After the complaint is filed with the EEOC, the employer is notified of the complaint. At that point, the EEOC can handle the complaint in a number of ways. According to the EEOC, the following are ways the complaint can be disposed of:
- A complaint may be assigned for priority investigation if the initial facts appear to support a violation of law. When the evidence is less strong, the complaint may be assigned for follow up investigation to determine whether it is likely that a violation has occurred.
- The EEOC can seek to settle a complaint at any stage of the investigation if the charging party and the employer express an interest in doing so. If settlement efforts are not successful, the investigation continues.
- In investigating a complaint, the EEOC may make written requests for information, interview people, review documents, and, as needed, visit the facility where the alleged discrimination occurred. When the investigation is complete, the EEOC will discuss the evidence with the charging party or employer, as appropriate.
- The complaint may be selected for the EEOC’s mediation program if both the charging party and the employer express an interest in this option. Mediation is offered as an alternative to a lengthy investigation. Participation in the mediation program is confidential, voluntary, and requires consent from both charging party and employer. If mediation is unsuccessful, the complaint is returned for investigation.
- A complaint may be dismissed at any point if, in the agency’s best judgment, further investigation will not establish a violation of the law. A complaint may be dismissed at the time it is filed, if an initial in-depth interview does not produce evidence to support the claim. When a complaint is dismissed, a notice is issued in accordance with the law which gives the charging party 90 days in which to file a lawsuit on his or her own behalf. This notice is known as a “right to sue. “Under Title VII and the ADA, a charging party also can request a notice of right to sue from the EEOC 180 days after the charge was first filed with the Commission, and may then bring suit within 90 days after receiving this notice. Under the ADEA, a suit may be filed at any time 60 days after filing a charge with the EEOC and no right to sue notice is required.
Once the EEOC investigation is finished, the commission makes a determination over how to proceed. The EEOC lists the following as actions it can take to resolve a discrimination complaint:
- If the evidence obtained in an investigation does not establish that discrimination occurred, this will be explained to the charging party. A required notice is then issued, closing the case and giving the charging party 90 days in which to file a lawsuit on his or her own behalf.
- If the evidence establishes that discrimination has occurred, the employer and the charging party will be informed of this in a letter of determination that explains the finding. The EEOC will then attempt conciliation with the employer to develop a remedy for the discrimination.
- If the case is successfully conciliated, or if a case has earlier been successfully mediated or settled, neither EEOC nor the charging party may go to court unless the conciliation, mediation, or settlement agreement is not honored
If the EEOC is unable to successfully conciliate the case, the agency will decide whether to bring suit in federal court. If the EEOC decides not to sue, it will issue a notice closing the case and issue a right to sue notice giving the charging party 90 days in which to file a lawsuit on his or her own behalf.
The EEOC is empowered to file a judicial action against non-governmental employers. The U. S. attorney general is authorized to sue state and local governments. The federal government cannot be sued. The EEOC actually files suit on only a small number of cases.