The EEOC process begins with filing a Charge of Discrimination. Although a specific form is not mandated, the EEOC uses a form referred to as a Form 5. The Form lists basic information about the person filing the charge including name, address, telephone number and date of birth. It also includes basic information about the organization that the charge is filed against, referred to as a Respondent, including name, address, number of employees and telephone number. There is a section of the form that provides the basis for the Charge (such as race or sex). The body of the form is a box in which the person filing the Charge can provide a narrative of the Respondent's action that caused the harm. The Charge must be signed by the person filing the Charge who is referred to as a "Charging Party."
Within ten (10) days, the EEOC serves a copy of the Charge on the Respondent. In most cases, the EEOC will ask if the Respondent is willing to mediate the Charge with the Charging Party using an EEOC provided mediator. If the Respondent agrees, the EEOC sets a mediation. If the mediation is successful, the Charge is settled by the parties and the matter is closed. However, if the Respondent (or Charging Party) rejects mediation or if the mediation is not successful, the EEOC continues processing the Charge.
The first step in the investigation process is for the EEOC to request a Position Statement from the Respondent. The Position Statement is the Respondent's written response to the allegations made against it in the Charge. Once the EEOC Investigator reviews the Position Statement, the Charging Party will normally be contacted and read all or some of the Position Statement. The Investigator will invite the Charging Party to respond to the Position Statement and to admit, deny, explain or rebut the information in the Position Statement. If further investigation is required, the Investigator has a number of options for gathering additional information. The Investigator can request that the Respondent provide additional information, evidence in documents by sending out a Request for Information or RFI. The Investigator can also interview witnesses. The witnesses who are still employed by the Respondent are often interviewed at the Respondent's facility during an "on site" visit.
At some point, the Investigator determines that enough information has been gathered to make a determination. If the Investigator determines that the law has been violated, the Respondent receives a written notice called a Reasonable Cause finding. Once the finding is issued, the EEOC conducts "conciliation" in which the EEOC seeks to remedy the violation by getting the Respondent to agree to remedy the discrimination. If the conciliation is successful, the investigation is closed and the Charge is closed. However, if conciliation is not successful, or if the EEOC does not believe there is Reasonable Cause showing a violation, then the EEOC issues the Charging Party a written notice (often referred to as a Notice of Right to Sue) giving them 90 days to file a lawsuit.