Preparation is key to a hassle free onsite EEOC investigation
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has authority to conduct an onsite EEOC investigation at its discretion. And such an investigation normally involves the EEOC coming onsite and doing things like reviewing files, interviewing witnesses and making a physical inspection of your workplace.
Likely trigger questions to an onsite EEOC investigation
Do we need to do things quickly? Is the statute of limitations about to expire, do some interim action seem warranted? Is the evidence such that they really need to go to your office to see it? Have they had a bad experience with your company before? They may be less inclined to just take your word for it on paper but they want to see things for themselves.
Are they concerned about destruction of evidence and again, the nature of the allegations? Some issues are more appropriate for onsite. Is there a disability situation where they have to see the workspace for example, to see what accommodation or lack of accommodation was provided?
Avoid onsite EEOC investigation by going to the EEOC’s office
One way to avoid an onsite investigation is for a company to include copies of relevant documents with their position statement and do a thorough position statement.
If the EEOC investigator does indicate that he or she would like to interview certain employees, instead of having them come onsite, you should offer to make those employees available at the EEOC’s offices or at counsel’s offices. It might be more convenient for you to come to them and that prevents them from coming to your office.
This will also reduce the chance that the investigator will talk to other employees who have not been identified in your position statement, who they haven’t identified but who may have some general complaints and that could lead to additional charges.
EEOC investigation witnesses and legal counsel
If the witnesses they want to speak with are supervisory or management level personnel, then the company does have the right to have counsel present during the interviews.
If they’re just rank and file employees, you don’t have that right to have counsel present but you can always ask. You can always ask to have someone present. The worst that they could say is, “No.”
Edited remarks from the Rapid Learning Institute webinar: “In EEOC’s Crosshairs? How to Prepare an Airtight Response and Avoid Costly Payouts” by Alyssa T. Senzel on 8-5-08
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