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The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is charged with ensuring that employees don’t face workplace discrimination. When an employee believes their rights have been violated, they can file an EEOC complaint.

This is a serious matter that no company can afford to take lightly. If your company receives an EEOC complaint, you should take the following six steps.

1. Take the Complaint Seriously

The biggest mistake that some companies make is disregarding an EEOC complaint. This is the fastest way to ensure that the case will go badly for your company. These complaints can result in massive fines or lawsuits that effectively put your company out of business.

2. Contact an EEOC Defense Attorney

Hopefully, you have an EEOC defense attorney on retainer. But even if you don’t, you should contact an experienced EEOC defense lawyer as soon as possible. They will guide you through the process and prevent you from making common mistakes. With any luck, they may be able to resolve the matter quickly and discretely.

3. Document Everything

Hopefully, your company documents everything long before you receive an EEOC complaint. Documented activities are much less likely to violate employee rights than undocumented actions.

But even if your documentation procedures are not as proactive, you need to update them as soon as you receive a complaint. You need to be able to prove why your company took specific actions and when those actions occurred. If you don’t document these actions, then the only documentation will be whatever your employee provides.

4. Act Consistently

With any luck, your company was acting consistently (and within the law) before the complaint. But unfortunately, all it takes is a single rogue manager to violate the rights of an employee.

When you investigate the complaint, you need to be consistent with your responses. For example, if you determine that an individual in your company acted inappropriately, you need to punish them per company guidelines. This needs to happen even if they have a long tenure at the company or hold a management position.

Showing any favoritism during the investigation will increase your company’s liability for unsanctioned actions.

5. Never Retaliate

The biggest mistake that some employers make is retaliating after an employee files an EEOC complaint. Retaliation of any type is illegal.

When you’re considering how to respond, you should realize that firing the employee isn’t the only type of retaliation. If you transfer the employee to another department or temporarily suspend them, that is also retaliation. Just about anything that results in a loss of opportunity for the employee is retaliation.

Similarly, do not publicize the complaint. This opens the employee up to retaliation by other employees or managers, even if you don’t directly retaliate.

6. Follow Your Lawyer’s Advice

Every EEOC complaint is different. What might be the right course of action for one complaint could significantly harm your company when it comes to another complaint. The best way to avoid these mistakes is to follow the advice of your EEOC defense attorneys to the letter, even if you don’t understand why it is important.

Sometimes, this means you will separate employees or suspend individuals with pay. Other times, this just means that you will avoid conversing with anyone involved with the complaint except through your lawyers. Following the advice of your lawyers should always be the safest way to approach an EEOC complaint.

Contact an EEOC Defense Lawyer Today

If your company has received an EEOC complaint, consult with a business law lawyer like those working at the Sul Lee Law Firm in Dallas, TX.