March 3, 2022

Served With an EEOC Complaint Letter; Now What?

Filing of The Complaint

Before an employee can file charges of discrimination (harassment or retaliation) against an employer they must first clear an important administrative hurdle; filing an administrative complaint with the appropriate state or federal agency. For claims alleging discrimination under federal law (e.g., Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or Americans with Disabilities Act) the employee must file their complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). For claims alleging discriminatory conduct under state law (e.g., Fair Employment and Housing Act) the employee must file their claim with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). Complaints at both agencies can be completed online.

The filing of the administrative complaint initiates the claims process which, at the federal level, mandates that the EEOC notify the employer about the complaint within 10 days. The notification letter contains important information about the claim(s) including a URL for accessing the charges and receiving important information about the claim(s).  At the state level, once a complaint is filed, the DFEH must notify the employer by serving a copy of the complaint on the employer within ten, but not more than sixty, days after the complaint is filed. Employers served with a complaint must respond within the timeframe outlined in the notice.

It is important to note that receipt of an administrative complaint from a state or federal agency does not constitute a finding of wrongdoing. It just means that the agency has decided to investigate to determine whether there is reasonable cause to believe a violation of law actually occurred. Both state and federal investigators will advise the employer if the matter is eligible for mediation. A decision to mediate or discuss settlement should not be undertaken without first seeking legal counsel.

Note: This article discusses administrative complaints filed with (and prosecuted by) a state or federal agency. It does not include information about responding to civil complaints alleging violations of anti-discrimination, harassment and retaliation laws.

Next week: What to expect during the investigation phase.

If your organization receives – or has received – an administrative complaint alleging discrimination, harassment or retaliation in violation of state or federal law(s) you should immediately seek legal counsel. Western Growers Members can take advantage of WG’s network of member law firms offering a WG member discount off their regular legal fees. For a list of participating law firms, call 877-942-4529.