected to be operational in all EEOC offices by this October. EEOC offices in North Carolina are already ahead of this curve as the first phase of the program rolled out last month in Charlotte, Greensboro, Greenville, and Raleigh. Employers should be on the lookout for correspondence from the EEOC about the program or be proactive and contact the EEOC to verify that their representative's contact information is correct. Those who do not yet have an email address on file will receive a paper notice if a charge is filed against them with the information to log on to the online portal. If a company has a letter of representation for all charges on file with the EEOC, then the notice will be sent to the attorney of record and the employer will not have to update the legal representative information each time a charge is filed.
More information is available on the EEOC's website, where you can review the Respondent Portal User's Guide and a Questions and Answers document about Phase 1 of the Digital Charge System.