EEOC

Introduction

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is a federal agency responsible for enforcing federal employment discrimination laws. The agency has the authority to investigate and resolve discrimination complaints filed by individuals against employers covered by the laws it enforces. Navigating the investigation process can be complex and difficult, requiring employers to expend valuable time and resources even in situations where they haven’t violated the law. Given the challenges and risks involved, it’s vital that covered employers understand the basics of an EEOC investigation. By gaining an understanding of the EEOC’s investigation process, employers can develop effective strategies and practices to respond to an investigation and even prevent workplace discrimination from occurring in the first place. 

This HR Toolkit is intended to provide employers with an overview of the EEOC investigation process. It offers employers key insights into the EEOC’s role in addressing and resolving workplace discrimination, including the types of claims the agency investigates. Overall, employers can use this toolkit to better understand and effectively navigate EEOC investigations. This HR Toolkit also outlines practices and strategies to help employers identify, prevent and address workplace discrimination. 

Understanding the EEOC’s investigation process and requirements is vital for employers to respond effectively to discrimination complaints, safeguard their employees’ workplace rights and mitigate potential legal risks. However, this toolkit provides a broad overview of EEOC investigations and should not be construed as legal advice. Employers are encouraged to seek legal counsel to address specific concerns or issues.

Understanding the EEOC

In the United States, covered employers must comply with several federal laws prohibiting discrimination, harassment and retaliation in the workplace. The EEOC is authorized to enforce and interpret these laws, which span the entire employment relationship, including hiring, firing, promotions, harassment, training, wages and benefits. Whether employers are responding to an investigation or implementing preventive measures for workplace harassment, it’s important that they understand the EEOC and its role in enforcing federal discrimination laws. 

This section provides an overview of the EEOC and its role, responsibilities and authority in enforcing federal discrimination laws.

Overview of the EEOC

Established in 1965, the EEOC plays a vital role in promoting equal employment opportunities and ensuring fair treatment for employees across the United States. The agency’s mission is to “prevent and remedy unlawful discrimination and advance equal opportunity for all in the workplace.” It does this by enforcing federal laws that prohibit employment discrimination based on various protected characteristics. 

The EEOC has the authority to investigate and resolve complaints of workplace discrimination, harassment and retaliation by applicants and employees based on the following protected characteristics:

• Race
• Sex, including pregnancy, gender identity and sexual orientation
• Religion
• Color
• National origin
• Disability
Age (40 or older)
• Genetic information

The agency also educates employees and employers about their rights and responsibilities under federal law. The EEOC provides resources, guidelines and training to help employers understand and comply with federal employment discrimination laws. It also conducts outreach to raise awareness to better prevent discrimination from occurring in the workplace. 

The EEOC Organizational Structure

The EEOC has five commissioners who are appointed by the U.S. president and confirmed by the U.S. Senate. The agency’s chair, its vice chair and one commissioner are members of the majority political party, while the other two commissioners are members of the minority party. The commissioners are responsible for deciding equal employment opportunity (EEO) policy and approving most of the agency’s litigation matters. They also make decisions regarding policy issues, litigation recommendations, federal sector appellate cases, amicus briefs, subpoena determinations and contracts. 

The agency has 53 field offices throughout the United States that investigate complaints of discrimination; attempt to resolve discrimination complaints through mediation, negotiated settlement, conciliation and litigation; and provide education and outreach to employers and employees. The EEOC’s Office of General Counsel litigates on the agency’s behalf, while the Office of Legal Counsel develops policy guidance, provides technical assistance to employers and employees, and coordinates with other agencies and stakeholders regarding relevant employment statutes and regulations.

The EEOC's Role and Responsibilities

The EEOC has several important roles and responsibilities to help it prevent and remedy workplace discrimination, including the following:

Investigating Complaints

One of the EEOC’s primary responsibilities is to investigate complaints filed by applicants and employees who believe they experienced workplace discrimination, harassment or retaliation. The agency evaluates the merits of each complaint, assesses the allegations and decides whether discrimination occurred. This is accomplished by gathering evidence, reviewing documents, interviewing witnesses, and assessing employer workplace practices and policies.

Resolving Complaints

As part of its investigative process, the EEOC offers the parties the opportunity to resolve disputes through mediation. Mediation provides a confidential and voluntary forum for employees and employers to negotiate a resolution of a complaint with the assistance of a neutral mediator provided by the EEOC. 

If the agency finds that discrimination occurred after completing its investigation, it will try to settle the complaint through an informal process known as conciliation. Like mediation, conciliation is a voluntary process where the EEOC attempts to resolve a complaint by finding an appropriate remedy for the discrimination. Not only must both the employer and employee agree to participate in conciliation, but they must also agree to a resolution decided upon during the process.

Litigating Complaints

In some cases, the agency cannot resolve complaints in situations where it determines there’s reasonable cause to believe that discrimination occurred. In such circumstances, it has the authority to file a lawsuit to protect the rights of individuals and the public’s interests. When deciding to file a lawsuit, the EEOC considers the strength of the evidence, the issues in the case and the wider impact the lawsuit could have on the EEOC’s efforts to combat workplace discrimination. However, the agency typically litigates only a small percentage of complaints filed.

Educating Employers and Employees

The EEOC works to prevent discrimination before it occurs through outreach, education and technical assistance programs. The agency educates both employers and employees by providing resources, guidelines and training to promote equal employment opportunities. It also raises the public’s awareness of workplace discrimination.

Developing Policies and Guidance

The agency develops policies and issues guidance to interpret and clarify federal discrimination laws, helping employers and employees better understand their rights and responsibilities. It also conducts research, studies workplace discrimination trends, and issues reports to inform policymakers and the public about the current state of employment discrimination in the United States.

Providing Leadership to Federal Agencies

The EEOC also provides leadership and guidance to federal agencies on all aspects of the federal government’s EEO program. The agency is responsible for ensuring that federal agencies and departments comply with EEOC regulations. It also provides technical assistance regarding EEO complaint adjudication, monitors federal agencies’ affirmative employment programs, develops federal sector education materials, trains stakeholders, and provides guidance and assistance to administrative law judges. The EEOC has the ability to adjudicate appeals of administrative determinations made by federal agencies for EEO complaints.

The EEOC's Authority and Jurisdiction

The EEOC has the authority and jurisdiction to enforce various federal discrimination laws. Its authority extends to a wide range of employers and employees throughout the United States.

