Recently the EEOC listed the 10 states which produced the most charges of discrimination in 2012. To my suprise Tennessee was 10th on the list.
If your business receives an EEOC Charge (or a charge from a state human rights agency such as the Tennessee Human Rights Commission) you should take the following steps:
1. Litigation Hold- Immediately take steps to preserve all documents which might be relevant to the allegations in the charge. This process, commonly referred to as a litigation hold, requires you to preserve hard copies as well as electronically stored information, and to suspend normal document retention/destruction practices and policies.
2. Notify your insurer- If you have Employment Practices Liability Insurance send the carrier written notice of the charge. The failure to do so could result in the insurer denying coverage based on your failure to promptly notify it of the allegations.
3. Notify your attorney- Because statements made in the position statement and the response to the request for information are admissions which can be used against you, and the failure to assert certain defenses might result in a waiver, it is important that you get your attorney involved at the outset. If you have EPLI insurance the insurer will likely provide an attorney for you.
4. Investigate- If the charge presents allegations which are new or that have not previously been investigated a prompt, thorough investigation should be conducted.
5. Need to Know- In order to reduce “water cooler gossip” and to avoid retaliation claims, you should only provide information about the charge to those who have a legitimate need to know the information.
The EEOC charge is often the first stage of what becomes lengthy, costly litigation. Make sure you are taking the proper steps at the outset to give your business the best possible chance of prevailing.