How to reduce the possibility of an onsite investigation in EEOC cases

by on May 12, 2009 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: HR Info Center

Onsite investigation in EEOC cases can become a soapbox for disgruntled employees

EEOC does have the authority to conduct an onsite investigation of EEOC cases at its discretion. It normally involves the EEOC reviewing files, interviewing witnesses and making a physical inspection of the workplace.

Reasons for the onsite investigation of EEOC cases
It doesn’t happen that often but it’d be likely if there’s a timing issue, namely the statute of limitations maybe about to run out. If there is a situation where they really do need to see your office, perhaps there’s a reasonable accommodation question may actually need to see a particular setup or they need to see where people fit in relation to one another?

If they’ve had bad experiences with your company in the past, they may be less willing to cut you slack and they might want to come in and see what’s going on. If they’re concerned about people destroying evidence, they may come in. All of those situations are likely to lead to an onsite investigation.

How to reduce the possibility of onsite investigation in EEOC cases
One way to reduce the risk of the EEOC coming in to do a site investigation is to include copies of relevant documents with your position statement.

If the EEOC cases investigator indicates that he or she wants to interview certain people, you could offer to make those employees available at the EEOC’s office or a counsel’s office that will reduce the chance that the investigator will come to your office and maybe talk to other employees who may not have been identified but they have some general complaint that could lead to additional charges.

So, again, feel free to offer. “Yeah, I know. You know what? We’ll come to you. That’s fine.”

Witnesses interviews in EEOC cases
If the witnesses they want to talk with, in the EEOC cases, are supervisory or management level employees; the company has the right to have counsel present during the interview. If they’re not, if they’re just rank and file folks, we don’t have the right to have counsel present during an interview although you can ask. I’ve had the EEOC say yes even though there was no right to it.

If you do find that they definitely want to come in for an onsite investigation of the EEOC cases, ask in writing that the EEOC itemize the documents it wants to review and identify all the witnesses they want to talk with so that you can have an opportunity to prepare the necessary information, explain the process to the witnesses, and just to be ready when they arrive.

The general goal in dealing with an onsite investigation is to prevent the EEOC investigator from conducting a fishing expedition.

And an additional thing to remember, if you’ve got people coming through your workplace, you want to be sure that all your required EEOC, Department of Labor, and other federal and state postings are properly updated and displayed where they need to be displayed prior to the onsite visit because you don’t want to get dinged for that as well.

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 February 04, 2009

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