EEOC Investigations in Florida
David Miklas is a proud member of the Association of Workplace Investigators, Inc. (AWI), which is the premiere national professional association for those who conduct workplace investigations.
When a charge of discrimination is filed against an employer in Florida, the EEOC will notify the employer within 10 days. A charge of discrimination does not constitute a finding that your organization engaged in discrimination. It is merely an allegation of discrimination. However, it is very important to take such a charge seriously. The EEOC is authorized to investigate whether there is reasonable cause to believe discrimination occurred.
In many cases, the employer may choose to resolve a charge through mediation or settlement. At the start of an investigation. Mediation and settlement are voluntary resolutions.
During the investigation, the employer and the Charging Party will be asked to provide information. The EEOC investigator will evaluate the information submitted and make a recommendation as to whether there is reasonable cause to believe that unlawful discrimination has taken place. The employer may be asked to:
- submit a statement of position. This is the employer's opportunity to tell its side of the story. If you do not have experience successfully responding to EEOC charges of discrimination, you should give serious consideration to hiring an experienced labor and employment attorney to assist in your response.
- respond to a Request for Information (RFI). The RFI may ask the employer to submit personnel policies, Charging Party's personnel files, the personnel files of other individuals and other relevant information. Occasionally the RFI is not tailored to the facts relevant to the allegations and a competent employment attorney can raise appropriate objections to such an overbroad RFI.
- permit an on-site visit.
- provide personal contact information for employees or have employees available for witness interviews by the EEOC investigator. A representative of the employer may be present during interviews with management personnel, but the EEOC investigator is allowed to conduct interviews of non-management level employees without the presence or permission of the employer.
When responding to an EEOC charge of discrimination in Florida, employers are encouraged to present any facts that they believe show the allegations are incorrect or do not amount to a violation of the law. An employer should take all charges of discrimination very seriously and budget adequate time and resources to responding to such charges. Employers should submit a timely response to the EEOC and provide the necessary information to support its response, even if it is believed the charge does not have merit.
In 2015 the average time it took the EEOC to investigate and resolve a charge was about 10 months.
Although an employer may object to EEOC Requests for Information, such objections should have a legal basis and the EEOC is entitled to all information relevant to the allegations contained in the charge, and has the authority to subpoena such information.
Florida employers should keep all documents relevant to responding to an EEOC charge of discrimination, because those documents may be needed later on in the event the employee sues.
Once the investigator has completed the investigation, the EEOC will make a determination on the merits of the charge.
- If EEOC is unable to conclude that there is reasonable cause to believe that discrimination occurred, the charging party will be issued a notice called a Dismissal and Notice of Rights. This notice informs the charging party that s/he has the right to file a lawsuit in federal court within 90 days from the date of its receipt. The employer will also receive a copy of this notice.
- If the EEOC determines there is reasonable cause to believe discrimination has occurred, both parties will be issued a Letter of Determination stating that there is reason to believe that discrimination occurred and inviting the parties to join the agency in seeking to resolve the charge through an informal process known as conciliation. Conciliation is basically a process whereby the EEOC makes demands as to what it wants the employer to do in order to resolve the matter. These EEOC demands will almost always be monetary as well as other actions, such as retraining, and posting notices around the workplace alerting employees to contact the EEOC if they feel they are subjected to discrimination.
- When conciliation does not succeed in resolving the charge, the EEOC has the authority to enforce violations of its statutes by filing a lawsuit in federal court. If the EEOC decides not to litigate, the charging party will receive a Notice of Right to Sue and may file a lawsuit in federal court within 90 days.
- Employers should realize that at the conclusion of an EEOC investigation, an employee will always receive a Right to Sue letter, regardless of whether the EEOC found that there was reasonable cause to believe discrimination has occurred.
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