Covered Employers

The EEOC has jurisdiction over private employers, state and local governments, and educational institutions that meet the minimum number of employees required by federal discrimination laws. Most private employers with at least 15 employees for at least 20 calendar weeks in the current or previous year are covered by laws that the EEOC enforces. Moreover, the majority of labor unions and employment agencies are also covered. Federal employers, such as federal agencies, are also under the EEOC’s jurisdiction.

Covered Employees

The EEOC’s jurisdiction covers nearly all employees working in the private sector, state and local governments, and federal agencies. This includes:

• Applicants
• Part-time employees
• Full-time employees
• Seasonal workers
• Temporary workers
• Former employees
• Volunteers (in some cases)

Workers do not need to be U.S. citizens to be covered by the EEOC’s jurisdiction. Additionally, U.S. workers employed by U.S. companies overseas have the same protections as workers in the United States. However, individuals not employed by employers, such as independent contractors, are generally not covered.

Federal laws

The EEOC is responsible for enforcing the following federal discrimination laws:

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII)—This law makes it illegal to discriminate against someone on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin or sex. Title VII also makes it illegal to retaliate against an individual because they complained about discrimination, filed a charge of discrimination, or participated in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit. This law also requires employers to reasonably accommodate applicants’ or employees’ sincerely held religious practices.

Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA)—This law prohibits employers from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities in all employment practices, such as recruitment, compensation, hiring and firing, job assignments, training, leave and benefits. It also makes it illegal to retaliate against an individual because they complained about discrimination, filed a charge of discrimination, or participated in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit. The ADA requires employers to reasonably accommodate the known physical or mental limitations of qualified applicants or employees with a disability. For additional resources, employers are encouraged to review the EEOC’s Facts About the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The Equal Pay Act of 1963 (EPA)— Employers must provide equal compensation to men and women who perform work within the same workplace. The EPA makes it illegal to retaliate against an individual because they complained about discrimination, filed a charge of discrimination, or participated in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit. For additional information, employers can review the EEOC’s Facts about Equal Pay and Compensation Discrimination.

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA)—This law prohibits employers from discriminating against employees or applicants who are age 40 or older based on their age. The ADEA also makes it illegal to retaliate against an individual because they complained about discrimination, filed a charge of discrimination, or participated in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit. For more information, employers are encouraged to review the EEOC’s Facts About Age Discrimination.

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 (PDA)—The EPA amends Title VII to make it illegal to discriminate against women because of pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions. The law also makes it illegal to retaliate against an individual because they complained about discrimination, filed a charge of discrimination or participated in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit. For additional information, employers can review the EEOC’s Facts about Pregnancy Discrimination.

The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA)—This act prohibits employers from discriminating against employees or applicants based on their genetic information. Genetic information includes information about an individual’s genetic tests and the genetic tests of the individual’s family members. GINA also makes it illegal to retaliate against an individual because they complained about discrimination, filed a charge of discrimination, or participated in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit. For more information, employers are encouraged to review the EEOC’s Fact Sheet: Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act.

Sections 501 and 505 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973—This law makes it illegal to discriminate against a qualified person with a disability in the federal government.

Sections 102 and 103 of the Civil Rights Act of 1991—This law amends Title VII and the ADA to permit jury trials and compensatory and punitive damage awards in intentional discrimination cases.

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act of 2022 (PWFA)—This law requires covered entities to provide reasonable accommodations to qualified workers’ known limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth or related to medical conditions. The PWFA also makes it illegal to retaliate against an individual because they complained about discrimination, filed a charge of discrimination, or participated in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit. For more information, employers can review the EEOC’s What You Should Know About the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act.

Regulations and Guidelines

The EEOC also enforces regulations implementing federal workplace discrimination laws. These regulations are voted on by the agency after the public has a formal opportunity to provide comments to it. 

Additionally, the agency is authorized to issue subregulatory guidance that expresses official EEOC policy and explains how the laws and regulations apply to specific workplace situations. These documents include compliance manuals, enforcement guidance, policy guidance and policy statements.

Commission Decisions

The EEOC can issue decisions addressing a specific charge of discrimination where the agency votes to express official agency policy to be applied in similar cases by the EEOC.

Commission Opinion Letters

The agency can also issue opinion letters on matters that it oversees. These letters are approved by the EEOC’s commissioners and represent the agency’s official position.

Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)

MOUs explain how two or more federal agencies will cooperate and interact when their enforcement responsibilities overlap. These can also be entered into between foreign embassies and consulates to enhance cooperation on matters involving employment discrimination against foreign nationals working in the United States. MOUs involving other federal agencies must be approved by a majority of the EEOC’s five commissioners.

Informal Discussion Letters

The EEOC is authorized to respond to circumstance-specific questions from the public and other federal agencies’ requests for public comment posted in the Federal Register. These letters are written by the Office of Legal Counsel and do not represent the EEOC’s official opinions.

Summary

The EEOC exercises its authority to ensure employers uphold the principles of EEO and work toward fostering inclusive workplaces where employees are treated fairly and without discrimination. Understanding the EEOC’s authority and jurisdiction can help employers better comply with federal employment discrimination laws and ensure their employees’ rights are protected.

The EEOC Investigation Process

The EEOC has statutory authority to investigate and resolve charges of discrimination filed under various federal discrimination laws. While Title VII states that the agency “shall make an investigation” of a filed complaint, it does not define “investigation” or outline steps the EEOC must take to conduct an investigation. However, courts have generally recognized that the nature and extent of an EEOC investigation is a matter within the agency’s discretion.

While the number of filed charges of discrimination received has steadily declined since 2010, that trend may be changing. For example, in fiscal year (FY) 2021, the agency received over 145,00 inquiries and 60,000 charges of discrimination. However, in FY 2022, the EEOC received more than 73,000 charges of discrimination, resolving more than 65,000 charges and obtaining over $513 million in monetary benefits for individuals targeted by discrimination. Of the charges the agency received in FY 2022 that alleged discrimination, the majority fell under Title VII, 34% under the ADA and 16% under the ADEA. Retaliation remained the most common allegation. Moreover, 29% of the charges associated with Title VII were for race discrimination, 27% for sex discrimination, 18% for religious discrimination and 8% for national origin discrimination. The distribution of FY 2022 complaints by statute is consistent with past years with the exception of religious discrimination, as there was a significant increase in vaccine-related charges filed on the basis of religion.

