On March 13, 2017, the EEOC launched a new Online Inquiry and Intake System, making it easier for employees to seek assistance from the agency regarding claims of workplace discrimination, harassment, and retaliation. The new system is available to individuals who live within one hundred miles of the EEOC’s offices in Charlotte, Chicago, New Orleans, Phoenix and Seattle. Individuals in these locations can access the system through the EEOC’s Internet “public portal.” Users will answer a few short questions, and then may register with the EEOC, file an online inquiry, and schedule an in-person or telephonic intake interview through the system, which are first steps in filing a charge of discrimination with the EEOC.
Annoucing the new online system, the EEOC’s acting chair, Victoria Lipnic, lauded it as a way to make the EEOC’s services more accessible to the public. The online system also may serve as a front-line screening tool, reducing the number of inquiries handled directly by EEOC personnel. The EEOC reported that it receives approximately 200,000 inquiries about discrimination, but less than 50% of these inquiries result in formal EEOC charges. Many of these inquiries, which are traditionally handled by EEOC personnel telephonically or in-person, relate to an individual’s concerns that are not within the EEOC’s jurisdiction and thus cannot be addressed by the EEOC. Because the new online system provides basic feedback about whether the EEOC is the correct agency to assist an individual, many who access the online system will likely not require further assistance from EEOC personnel. If the online tool determines the EEOC is not the proper agency to address their concerns, the portal will recommend other agencies that might be able to help.
If the system is successful in the five pilot cities, the EEOC indicates it anticipates a national roll-out later this year. This continues the EEOC’s trend toward increasing its online presence and internet-based services. As you may recall, last year, the EEOC introduced an online charge status portal, through which employees and employers can check on the status of pending charges.