A Step-by-Step Guide to the EEOC Investigation Timeline for Employers

By Jenny Barnes on Mar 26, 2024
5 min read 0 comment(s)

Share this:

eeoc-investigation-timeline (1)

Has an employee filed an EEOC claim against your small business, or do you anticipate dealing with such an issue soon? There's no need for panic. Our HR compliance experts are equipped to assist you. 

Understanding the EEOC investigation timeline is crucial, whether you're currently facing a claim or just want to be prepared for the future. In this detailed post, we'll guide you through the EEOC investigation timeline, addressing frequently asked questions about the process, what to expect after a claim is filed and providing essential tips for preparation.

Plus, we'll share advice on preventing future EEOC issues, ensuring your business stays informed and compliant.

RELATED:Avoiding EEOC Complaints >> 

EEOC Investigations: FAQs 

Does the EEOC Investigate Every Claim? 

The answer to the question “Does the EEOC investigate every claim” is a bit nuanced. As a general rule, yes, the EEOC does investigate every claim, unless the claim is settled before the claim reaches the investigation step. 

Many steps in the EEOC complaint process take place before an investigation is conducted. After an employer receives a copy of a complaint, the EEOC may offer the employer and employee a chance to mediate the issue. Mediation is an alternative to the investigation process. During a mediation, a determination of “right” or “wrong” is not made; the mediator will simply suggest ways to resolve the disagreement. 

As part of a mediation, the employer may decide to offer a settlement. If a settlement is accepted by the employee and approved by the EEOC, the complaint will not proceed to the investigation stage. 

If mediation is not offered, or if mediation is attempted and is unsuccessful, the employer will be permitted to respond to the complaint with a written answer. Then, the charge will be turned over to an EEOC investigator. 

How Long Does an EEOC Investigation Take? 

The EEOC reports that, on average, the complete EEOC investigation timeline will take approximately 10 months. As discussed above, you may have an opportunity to enter into settlement and mediation discussions, which generally wrap up much quicker—usually in less than 3 months, according to the EEOC. 

New call-to-action

EEOC Investigation Timeline

1. Complaint Filing

The former, current, or prospective employee files a complaint. 

2. Employer Notification 

The EEOC will notify the employer of the complaint within 10 days. The notification will include a link to a website where the employer can access a “Respondent Portal.” In the Respondent Portal, the employer can access the complaint and messages from the EEOC regarding the charge. 

3. Mediation and/or Settlement

In many cases, the EEOC will offer the employer and employee the opportunity to engage in mediation and/or settlement of the charge. Mediation and/or settlement are voluntary processes, and either party can decline to participate.

If the mediation and/or settlement is not successful or not approved by the EEOC, the process will proceed to step 4. If the mediation and/or settlement is both successful and approved by the EEOC, the process may essentially conclude at step 3. 

RELATED: EEOC Mediation & Settlement - FAQs for Employers >>

4. Employer Submits Written Statement

In this first stage of the investigation process, the employer will submit a written statement of position. This is the employer’s chance to document its version of the events detailed in the complaint. 

5. Response to Request for Information

As part of the EEOC investigation timeline, the employer may be required to submit Requests for Information or “RFIs.” The employer may have to disclose documents and other information relating to the claims raised in the complaint. The EEOC may send investigators to the employer’s physical sites to gather certain information. 

6. Witness Interviews

An EEOC investigator may conduct interviews of witnesses, including the complaining employee and witnesses from the employer-company. 

7. Completion of Investigation

After the EEOC has finished investigating the claims raised in the complaint, it will determine whether there is “reasonable cause” to believe discrimination took place. At this stage, the EEOC may: 

    • Issue a Dismissal and Notice of Rights

      This occurs when the EEOC is unable to conclude that reasonable cause exists to believe discrimination happened. 
    • Issue a Letter of Discrimination

      This occurs when the EEOC determines there is reasonable cause to believe discrimination happened. In this circumstance, parties may be invited to enter into “conciliation,” an informal dispute resolution process. 
    • Issue a Notice of Right to Sue

      This occurs when and if the conciliation process is unsuccessful and the EEOC decides it will not litigate the charge itself. When a Notice of Right to Sue is issued, the employee may file a lawsuit against the employer in federal court during a 90-day time frame. 
    • Begin Litigation

      This occurs when and if the conciliation process is unsuccessful and the EEOC decides it will litigate the charge itself. 

how to avoid or prevent EEOC complaints

EEOC Investigation Preparation Tips

Whether or not a claim proceeds to the investigation stage, there are some best practices to observe to make sure you aren’t running afoul of any EEOC rules. Keep the following in mind as the process unfolds: 

  • Don’t Delete Relevant Documents

The EEOC investigation timeline moves quickly. It’s important to preserve any documents that may be relevant to the employment relationship in question or the claims raised in the complaint. 

  • Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions

Don't hesitate to ask your EEOC investigator questions you have along the way. The EEOC investigator is here to help uncover the truth about whether or not discrimination took place. If you have questions about the EEOC investigation timeline, you can enquire with them. 

  • Comply with Requests

Comply with all requests for documents and other information. An attorney can help you determine if any information may be relevant or irrelevant to include. If an employer does not comply with the EEOC during an investigation, the EEOC may issue a subpoena to gain access to the employer’s relevant documents and other information. 

  • Have Experts On Your Side

Many companies choose to engage outside counsel when faced with an EEOC complaint. Another complementary strategy is to engage the services of a certified professional employer organization (PEO).

A PEO can provide you with access to experienced HR compliance experts who can help you ensure you have procedures in place to avoid future EEOC investigations. A PEO can also guide you through the EEOC investigation timeline.

RELATED:8 Mistakes Companies Make When the EEOC Comes Knocking >> 

Axcet HR: Your HR Compliance Partner 

Making sense of your obligations under federal, state, and local law can be tricky. Ensuring that your managers and supervisors are trained to observe these obligations can be even trickier.

At Axcet HR, we help you sort through the noise of HR compliance and identify which obligations are relevant to you based on your geographic area, industry, company size, and more. Wherever you are in the EEOC investigation timeline, you can reach out to us. 

HR compliance services are just the beginning of what we offer at Axcet. To see how we can help you with a full range of HR functions, schedule a consultation with our experienced team today. 

Axcet HR Solutions HR PEO Services

Written by Jenny Barnes

Get HR Updates

Table of Contents

Unlocking Compliance: Mastering OSHA Safety Training Requirements

OSHA safety training requirements
gen z in the workplace

Gen Z in the Workplace and the Six Expectations Employers Must Embrace

Let us know what you think...