The EEOC has implemented several regulatory initiatives to help fight workplace discrimination over the past few years. As a result, employers will likely see an increase in these enforcement efforts going forward due to an increased budget and revised strategic priorities. For example, the EEOC’s budget increased from $420 million in FY 2022 to $455 million in FY 2023. A larger budget will most likely result in more personnel, allowing the EEOC to proactively pursue complaints of discrimination and litigation as well as invest in technology that enables the agency to litigate more effectively. An EEOC investigation can be costly for any employer, even if they haven’t violated the law, as it can result in significant attorneys’ fees and reputational damage. These investigations are time-consuming, requiring employers to provide responses and information, often directing valuable time from work-related projects.

This section provides a broad overview of the EEOC investigation process.

What is Employment Discrimination?

The EEOC is responsible for protecting workers against discrimination in the workplace. Discrimination occurs when an employer treats an individual differently or less favorably based on protected characteristics such as race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, age or genetic information. Federal discrimination laws enforced by the EEOC protect workers from the following behaviors or actions:

• Unfair treatment 
• Harassment by supervisors, managers, co-workers and others in the workplace 
• Denial of workplace accommodations because of an individual’s religious beliefs or disability • Improper disclosure or questions related to an individual’s genetic or medical information 
• Retaliation against an individual because they complained about discrimination or participated in a discrimination-related investigation or lawsuit

Intake Process and Initial Complaint

When an individual believes their federal workplace rights have been violated, they can file a formal complaint with the EEOC.

Intake Interview and Determination of Jurisdiction

Before filing a complaint, EEOC staff typically interviews the individual to gather information about the alleged discrimination. After obtaining the information, the EEOC will determine whether the complaint falls within its jurisdiction and whether the allegations are timely. The agency can also evaluate the complaint to determine whether it has jurisdiction over the alleged incidents based on factors such as the employer’s size, type of employer, the nature of the alleged discrimination and the charging party’s protected characteristics. 

If the agency determines that it has jurisdiction, it will proceed with the investigation. EEOC staff may assist the individual in drafting and filing their complaint. The individual may also hire an attorney to file the complaint and represent them during the EEOC investigation. 

If the agency determines that it does not have jurisdiction, it may refer the complaint to another government agency or provide the charging party with guidance on alternative ways to pursue their claims.

Charge of Discrimination

An individual’s EEOC complaint is called a “charge of discrimination.” A charge of discrimination is a signed statement alleging that an employer engaged in some form of workplace discrimination and requests that the EEOC take remedial action to address the discrimination. To protect an individual’s identity, an organization, agency or other person may file a charge on another’s behalf. Except for the EPA, all laws enforced by the EEOC require an individual to file a charge of discrimination with the agency before they can initiate a federal discrimination lawsuit against their employer. 

The charge of discrimination generally includes the following information:
• The name, address and telephone number of the person who is being or has been treated unfairly
• The name, address and telephone number of the employer
• A brief description of the events the complainant believes to be unfair or harassing
• The dates the events occurred

Statute of Limitations

There are strict time limits for filing a charge of discrimination with the EEOC. Individuals have 180 days from the date of the alleged discriminatory act to file a charge with the agency unless their claims are also covered by state or local discrimination laws. In instances where an individual’s claims are also covered by state and local discrimination laws, the individual has 300 days to file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC.

Charge Number

Once a charge is filed, if the EEOC determines that the allegations are covered by the laws it enforces and those allegations are timely, it will issue a charge number. Issuing a charge number does not mean EEOC believes the employers engaged in discrimination. Instead, it indicates that the basic requirements for filing a complaint have been met and that the agency has the authority to investigate whether there’s reasonable cause to believe discrimination occurred.

Priority Charge Handling Procedures

After a charge of discrimination is filed and receives a charge number, EEOC staff will categorize the charge based on the agency’s Priority Charge Handling Procedures (PCHP). Adopted in June 1995, the current PCHP allows EEOC staff flexibility when proceeding with charges of discrimination, including deciding the appropriate level of resources to be used for each charge. Staff will classify the charge into one of the following three categories:

Category A

The charge falls within the agency’s national or local enforcement plan, and a further investigation will likely result in a probable cause finding.

Category B

Additional evidence is needed to determine whether a continued investigation is likely to result in a probable cause finding.

Category C

There’s sufficient information to conclude that further investigation will not likely result in a probable cause finding.

Charges categorized as “A” receive priority treatment, “B” charges will be investigated as resources permit and “C” charges will be dismissed.

Notification and Request for Information

When an individual files a charge of discrimination against an organization, the EEOC will notify the organization within 10 days. This notice (also called a Notice of Charge of Discrimination) will include the following information:• The name and address of the EEOC office investigating the charge
• The date the charge of discrimination was sent to the employer (also known as the date of notice)
• The name of the charging party (or the individual who is or has been subjected to discrimination)
• The alleged statutory violations, circumstances and dates of occurrence
• Instructions for logging into the EEOC’s Respondent Portal
• An explanation regarding the preservation of records, nonretaliation requirements and the right to retain an attorney 

The notice also provides the organization with a URL to log into the EEOC’s Respondent Portal. Logging into the portal will allow the employer to access the charge of discrimination and receive messages regarding the agency’s investigation of that charge. Employers can review the Respondent’s Portal User’s Guide and Questions and Answers on Phase 1 of the EEOC Digital Charge System for more information.

The employer must respond to the notice with the requested information. Once the agency receives the employer’s response, the EEOC will start a formal investigation.

Mediation

In many instances, the EEOC offers mediation to the parties after a charge is filed but before the investigation begins. Mediation can be a quick, confidential and cost-effective way to resolve the matter with a beneficial outcome for both parties. Charges resolved through mediation generally take less than three months, while it can take 10 months or longer for charges to be investigated. 

The decision to engage in mediation is completely voluntary. If both parties agree to participate, the EEOC will assign a trained mediator and set a date for mediation. If either party refuses to participate, the charge will be assigned to an investigator. 

A mediation typically lasts between three and four hours. During mediation, the parties will have an opportunity to attempt to resolve the charge. Mediators do not decide which party is right or wrong, but they can provide suggestions to help resolve the charge. Resolution can include a monetary settlement, reinstatement of employment, promotion and other workplace changes. If mediation is successful, meaning both parties agree to resolve the charge, the EEOC takes no further action. However, if mediation is unsuccessful, the charge moves forward for investigation. 

The parties may also attempt to mediate the charge at any point before an EEOC investigation is completed.

