Employers in the Carolinas are part of an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) test program designed to “streamline” the employment discrimination charge process. As of May 1st, the EEOC’s field offices in Charlotte, North Carolina and San Francisco, California are using a new "Digital Charge" pilot program for employment discrimination charges filed against all employers who are not part of the federal government.
The new system requires employers to log into the EEOC website to see the charge.
Under the "Digital Charge" process, an employer will no longer receive the usual forms informing it that a charge of discrimination has been filed against it. Instead, the employer will only receive a one-page letter titled "Notice of Charge of Discrimination." This Notice will include instructions for the employer to view the entire charge online via a secure portal. This portal will be available to the employer not only to view the full charge of discrimination, but also to submit electronically the employer's position statement along with any of the early charge paperwork (such as notices of appearance and requests for extension of time). Any documents submitted via the portal can be viewed by the employer and the EEOC. As of now, the pilot program is set up to receive documents through the portal only until the employer submits its position statement, but the EEOC plans on expanding the process to include all documents and information throughout the charge. Early drafts of the Notice appear to provide an opt-out procedure for employers who are not comfortable with the digital portal and would prefer to have the charge mailed to them.
The new pilot program has not been well-publicized (it is not currently on the EEOC's website). Because of this, and because the new form letter the EEOC plans to use looks very different from the form the EEOC has used for years, there is a real concern employers will dismiss the letter as a phishing effort or other scam. To ensure communications from the EEOC are not ignored, employers affected by the pilot program, including all employers in the Carolinas, should inform mailroom employees and any other employee who may receive early notice of a charge of the new program.
If the pilot program is successful, the EEOC plans to expand the program as of June 1, 2015, to include the Indianapolis, Phoenix, Detroit, Denver, and Seattle field offices. The goal is to roll out the "Digital Charge" program nationwide by fall of this year.