The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced on August 3, 2020 that it will start issuing charge closure documents again on a routine basis. As I wrote in an earlier blog post, the EEOC delayed the issuance of “Notice of Right to Sue” letters at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic to workers who had filed discrimination charges. That suspension is now being lifted. “Recognizing that further delays in issuing charge closure documents could negatively impact both parties’ ability to protect and exercise their rights effectively, the EEOC is resuming its issuance of these documents,” the notice advised.
The EEOC oversees federal anti-discrimination laws. Workers claiming discrimination under federal law must file with the EEOC or dual file with a state agency a charge of discrimination within the applicable 300 days or 180 days deadline. Thereafter, if workers want to move their agency case to federal or state court before the agency process is completed, the workers may specifically request that a “Notice of Right to Sue” letter be issued.
As the EEOC explained, “EEOC managers and supervisors have started reviewing charge resolution recommendations and the EEOC will begin issuing Notices of Right to Sue (Notices) both for charges that were held in suspense, as well as for charge resolution that occur on and after Monday, August 3, 2020. ” This charge closure document is required before workers may file their federal discrimination claim in court. Once that letter is received, plaintiffs have 90 days to bring a lawsuit against their employer or former employer for discrimination under federal law.
What does this mean for employers? Employers may soon find the agency cases that had been “on hold” since March 21, 2020 moved to the court system. This increase in employment litigation filings alleging federal discrimination is expected in the coming months. As the EEOC advised, the “Notices held in suspense will be issued over the course of the next six to eight weeks beginning with those that have been in suspense the longest.”
With COVID-19 at the top of mind in terms of policies and procedures to follow for both employers and employees today, it is important to remember that other employment laws remain in place. Whether employees are working in the workplace or remotely, federal and state anti-discrimination laws govern what is acceptable and appropriate conduct. Companies are encouraged not only to remind employees of the company’s anti-discrimination policies, but also to train employees and supervisors on those policies and to enforce them.