Assignment of an Investigator

If mediation is unsuccessful or if the parties do not agree to mediate, the EEOC will assign an investigator to the charge. The EEOC investigator is a person officially designated and authorized to conduct inquiries into discrimination claims. The investigator will review the charge and any supporting documents to ascertain the complaint’s pertinent facts. The investigator gathers evidence, interviews witnesses, reviews documents and employment records, and conducts fact-finding hearings. An EEOC investigation is also able to answer questions the parties may have about the investigation and keep the parties informed of the investigation’s progress. However, at the conclusion of the investigation, the investigator does not make a finding but provides a recommendation to the EEOC regarding whether there’s reasonable cause to believe that discrimination occurred.

Gathering Evidence and Conducting Interviews

During the investigation process, the EEOC staff interviews witnesses, obtains documents, evaluates evidence and performs other activities. Both parties will be asked to provide information during the investigation.

Role of Investigation

In many instances, it’s unclear from a charge of discrimination whether discrimination occurred, and therefore, an investigation is required to determine whether there’s reasonable cause to believe that discrimination occurred. Employers are encouraged to timely present any facts and information demonstrating that the allegations contained in the charge of discrimination are incorrect or are not violations of law, even if they are accurate. The parties’ cooperation is vital to assisting the EEOC in promptly and thoroughly investigating a charge. 

There is no set limit to complete an investigation. However, after 180 days, the charging party has the right to request a Notice of Right to Sue and file their complaint in federal court. For claims of age discrimination, individuals have the right after 60 days.

Position Statement


The agency typically requests that the employer submit a statement and documents to support its position. This is known as a position statement. This is an opportunity for the employer to present its side of the story. The position statement should focus on facts and information relevant to the charge of discrimination. It should also identify specific documents and evidence that support the employer’s position. An employer typically has 30 days to submit its position statement and evidence to the EEOC. Employers can review the EEOC’s Effective Position Statements for more information.
When the charging party files their charge of discrimination, they can request that the EEOC provides a copy of the employer’s position statement and accompanying nonconfidential documents. Accordingly, the agency will release the position statement and nonconfidential attachments to the charging party after it has removed any confidential information. Confidential information may include:• Sensitive medical information
• Social Security numbers
• Trade secrets
• Nonrelevant personally identifiable information of witnesses and other third parties
• References to other charges filed against the employer by other charging parties

Employers should provide confidential information to the EEOC in separately labeled attachments.

Rebuttal

The charging party is generally provided 30 days to respond to the employer’s position statement. This response is called a rebuttal. The charging party does not have to submit a written rebuttal. Instead, they may contact the investigator and provide their response over the phone or during a meeting. This is an opportunity for the charging party to respond to facts and documents provided by the employer. However, the rebuttal is not provided to the employer during the investigation.

Request for Information

During an investigation, the EEOC may ask the parties to respond to a request for information. These requests may ask a party to submit documents such as workplace policies, personnel files and other relevant information. If a party fails to cooperate by either not responding to the requests or refusing to provide the requested information, the agency may issue a subpoena to obtain documents, take testimony and gain access to facilities.

On-site Visits

The EEOC investigator may ask an organization permission to visit a worksite. These visits can help the agency expedite the fact-finding process and achieve a quicker resolution. In certain situations, an on-site visit may serve as an alternative to a request for information if an organization makes requested documents available to the investigator for viewing and photocopying during the visit.

Witness Interviews

The agency may request that the parties provide contact information for witnesses who have information related to incidents and events detailed in charge of discrimination or other documents. These interviews can be vital to the EEOC’s fact-finding process. An EEOC investigator is permitted to conduct interviews of nonmanagement employees without the presence or permission of their employer. However, an employer representative is allowed to be present during the interview of management personnel.

Investigation Outcomes

Once the investigation is completed, the EEOC will evaluate all information and evidence and decide whether there’s reasonable cause to believe that discrimination occurred.

Letter of Determination

If the EEOC determines that there’s reasonable cause to believe that discrimination occurred, it will issue a Letter of Determination to both parties stating which actions, practices and policies violate federal discrimination laws and the individuals harmed by the violations. This letter will invite the parties to attempt to resolve the charge informally through conciliation.

Dismissal and Notice of Rights

If the EEOC is unable to determine whether there’s reasonable cause to believe that discrimination occurred, it will issue a notice of Dismissal and Notice of Rights to the charging party. This notice informs the charging party that they have 90 days from the date of the receipt of the Dismissal and Notice of Rights to file a lawsuit in federal or state court. The employer will also receive a copy of this notice.

Conciliation


Conciliation is one of the EEOC's most effective tools to bring employers into compliance with federal discrimination laws and reach fair and equitable resolutions of discrimination charges. This process also helps the agency improve workplace policies and prevent future discrimination from occurring. In fact, Title VII requires the EEOC to attempt to resolve findings of discrimination on charges through conciliation.
After determining there’s reasonable cause to believe that discrimination occurred, the agency will invite the parties to engage in conciliation; however, participation is completely voluntary, and the parties must agree to the resolution. If the parties agree, the EEOC may invite the employer to submit a conciliation proposal to resolve and remedy any alleged discriminatory practices uncovered and substantiated during its investigation.
If both parties agree to conciliation but are unable to resolve the charge, the EEOC will issue the charging party a Notice of Right to Sue. Additionally, the EEOC has the authority to file a lawsuit on the charging party’s behalf in federal court to enforce the violations. When determining whether to file a lawsuit, the agency considers factors such as the wider impact the lawsuit could have on the EEOC’s efforts to combat workplace discrimination and the available resources to litigate the matter effectively. However, the EEOC files a suit in less than 8% of the cases where it believes discrimination occurred and conciliation was unsuccessful.

Summary

It’s essential that employers understand the EEOC’s investigation process and know how to best navigate it effectively. This can enable employers to fully cooperate with the EEOC, provide accurate and timely responses and information to ensure a rapid and thorough investigation, and evaluate the costs and benefits of resolving claims. If employers have questions regarding the EEOC investigation process or the laws the agency enforces, they should reach out to their local legal counsel.

Best Practices for EEOC Investigations

EEOC investigations can be extremely costly and time-consuming for employers even when they haven’t violated federal discrimination laws. These investigations can take valuable time and resources away from other priorities and activities that grow the organization. Even if the EEOC ultimately decides that there’s insufficient evidence to establish a probable cause finding, an organization may still be left with hefty legal bills and a damaged reputation. Moreover, EEOC investigations can significantly impact an employer’s management liability insurance practices since they may lead to claims being filed, which can impact the organization’s premiums, policy terms and renewals. Due to these potentially high costs, it’s important that employers develop practices to ensure that any EEOC investigation proceeds as smoothly and quickly as possible.

