The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is converting its paper-based charge system into an online system, with the goals of streamlining a process that receives approximately 90,000 charges each year and improving customer service. EEOC offices in Charlotte, Greensboro, Greenville, Norfolk, Raleigh, Richmond and San Francisco were the first to adopt the first phase of the pilot program, which is called ACT Digital. Denver, Detroit, Indianapolis and Phoenix will join by the end of the month. The agency’s goal is to take the program nationwide by October 2015.
The first phase of the pilot program reaches only the initial stages of the agency process. Employers will receive an email notifying them a charge has been filed. Then, they will utilize a secure online portal to view and download the charge, review and respond to an invitation to mediate, and submit a position statement. Each charge will have a specific URL and password.
During this first phase of the program, employers cannot use the portal to request extensions or respond to requests for information. Subsequent phases of the program will include these features. Eventually, the EEOC plans to allow complainants to file charges online.
Employers should train individuals who receive EEOC charges to expect notification by email so the notices do not end up in a spam folder. The EEOC has developed a backstop to account for bad email addresses, lost notices and neglect. If no one uses the online portal associated with a charge within 10 days after the notice is sent, EEOC staff will be alerted and the EEOC will again attempt service.
Employers have the choice to opt out of the online system and continue to receive and submit documents via mail, but without a specific effort to opt out, the online system is automatic and employers in the affected EEOC offices can expect to receive their next charge notice by email. Of course, if the EEOC does not have an email address on file, the notice directing the employer to the online portal will be sent by mail and the employer will need to provide contact information to enable email notification. More information about ACT Digital, the EEOC’s Digital Charge System, is available on the EEOC website.