EEOC Rolls Out Pilot Program for Online Charge Notices
Last month, the Equal Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced the rollout of its new pilot program, entitled ACT Digital, in 11 of its 53 offices across the United States. It is EEOC’s first foray into digitalizing its currently archaic paper-based process. The EEOC receives approximately 90,000 charges against employers annually, and this will allegedly streamline the process and improve customer service.
The program launched on May 6, and will be tested first in its field offices in Charlotte, Greensboro, Greenville, Norfolk, Raleigh, Richmond, and San Francisco. Employers in these regions will no longer receive EEOC Form 131, which notifies them that a charge of discrimination has been filed against their companies. Instead, the EEOC will mail them a single one-page letter titled “Notice of Charge of Discrimination,” which references online links to view the complete charge. The letter will contain a password for a secure portal where the employer can download the charge, review and respond to a request to mediate, submit a position statement, and provide and verify the employer’s contact information including the designation of a legal representative.
Employers will also be given the option of opting out of the pilot program, thus continuing to receive and submit documents and communications in paper form. It is unclear as to whether after the pilot program is launched and has been tested for some time that employers will have to work through the portal for all employee charges, or whether paper will still be permissible.
The EEOC states that it plans to expand the program by the end of May, and will further test the waters in Denver, Detroit, Indianapolis, and Phoenix, and it is also expected to be available in all EEOC offices by October 1, 2015. This first phase of implementation will only involve notices sent after the pilot program launched and will not be utilized for pending notices previously sent by the EEOC to employers.
Employers in these regions (but all employers in general) should instruct their employees who handle these types of employment issues to be aware of the change and any new responsibilities attendant with the program, and to keep an eye other for these new paper notices. The EEOC’s User Guide for the new portal may be found at http://www.eeoc.gov/employers/respondent_portal_users_guide.cfm.
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