This section outlines several practices for employers to consider to navigate an EEOC investigation efficiently. This section is not intended to provide or be a substitute for legal advice. Employers are encouraged to seek legal counsel to address specific issues and concerns.

Review Allegations Carefully

Employers should carefully review any charges filed by prospective, current or former employees as soon as they are notified by the EEOC. This will allow organizations to gather relevant information in a timely manner and provide a thorough response. Additionally, reviewing the charge of discrimination will allow employers to identify any individuals who may have information about the allegations and events detailed in the charge and permit sufficient time to interview them. By quickly and efficiently gathering information related to the charge, employers can get a jump on crafting their defense and deciding whether it’s beneficial to attempt to resolve the matter through an EEOC mediation.

Preserve Evidence

After employers have been notified that a charge of discrimination has been filed against their organization, they should identify and preserve documents related to the charge, such as personnel records, performance evaluations, emails and workplace policies. They can also establish a clear process for preserving electronic evidence, including emails, to ensure that data is not altered, deleted or destroyed.

Engage Legal Counsel

Due to the possible implications and ramifications of an EEOC investigation, it’s important that organizations consult with experienced legal counsel to understand the implications of the complaint and develop an appropriate response strategy. This may not only help employers respond to the charge effectively and navigate an EEOC investigation but also prevent future instances of alleged discrimination.

Respond Promptly and Cooperate

When both parties cooperate and participate in an EEOC investigation, the process tends to move faster and smoother. Employers can cooperate by responding to requests from the EEOC for information and documentation and attending interviews. Providing the agency with the requested documents and information in a timely manner helps keep the investigation moving along more quickly. It also demonstrates openness and transparency, showing that the organization has nothing to hide. 

When an organization cooperates with the EEOC investigator, it can also show the charging party that they take the process and allegations raised by the charge of discrimination seriously. This can help decrease the likelihood that the charging party will file a lawsuit against the organization, saving the employer time, money and negative publicity.

Maintain Employee Records

Maintaining accurate and up-to-date records enables employers to provide the EEOC with information and evidence to support their claims and present a strong defense. It also allows organizations to respond to the agency’s requests for information promptly and efficiently, helping the agency’s investigation to progress and saving time and resources. Being organized also allows employers to meet any deadlines provided by the EEOC during an investigation. 

Organizations can invest in case management software to help verify their records are accurate and organized. This can also decrease the amount of time and resources an employer spends to gather, review and produce records during an investigation.

Safeguard Confidentiality

Employers can take measures to make sure that the charge and EEOC investigation remain confidential by only disclosing information to individuals directly involved in the process or stakeholders that need to remain informed. This can help prevent potential misconduct and protect employees from retaliation. Employers can also clearly communicate and enforce retaliation policies to protect employees involved in the complaint, either as the charging party or witnesses, from any adverse actions.

Summary

Being the subject of an EEOC investigation is often a difficult situation for any employer. However, establishing best practices can allow an organization to successfully navigate the investigation process. While each EEOC investigation is unique, adhering to these practices can enable employers to mitigate potential risks, reduce costs and help ensure a speedy resolution.

Practices for Preventing Workplace Harrasment

In today’s evolving legal landscape, preventing workplace harassment and discrimination is an essential priority for employers regardless of industry. Creating a workplace free from harassment is not only a legal requirement but also crucial for fostering employee well-being, productivity and organizational success. Thus, the EEOC has issued guidance to aid employers in preventing workplace harassment. Although the agency’s guidance was aimed at preventing harassment in the federal sector, the resource explicitly states that the practices identified by the agency can also benefit private employers. For more information, employers can review the EEOC’s Promising Practices for Preventing Harassment in the Federal Sector.

This section addresses practices and strategies employers can implement to prevent workplace harassment.

Impact of Workplace Harassment

Workplace harassment and discrimination have significant negative consequences for an organization and its employees. It can damage an employer’s reputation, decrease employee morale and productivity and ultimately impact an employer’s bottom line. It may increase employee turnover, harm employee productivity and mental health, and increase the number of lost workdays. According to workplace misconduct reporting organization Vault Platform, workplace misconduct cost U.S. businesses $20.2 billion in 2021. The organization also found that harassment was the most common type of misconduct, with 26% of employees saying they had experienced harassment at some point in their careers.

Workplace culture has a significant impact on harassment. According to the EEOC, organizational conditions are the most powerful predictors of whether or not harassment will happen in a workspace. Understanding these factors and how to mitigate them is crucial for employers to prevent workplace harassment. Employers can review the EEOC’s Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace for additional information.

Harassment Risk Factors

A harassment risk factor is a metric developed by the EEOC to identify elements that might put a workplace more at risk for harassment. The more risk factors an organization has, the greater the chances for workplace harassment. It’s important to note that the existence of these risk factors doesn’t mean harassment is occurring in the workplace. Instead, they indicate opportunities for harassment and should prompt employers to look more closely at how their organization can reduce the risk of harassment. Employers should review any risk factors in their organization and develop strategies to manage them.

The following are risk factors for workplace harassment:

A homogenous workforce—A lack of workplace diversity can cause minorities to feel isolated. Employees in the majority may feel threatened by an individual they perceive as different, leading to inappropriate or discriminatory behavior. For example, this may occur in single-sex-dominated environments, leading to sexual harassment and discrimination.

Workers who don’t conform to workplace norms—Harassment is more likely to occur in workplaces where a minority of workers don’t conform to workplace norms or societal stereotypes. This can make nonconforming individuals feel devalued and leave them vulnerable to abuse.

Culture and language differences among workers—Extremely diverse workplaces can be a risk factor for harassment. An increase in workers from different cultural or linguistic backgrounds can lead to segregation, exploitation and harassment.

Uncivil conversations outside the workplace—Rough or heated conversations outside the organization can make inappropriate workplace behavior seem more acceptable to employees. This may happen if increasingly heated discussions of current events or other social issues frequently occur outside the workplace.

Young workforces—Many teenage and young adult workers can lead to misconduct and harassment. Younger workers often don’t know their rights and may struggle with self-confidence, making them more likely to be taken advantage of by older and more experienced co-workers. They may also be more likely to engage in harassment because they lack the maturity to care about the consequences of their actions.

“High-value” employees—When employers are perceived as being “high value” to an organization, employers may be less likely to enforce workplace rules or consequences for that employee. This can cause such workers to feel immune to punishment, leading them to harass other employees.

