No one in HR looks forward to getting notice of an EEOC investigation. But planning ahead can save a lot of trouble — and help keep your company out of court.
The EEOC and the employee’s lawyers are going to look at how your company responds to the charge and might be able to use what they find against the company. Here are three things you definitely don’t want to do, according to plaintiffs’ attorney Whitney Warner, who spoke at this year’s annual Society for Human Resources Management conference:
- Issue a gag order. Many companies make the mistake of asking current employees not to talk to the EEOC or the ex-employee’s lawyer. But employers can be hit with retaliation suits if employees are punished for participating in a legal investigation.
- Fail to investigate the charge. Employers sometimes fail to conduct a thorough investigation after receiving the charge, and respond with a quick defense like, “Our company doesn’t discriminate.” But the charge must be treated the same as an internal complaint and investigated in the same way.
- Give out witnesses’ contact info. Once the employee’s attorneys get a hold of your response to the EEOC, they’ll try to contact the employees listed as witnesses. You’ll want them to have to call you first.