On May 6th, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) announced the launch of a pilot program called ACT Digital in 11 of its 53 offices, which allows for the digital transmission of documents between the EEOC and employers regarding discrimination charges. The ACT Digital pilot program is the first step in the EEOC’s move toward an online charge system intended to streamline the submission of documents, notices, and communications in the EEOC’s charge system. The first phase of ACT Digital allows employers against whom a charge has been filed to communicate with the EEOC through a secure portal where the employer can download the charge, review and respond to an invitation to mediate, submit a position statement, and provide and verify the employer’s contact information, including the designation of a legal representative.
The EEOC’s Notice of Charge of Discrimination will now provide the employer a password-protected log in that will allow the employer to access the secure portal. The employer will be able to request a new, unique password; however, each password will only allow access to a specific charge. If the EEOC has an e-mail address for a designated contact to receive charges for the respondent employer, an electronic notice of charge will be sent to that e-mail address. If the EEOC does not have an e-mail address for the respondent employer, a paper notice will be mailed to the address of record for the respondent employer. If the respondent employer has a letter of representation on file for all charges filed with the EEOC, the notice will be sent to the attorney of record. Once a respondent employer provides an e-mail address for its designated representative, the notice will be sent to that e-mail address. Employers will also be given the option of opting out of the pilot program, thereby continuing to receive and submit documents and communications in paper form.
The EEOC has implemented measures to handle situations where the Notice of Charge may have been sent to a bad e-mail address or is blocked by the employer’s SPAM filter. The system will generate a notice to EEOC staff after ten days if a respondent employer has not taken any action, meaning the respondent employer has not logged into the system. A representative from the local EEOC office will then attempt to re-serve the notice of charge.
The pilot program began May 6, 2015 in the following EEOC offices: Charlotte, Greensboro, Greenville, Norfolk, Raleigh, Richmond and San Francisco. By the end of May 2015, the pilot program will begin in the following EEOC offices: Denver, Detroit, Indianapolis and Phoenix. The system will roll-out to other EEOC offices in stages, and is expected to be available in all EEOC offices by October 1, 2015. This first phase of implementation will only involve notices transmitted after the pilot program has begun, it will not apply to pending notices.
In order to ensure that all EEOC charges are responded to in a timely manner, it is important for employers to notify their employees who typically receive initial correspondence from the EEOC of this new online program so that notices are not mistakenly disregarded as phishing or a scam. The EEOC’s User’s Guide for the new portal is available HERE.