Significant power disparities—Workers in low-ranking positions may be exploited or vulnerable to harassment from other workers. The risk is heightened with gender-related power disparities; for example, women holding low-ranking positions in an organization are more likely to be subjected to harassment. There is also a greater risk among undocumented workers who may fear retaliation if they report harassment.

Reliance on customer service or satisfaction—When employee compensation is directly tied to customer feedback, workers may tolerate unacceptable behavior or harassment to keep sales. Leadership may also tolerate customer harassment of employees to ensure customer satisfaction.

Monotonous or low-intensity work—Employees who are bored or have excessive time on their hands may be more likely to harass one another out of frustration or to stay entertained.

Isolated or decentralized workplaces—Physically isolated workplaces can increase the likelihood of harassment because harassers have easy access to targets, and there may be no witnesses. The same applies to decentralized workplaces, where corporate offices are far removed from front-line workers. This may make managers feel unaccountable for their behavior or unwilling to call headquarters if they don’t know how to handle harassment.

Workplaces that tolerate or encourage alcohol consumption—Allowing or encouraging alcohol use during work hours can create problems for employees as it lowers inhibitions and hinders judgment.

Mitigating Harassment Risk Factors

Many workplaces will have at least some harassment risk factors identified by the EEOC. Employers must proactively engage with their workforce to reduce the risk of harassment. The EEOC provides the following guidance for managing harassment risk factors:

• Increase diversity at all levels of an organization.
• Be aware of relations between and among work groups.
• Proactively foster a culture of civility and respect.
• Ensure the highest leadership members exhibit and support positive company culture.
• Educate culturally and linguistically diverse employees on laws, workplace norms and policies.
• Pay attention to current events and controversial news likely to be discussed in the workplace.
• Communicate to employees organizational standards for acceptable workplace behavior.
• Provide orientation to all employees that includes information on how to notify employers of unwelcome conduct.
• Train supervisors on how to manage and report harassment.
• Be consistent and fair when enforcing workplace rules, no matter how high-ranking or valuable an employee is.
• Avoid the “customer is always right” mentality regarding harassment or unwelcome behavior.
• Vary or restructure job duties to reduce monotony or boredom.
• Restructure work environments and schedules to avoid isolating workers, if possible.
• Verify that isolated workers understand the procedure for filing complaints.
• Foster opportunities for isolated workers to connect and share concerns.
• Educate employees on how to intervene if they see inappropriate conduct.
• Prohibit or limit alcohol consumption during work hours.
• Provide anti-harassment training for employees at all levels of an organization.
• Ensure managers and supervisors know their roles in preventing harassment.

Preventing Workplace Harassment

Private employers who follow the recent EEOC guidance for preventing workplace harassment are less likely to experience employee turnover and lose revenue over workplace misconduct. This guidance can also help employers reduce legal risks, improve compliance efforts, and help employers be better prepared to defend themselves if harassment claims arise. The EEOC guidance includes four categories for preventing harassment: leadership and anti-harassment policies, programs and training. Each of these categories plays an essential role in how employers can prevent harassment in the workplace.

Leadership

Organizational leadership plays a crucial role in preventing harassment. Managers and supervisors must be clear and consistent that harassment and other workplace misconduct won’t be tolerated and will be dealt with quickly and fairly. The EEOC encourages leaders to help prevent workplace harassment with the following actions: 

• Issue and distribute anti-harassment policy statements. Post these statements where all employees can see them.
• Assess harassment risk factors (e.g., lack of diversity) and take preemptive steps to eradicate them.
• Use climate and exit surveys to understand the prevalence of harassment and other misconduct in the workplace.
• Evaluate and improve the response to harassment allegations, including online documentation of all complaints, and commit to quick and thorough investigations.
• Create performance metrics for harassment prevention and response for managers and supervisors.

Anti-harassment Policies
Employers should create and distribute anti-harassment policies that are comprehensive and easy to understand. In addition to helping to prevent workplace harassment, this can help employers reduce liability if an employee files a harassment charge or lawsuit. An effective anti-harassment policy should do the following: 

• Define harassment and prohibited workplace conduct. 
• Explain how employees can report harassment. 
• State that corrective action will be taken to prevent or address misconduct. 
• Assure employees their identities will be kept confidential as much as possible. 
• Restate an employer’s commitment to prompt, thorough investigations beginning within 10 days of when the employer became aware of the issue. 
• Promise that there will be prompt and fair consequences for employees who violate anti-harassment policies.

Anti-harassment Programs

An anti-harassment program is essential for anti-harassment policies to be upheld. Such programs should reinforce the internal commitment to creating a harassment-free workplace. The EEOC recommends that employers use their anti-harassment programs to: 

• Create avenues for anonymous reporting through multiple channels.
• Ensure reports of harassment are well documented with an online tracking system.
• Communicate with upper management about program needs, such as funding and other resources.
• Analyze trends in harassment complaints.

Anti-harassment Training

Training is crucial to ensure all employees and managers understand what harassment is and how to prevent it. Here’s how employers can create successful anti-harassment training:

• Provide widely accessible training.
• Require anti-harassment training for both supervisors and employees.
• Provide examples of workplace harassment and misconduct.
• Encourage employees to report misconduct and harassment early.
• Confirm every employee knows how to report harassment.

Employer Take-aways

Workplace harassment can have a detrimental impact on employees’ productivity and mental health. It may also lead to lawsuits, increase employee turnover and harm organizational reputation. Prevention is the best way for organizations to mitigate the damage workplace harassment can have on a workforce and avoid potential lawsuits. Employers can create safe and harassment-free workplaces by understanding and reducing harassment risk factors in their organizations. Employers who implement the EEOC’s proactive strategies to eliminate workplace harassment are less likely to experience the negative ramifications of unlawful harassment.

Summary

For more than 50 years, the EEOC has played an important role in ensuring employees receive fair treatment in the workplace by preventing and remedying unlawful discrimination. In its efforts to enforce federal laws that prohibit employment discrimination, the agency can investigate and resolve complaints of workplace discrimination, harassment and retaliation. For employers, these investigations can be expensive, time-consuming and damage their reputation. They can interrupt business operations and potentially lead to costly lawsuits. Moreover, workplace discrimination can negatively impact an organization, its workforce and its bottom line, often resulting in increased employee turnover and reduced productivity.

