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How Your Business Should Respond to an Employee Discrimination Complaint

If a current or former employee files a claim of discrimination against your business, it is usually for the following reasons:

Gender discrimination
Age discrimination
Racial discrimination
Disability discrimination

Be sure to take the following steps whether or not a court trial occurs.

Seek Legal Advice
If you receive a formal complaint from the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), or your state’s human rights agency, seek a business lawyer specializing in employment law. An employment lawyer only deals with situations like yours and will have the experience to handle it well.

Respond Immediately
Many business owners make the mistake of ignoring allegations that they do not consider to be valid. If you don’t respond to an EEOC or state complaint with a position statement outlining your side, or any other requested information, you risk further legal action.

Wait for a Determination
An EEOC or state human rights investigator will decide on the validity of the claim after acquiring background information from both sides. You and the complainant will likely receive one of two responses.

A Letter of Determination will state that discrimination likely occurred. You will have an opportunity to participate in the EEOC-sponsored conciliation process, which requires both parties’ voluntary participation.
A Dismissal and Notice of Rights will state that there is not enough evidence to determine a violation of the law. This notice informs you and the complainant of the complainant’s right to sue in federal or state court.

Prepare for the Determination
If you receive an invitation to participate in conciliation, it is advisable to accept it to avoid going to trial. During mediation sessions, both sides can resolve matters relating to employment reinstatement and damages and keep the terms of their agreements private.

Although you will not be able to control the other party’s acceptance of terms, it is in your best interest to remain as open as possible during negotiations. If mediation fails, the EEOC may decide to pursue litigation in court.

There is also a strong chance that the complainant will seek a court trial if the EEOC issues a notice of dismissal with a right to sue. At trial, a jury will either decide you must pay a hefty fine or punitive damages or dismiss the charges. Fortunately, you will likely have the opportunity to negotiate a settlement before the jury trial, which can take months to schedule due to backups in the court system.

Receiving a discrimination complaint is unsettling but not disastrous if you hire a lawyer, like a business lawyer, from Brown Kiely LLP, right away.

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