Will the EEOC’s New Online Complaint Filing Portal Lead to a Spike in Discrimination Complaints?
On November 1, 2017 the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) launched its new public portal to allow individuals to quickly and directly submit inquiries and requests for intake interviews to the EEOC. Will online access to the EEOC’s intake and inquiry process lead to an increase in discrimination charges? While that remains to be seen, the new portal undoubtedly provides employees with faster direct access to the EEOC.
According to the EEOC, its new public portal “allows individuals to submit online initial inquiries and requests for intake interviews with the agency. Initial inquiries and intake interviews are typically the first steps for individuals seeking to file a charge of discrimination with EEOC. In fiscal year 2017, the EEOC responded to over 550,000 calls to the toll-free number and more than 140,600 inquiries in field offices, reflecting the significant public demand for EEOC’s services. Handling this volume of contacts through an online system is more efficient for the public and the agency as it reduces the time and expense of paper submissions.” These kinds of statistics indicate that online services will continue to accommodate high demand.
Importantly, the new system does not permit individuals to file charges of discrimination online that have not been prepared by the EEOC or to file complaints of discrimination against federal agencies. While the new system doesn’t permit an individual to immediately file a Charge of Discrimination, it will allow individuals to digitally sign and file a charge prepared by the EEOC for them after the intake process is complete. After the Charge has been filed, the Charging Party can use the EEOC Public Portal to provide and update her contact information, agree to mediate the charge, upload documents to her charge file, receive documents and messages related to the charge from the agency and check on the status of his or her charge. These features are available for newly filed charges and charges that were filed on or after Jan. 1, 2016 that are currently in investigation or mediation.
Over the coming weeks, the EEOC will expand portal access to charging parties who have provided the EEOC with an email address, who have pending charges that are currently in investigation or mediation and were filed as of January 1, 2016.