The seven questions to ask in an internal EEOC complaint investigation

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

The effective internal EEOC complaint investigation answers these questions

  1. When you get an EEOC complaint, ask yourself is, “Hey, is this a surprise?”
  2. Now, if the answer is yes, occasionally that’s a good thing. But often times it is not, right, because if the charge comes to you out of left field. It could mean that the employee has not complained to anyone and no one knew there was a problem.

  3. Why is this EEOC complaint a surprise?
  4. Okay, well, that could be good. Frequently as I’m sure you all know too well, it means that the employee complained to a manager and used the following sentence or a variation of a following sentence- which is clearly a sentence that strikes fear in the hearts of human resources professionals everywhere. That sentence is, “Please keep this a secret.” and the manager did keep it secret.

  5. How should I deal with a manager who did let me know about a possible EEOC discrimination claim?
  6. If you find that that happened, make a note to yourself that at the end of your investigation you need to have a serious talk with that manager who promised secrecy. Explain why keeping things a secret is a problem. It’s a violation of your company policies. You can’t do the things you need to do if you promise secrecy.

  7. How do you investigate the EEOC complaint?
  8. You may need to investigate the problem to figure out what happened here, how you are going to respond to the EEOC. You need to gather facts. To gather facts you need to be a “good journalist” type of person. You ask open-ended, who, what, where, when and why type questions. You want to avoid putting people on the defensive to the extent you can because you really want them to open up and talk to you.

  9. Do you talk to the person who filed the EEOC complaint?
  10. One thing you will have to decide is whether you are going to talk to the complainant also called the charging party. If the person doesn’t work for the company anymore, you can try to talk to them but your success rate is likely to hover close to around zero because that person’s probably not going to want to talk to you.

    If the person who filed the EEOC complaint works for the company, and this is the first time you’re hearing of the problem, you should call the employee to discuss the matter. Now, if the employee discusses the matter with you, great, because they haven’t complained before, now they’re essentially raising a complaint.

  11. Do they have a right to counsel?
  12. They may refuse to talk to you. They may refuse to talk to you without their lawyer. And if you get the request for a lawyer, talk to your company’s own lawyer. Sometimes, you may want to allow the complainant to have his or her lawyer present during a discussion – not to participate in the discussion but just to be present.

    You’re going to obviously talk to relevant witnesses, review company policies, review relevant documents, and document your meetings. Now, it’s important to remember that everything you say and write at this point is going to be discoverable.

  13. What should I write down as part of the EEOC complaint investigation?
  14. When you’re writing things be mindful that if there is litigation, the other side could get access to your report and notes.You don’t want to put things down t that are cryptic or that would be difficult for you to explain later even though you know their meaning. You want to be mindful of that discoverability component.

    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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