By understanding the EEOC investigation process, employers can be thoroughly prepared and reduce the administrative burden the investigation may have on their business operations. Strategies for successfully navigating an EEOC investigation will likely vary based on the unique facts and circumstances of each charge; however, an effective process for responding to and participating in an investigation can help organizations ensure a smooth and potentially successful investigation. Prioritizing practices to prevent workplace harassment can help employers improve their overall compliance efforts, reduce the risk of fines and penalties, and set themselves up for long-term success.

While this HR Toolkit provides a general overview of the EEOC investigation process and the laws and regulations the agency enforces, employers should regularly review their compliance practices and procedures to evaluate how well they adhere to federal discrimination laws and requirements. This can help employers prevent issues before they become larger problems, ultimately reducing the likelihood that they’ll become the subject of an EEOC investigation. Due to the complexities of an EEOC investigation as well as federal discrimination laws, employers are encouraged to discuss any specific questions with an employment attorney.


Employment Policies

Equal Employment Opportunity Policy

provides equal employment opportunities to all employees and applicants for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability or genetics. In addition to federal law requirements, complies with applicable state and local laws governing nondiscrimination in employment in every location in which the company has facilities. This policy applies to all terms and conditions of employment, including recruiting, hiring, placement, promotion, termination, layoff, recall, transfer, leaves of absence, compensation and training.

Any form of workplace harassment based on race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national origin, age, genetic information, disability or veteran status is expressly prohibited.

We are committed to a diverse workforce. We value all employees’ talents and support an environment that is inclusive and respectful. We are strongly committed to this policy and believe in the concept and spirit of the law.

We are committed to ensuring that:
o All recruiting, hiring, training, promotion, compensation and other employment-related programs are provided fairly to all persons on an equal opportunity basis;
o Employment decisions are based on the principles of equal opportunity. All personnel actions such as compensation, benefits, transfers, training, and participation in social and recreational programs are administered without regard to any characteristic protected by state, federal or local law;
o Employees and applicants will not be subjected to harassment, intimidation, threats, retaliation, coercion or discrimination because they have exercised any right protected by law; and
o Reasonable accommodations will be made for disabilities and religious beliefs.

We believe in and practice equal opportunity. The Director of Human Resources serves as our Equal Opportunity Coordinator and has overall responsibility for assuring compliance with this policy. All employees are responsible for supporting the concept of equal opportunity and diversity and assisting our Company in meeting its objectives.

Please contact Human Resources with questions or concerns.


EEOC Glossary for Small Businesses

On the federal level, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) prohibits discrimination in every aspect of employment. In order to avoid discriminatory practices, it’s important for employers to understand the various types of illegal discrimination and how they apply in the context of their small businesses.

This glossary contains definitions from the EEOC for some common equal employment opportunity terms, including discrimination, harassment, retaliation and reasonable accommodation.

Use this resource to better your understanding of common terms used by the EEOC and to help ensure your small business has proper employment practices in place.

AGE DISCRIMINATION—Treating an applicant, employee or former employee who is 40 years old or older less favorably because of his or her age or using an employment policy or practice that has a negative effect on applicants or employees who are 40 or older and is not based on a reasonable factor other than age.

CHARGE OF DISCRIMINATION—A formal employment discrimination complaint filed with the EEOC or a Fair Employment Practices Agency (FEPA), a state or local agency responsible for enforcing state or local employment discrimination laws.

CHARGE PROCESS—The process by which the EEOC handles charges of discrimination. The EEOC will notify you that a charge has been filed against your business and request an explanation for the claims in the charge (a Position Statement) or responses to specific questions in a Request for Information. The EEOC may ask if you would like to mediate or settle the charge. If the charge is not resolved, the EEOC will continue its investigation. The EEOC will review the information obtained during the investigation to determine whether discrimination occurred. If the EEOC determines that discrimination did not occur, the EEOC will dismiss the charge and give the person who filed the charge permission to file a lawsuit. If the EEOC determines that discrimination did occur, it will invite you to conciliate the charge. If conciliation is unsuccessful, the EEOC may file a lawsuit or give the person who filed the charge permission to file a lawsuit.

COLOR DISCRIMINATION—Treating an applicant, employee or former employee less favorably because of his or her skin color, pigmentation, complexion, shade or tone. Color discrimination also includes using an employment policy or practice that has a negative effect on applicants or employees of a particular color and that is not related to the job and necessary to the operation of the business.

COMPLAINT POLICY/COMPLAINT PROCEDURE—A policy or procedure that informs employees how to file an internal discrimination complaint. Small businesses that have these types of policies or procedures should distribute them to employees, include them in employee handbooks, and post them in the employee break room, online or in other places where employees can easily find them.

DISABILITY—A physical or mental disorder, illness or condition (an impairment) that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a record (past history) of a disability, or being regarded as having a physical or mental impairment that is not transitory (lasting or expected to last six months or less) and minor.

DISABILITY ACCOMMODATION—A change to the way things are normally done at work to help an applicant or employee with a disability apply for a job, perform job duties or enjoy job benefits. For example, an employer may provide a sign language interpreter for a deaf applicant, permit an employee with diabetes to take regular breaks to eat and monitor blood sugar and insulin levels, or allow an employee with cancer to rearrange her schedule around radiation or chemotherapy treatments. You are not required to provide a disability accommodation if it would result in significant difficulty or expense, based on your resources and the operation of your business. In addition, you are not required to provide a disability accommodation that requires you to change the fundamental duties of a job, lower production or performance standards or tolerate misconduct.

DISABILITY DISCRIMINATION—Treating an applicant, employee or former employee less favorably because the person or someone the person associates with has a disability, had a disability in the past or is believed to have a disability. Disability discrimination also includes failing to provide a disability accommodation to an applicant or employee unless the accommodation would require significant difficulty or expense, changing fundamental job duties, lowering production or performance standards or tolerating misconduct. In addition, disability discrimination includes using an employment policy or practice that has a negative effect on an applicant or employee with a disability or a group of applicants or employees with disabilities and that does not reflect what is actually required to do the job.

DISCRIMINATION—Treating a person or a group of people less favorably. Federal law prohibits employment discrimination based on race; color; religion; sex (including pregnancy, sexual orientation or gender identity); national origin; disability; age (40 years old or older); genetic information (including family medical history); or in retaliation for filing a charge or complaint of discrimination, participating in a discrimination proceeding (such as an investigation or lawsuit) or opposing discrimination.

EEOC—U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The EEOC is the federal agency that enforces the federal laws that prohibit employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, sexual orientation or gender identity), national origin, disability, age (40 years old or older) and genetic information (including family medical history). The laws enforced by the EEOC also prohibit retaliation. The EEOC is a bipartisan commission led by five commissioners who are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. The EEOC has a headquarters office in Washington, D.C., and 53 field offices throughout the United States.

