Today, Texas employment lawyer Chris McKinney discusses what happens at the end of the EEOC investigation process? What is a Determination Letter? Chris explains all of this and more in today’s video:
Hi everyone. This is Texas Employment Rights Attorney Chris McKinney. And today we have another video in our series about the equal employment opportunity commission or the EEOC.
In today’s video, we’re going to be talking about the end of the EEOC process. We’ve already talked about the nuts and bolts of filing a charge, what you might expect after filing a charge in the investigation process. And we’ve discussed the mediation process that sometimes occurs during the EEOC timeline. So you can learn more about all of those parts of the EEOC investigation process by clicking on the links below to those videos in the series.
Today we’re gonna be talking about the end of the process. What happens when the EEOC is done with its investigation? And this can happen one of two ways either the EEOC completes its investigation on its own, or alternatively, the charging party — that’s typically the employee — asks that the EEOC to discontinue its investigation, to close it and to issue closing papers for the investigation. Now, the charging party can do this anytime once the charge of discrimination has been on file with the EEOC for six months. The investigation probably won’t be done within six months but after six months, if you have your ducks in a row maybe you’ve retained counsel, and you’ve decided that you’re ready to go to court.
If that’s the next step in your process then you can actually force the EEOC to go ahead and close its investigation in issue you what’s called a right-to-sue letter, more about that in a minute. But if the EEOC is simply going about its business and you’re allowing it to continue its investigation at some point the EEOC is going to send you what’s called a predetermination letter. Now in a predetermination letter the EEOC will give you some insight into what its initial findings have been in the course of its investigation. And it will ask you to respond. If you have any additional information that you think might affect the agency’s investigation before it makes its final decision.
In some, some districts, the agency will also issue you a copy of the employer’s statement of position. That’s the document in which the employer states why it doesn’t believe it has done anything wrong. And some EEOC districts will send you a copy of that. And so that you have an opportunity to respond to that, either way, once that process is over then the EEOC will issue, what’s called a right-to-sue letter.
And this is what a right-to-sue letter looks like. It’s a very simple one page document which states some basic reasons why any EEOC investigation is being closed. One of those is you’ll see in this document is because more than 180 days has passed since the filing of the charge. And so the EEOC is terminating the charge. Now that may be because the charging party has requested that the EEOC terminate the investigation. Sometimes the agency will also terminate its investigation prior to completing it. If it determines that it’s unlikely to complete the investigation within a reasonable timeframe and unfortunately given staffing issues at the EEOC this happens a fair amount of the time.
So this notice of a right-to-sue letter is essentially the charging party’s ticket to file a lawsuit. If that’s what he or she chooses to do in most types of discrimination cases you cannot simply file a lawsuit in state or federal court. Instead, you must go through this EEOC investigation process and get that right-to-sue letter before you can then file your case in court. Now, one more thing I wanna show you on this, right-to-sue letter. And that’s this provision right here regarding the EEOC closing your case. Do you see where they say that you only have 90 days in which to file your lawsuit under most of the statutes that the EEOC investigates, once a right-to-sue letters issued, that starts a very short timeline and you have 90 days in which to file your lawsuit. Therefore, it’s very important that if you plan on retaining counsel and filing a lawsuit, in your case you need to have that lawyer lined up and retained prior to getting your right-to-sue letter. Once you have a right-to-sue letter that 90 day timeline starts ticking and it could be very difficult for you to retain counsel in that short time period.
One other thing to keep in mind is that once the EEOC has issued a right-to-sue letter the charging party then has the ability to ask the EEOC for a complete copy of its entire investigation file. Now, the EEOC will occasionally redact out certain names excuse me, certain information including witness names and things that it considers to be confidential or subject to privilege. But for the most part the charging party is gonna get an entire copy of the investigation file. This can be very useful to you and to any attorneys that you’re attempting to hire because it’ll allow you to see what the employer’s story was during the investigation process. So your attorney can assess how strong your case is but the number one thing to remember at the end of the EEOC investigation process is, is the timeline is very short. So it’s best not to wait until the end of the investigation in order to retain counsel, if at all possible try to have an attorney lined up before you get that right-to-sue letter because once you get it, the clock starts ticking and you have 90 days to file your lawsuit. Or you might, you may be waving your claims forever.
I hope this video is helpful. Again, we’ll put links to the other videos in the EEOC series.