I recently came across a blog post entitled "How to Respond to an EEOC Complaint" that got me thinking about how I would respond if the same question were asked about Connecticut’s state discrimination agency, the CHRO (Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities).
In the particular post, the author sets forth several good, common-sense suggestions that offer a starting point for employers in responding to complaints of discrimination. Among the offerings:
- Tell the Whole Story
- Use Documentation
- Verify the Response’s Accuracy
- Highlight Consistent Past Decisions
- Contact Your Insurer
- Preserve All Documents
In reviewing the list, however, I also find myself disagreeing with the premise of the post that there can be a one-size-fits-all approach to responding to discrimination complaints from a state agency. Indeed, the scope of the response and the tactics that an employer may use in responding can and should differ depending on various factors.
For example, suppose the employee who is complaining about discrimination is respresented by experienced counsel and the matter is likely to go to court regardless of what the state agency says. In that situation, the employer may decide to use outside legal counsel to respond and be more circumspect in its responses.
But suppose the employer believes the complaint is frivolous and that a state agency dismissal is likely to be the end of the matter. In that situation, the employer will likely want to provide the agency with enough ammunition to bolster its decision.
Each claim of discrimination has its own nuances and responses should be tailored to fit the particular circumstances.
Perhaps the best takeaway for employers is the understanding that discrimination complaints filed with the EEOC and the CHRO should be taken as seriously as the filing of a lawsuit itself. Developing a comprehensive strategy (likely through consulting with counsel) and being accurate in a response, can help ensure that the responses won’t come back to haunt the employer later on.