EEO-1 REPORT—A government form that requests data about workforce ethnicity, race and gender. Employers with at least 100 employees and federal contractors with at least 50 employees and at least $50,000 in government contracts are required to complete and submit the EEO-1 form to the EEOC and the Department of Labor every year.

FAIR EMPLOYMENT PRACTICES AGENCIES (FEPAs)—State and local agencies responsible for enforcing state and local employment discrimination laws.

FEDERAL EMPLOYMENT DISCRIMINATION LAWS—Laws that apply in every state that prohibit employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, sexual orientation or gender identity), national origin, disability, age (40 or older) and genetic information (including family medical history). These laws also prohibit retaliation. These laws include Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Equal Pay Act of 1963, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and Title II of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008.

FIELD OFFICE—One of the EEOC’s 53 offices located across the country. Field offices accept, investigate, resolve and litigate charges of employment discrimination. Field offices also conduct outreach and training.

GENETIC INFORMATION—Information about an applicant’s, employee’s or former employee’s genetic tests; a family member’s genetic tests; family medical history; requests for, or receipt of, genetic services; or genetic information about a fetus or an embryo.

GENETIC INFORMATION DISCRIMINATION—Treating an applicant, employee or former employee less favorably because of genetic information (including family medical history). For example, an employer may not refuse to hire an applicant because cancer runs in her family.

HARASSMENT—Unwelcome conduct that is so frequent or severe that it objectively creates a hostile or offensive work environment or results in a negative employment action (such as being fired or demoted). For example, assault, threats, insults or offensive graffiti may be illegal harassment. Federal law prohibits harassment based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, sexual orientation or gender identity), national origin, disability, age (40 years old or older) or genetic information (including family medical history).

INVESTIGATION—The process by which an employer and/or the EEOC determine whether illegal discrimination has occurred. The employer and/or the EEOC may interview the applicant, employee or former employee who complained about discrimination; the person or people allegedly responsible for the discrimination; and other employees who may have seen or have information about the alleged discrimination. The employer and/or the EEOC may also request and review relevant documents, such as policies, applications, interview notes or employee files.

LIABILITY—Legal responsibility for illegal activity, such as discrimination.

MEDIATION—A free, informal, confidential process to resolve disputes.

NATIONAL ORIGIN DISCRIMINATION—Treating an applicant, employee or former employee less favorably because the person or someone the person associates with comes from a particular country, has a foreign accent or appears to have a particular ethnic background. National origin discrimination also includes using an employment policy or practice that has a negative effect on applicants or employees of a particular national origin and that is not related to the job and necessary to the operation of the business.

OFFICER OF THE DAY—EEOC staff available to provide information about the laws enforced by the EEOC. Conversations with Officers of the Day will not be shared with EEOC staff who investigate, resolve, and litigate charges of discrimination.

PAY DISCRIMINATION—Paying an employee or a group of employees less based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, sexual orientation or gender identity), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information (including family medical history). Pay discrimination also includes paying an employee or group of employees less because they filed a discrimination charge or complaint or participated in a discrimination investigation or lawsuit.

POSITION STATEMENT—An employer’s response to a charge of discrimination, providing specific, factual explanations for the claims in the charge.

PREGNANCY DISCRIMINATION—Treating an applicant, employee or former employee less favorably because of pregnancy, past pregnancy, potential or intended pregnancy, childbirth or a medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth. Pregnancy discrimination also includes using an employment policy or practice that has a negative effect on women affected by pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions and that is not related to the job or necessary to the operation of the business.

RACE DISCRIMINATION—Treating an applicant, employee or former employee less favorably because the person or someone the person associates with is a particular race or has personal characteristics associated with a particular race. Race discrimination also includes using an employment policy or practice that has a negative effect on applicants or employees of a particular race and that is not related to the job or necessary to the operation of the business.

REASONABLE ACCOMMODATION (DISABILITY)—See “Disability Accommodation”

REASONABLE ACCOMMODATION (RELIGION)—See “Religious Accommodation”

RELIGIOUS ACCOMMODATION—A change to the way things are normally done at work to allow an applicant or employee to practice or observe their religion. For example, a small business may permit an employee to swap shifts with a colleague so they can observe a religious holiday or grant an exception to a dress or grooming policy that conflicts with an employee’s religious beliefs or practices. You are not required to provide religious accommodations that impose more than minimal costs or disruptions for your business. In addition, you are not required to provide a religious accommodation if it would conflict with another law or regulation.

RELIGIOUS DISCRIMINATION—Treating an applicant, employee or former employee less favorably because their religious beliefs or association with a person of a particular religion. Religious discrimination also includes failing to provide a religious accommodation unless the accommodation would impose more than minimal costs or disruptions for your business. In addition, religious discrimination includes using an employment policy or practice that has a negative effect on members of a particular religion and that is not job-related or necessary to the operation of the business.

RETALIATION—Treating an applicant, employee or former employee less favorably because they made an internal discrimination complaint, filed a discrimination charge with the EEOC or another agency, participated in a discrimination investigation or lawsuit (for example, served as a witness), or opposed discrimination (for example, threatened to file a charge of discrimination). All of the laws enforced by the EEOC prohibit retaliation.

SEX DISCRIMINATION—Treating an applicant, employee or former employee less favorably because of their sex (including pregnancy, sexual orientation or gender identity) or because of their connection with an organization or group that is associated with people of a particular sex. Sex discrimination also includes using an employment policy or practice that has a negative effect on men or women and that is not related to the job or necessary to the operation of the business.

SEXUAL HARASSMENT—Unwelcome conduct or comments based on sex (including pregnancy, sexual orientation or gender identity) that are so frequent or severe that they objectively create a hostile or offensive work environment or result in a negative employment action (such as being fired or demoted). Sexual harassment includes unwelcome sexual advances, unwelcome requests for sexual favors, offensive comments about men or women (including comments that are not sexual in nature), or other offensive conduct based on sex.

SMALL BUSINESS LIAISONS—EEOC staff who are responsible for helping small businesses understand and comply with federal employment discrimination laws. The Small Business Liaisons, who are located in EEOC field offices across the country, provide information about employment discrimination, answer questions, and conduct outreach and training for small businesses. Conversations with Small Business Liaisons will not be shared with EEOC staff who investigate, resolve and litigate charges of discrimination.

Source: EEOC