Understanding the EEOC Organization

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 What Is the EEOC?

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is an independent federal administrative agency. It is part of the executive branch of the United States government.

Leaders of the EEOC are appointed by the U.S. president and are confirmed by the Senate. The EEOC enforces the numerous anti-discrimination laws that have been passed by the federal government, including the Civil Rights Act and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.

The leadership of the EEOC includes five commissioners. Two of these commissioners also hold the titles of chair and vice-chair.

The commissioners of the EEOC set policies and vote regarding whether or not to file lawsuits. There is also a general counsel who acts as the EEOC’s chief attorney.

The EEOC general counsel reviews all of the current lawsuits as well as advises EEOC attorneys in regional offices on employment law. The purpose of the EEOC is to investigate allegations of employment discrimination, which may include:

  • Recruiting procedures;
  • Promotions;
  • Pay and benefits;
  • Harassment or retaliation.

The EEOC also investigates incidents of discrimination during the hiring process, during on-the-job training, and related to layoffs or terminations. The EEOC is authorized to take action against businesses that fail to provide reasonable accommodations for workers who have disabilities.

The EEOC headquarters is located at:

131 M Street NE
Washington, DC

What Is the History of the EEOC?

In the history of the EEOC, it was only provided with limited powers to punish employers that violated laws. However, Congress provided the EEOC with the authority to sue employers in 1972.

After that, the EEOC has aggressively investigated and gone after employers that have been accused of engaging in discriminatory practices. The EEOC has even taken some cases all the way up to the United States Supreme Court.

What Offices Make up the EEOC?

Under the commission discussed above, there are several offices that make up the EEOC, including:

  • The Office of Inspector General (OIG): This office works closely with the EEOC to ensure efficiency and accuracy.
  • The OIG inspects, audits, and investigates all EEOC projects;
  • The Office of Federal Operations (OFO): This office reviews EEOC equal employment opportunity policies and is a legal resource for administrative judges and other agencies;
  • The Office of Research, Information, and Planning (ORIP): This office looks into how well the EEOC has been meeting its goals and prepares the EEOC’s annual performance report; and
  • Other offices, including:
    • The Office of Communications and Legislative Affairs;
    • The Office of the Chief Financial Officer and Administrative Services;
    • Many more offices.

What Is the EEOC Geographical Organization?

The EEOC is organized by district offices and field or local offices. There are 15 districts in the United States.

For example, the San Francisco District includes:

  • Washington;
  • Oregon;
  • Half of Nevada and California;
  • Idaho;
  • Alaska; and
  • Montana.

Within the San Francisco District, there are several local offices, including the Oakland Local Office, the San Jose Local Office, and the Seattle Field Office. The Seattle Field Office serves Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington.

The local offices serve the counties in Northern California.

Does EEOC Have a Call Center?

The EEOC opened its National Contact Center in 2007. This center can route individuals to the appropriate local center for their area.

The toll-free number for the public is 1-800-669-4000. The number for parties who have speech or hearing impairments is 1-800-669-6820.

The EEOC created the National Contact Center to provide the public with 24-hour access to the organization as well as information about equal employment rights and concerns.

What Information Can I Obtain From the EEOC Call Center?

Customer service representatives are available at the EEOC National Contact Center from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time. They can provide individuals with information regarding the following related to the EEOC:

  • EEOC and the statutes EEOC enforces;
  • EEOC training products and services;
  • The investigative process and mediation process;
  • Obtaining information under the Freedom of Information Act;
  • Other file disclosure requests; and
  • 24-hour access to general EEOC information.

What Can the EEOC Do?

The EEOC has the power to stop discrimination in the workplace. It also strives to educate the public regarding discrimination in the workplace and workforce.

Discrimination arises when the conduct of an employer causes some type of disadvantage to employees or potential employees based on their:

  • Race;
  • Gender;
  • Color;
  • Religion;
  • National origin;
  • Age;
  • Disability; or
  • Sex.

These factors are called immutable characteristics because an individual is born with them and cannot change them. In addition, these factors do not interfere with an employee’s ability to perform the essential tasks of their job.
If an individual wants to sue their employer, they must first submit their complaint to the EEOC. As noted above, the EEOC will investigate the claim and determine if it has merit.

If the EEOC determines that the claim does have merit, it will either bring the claim itself, or it will issue the complaining party a right to sue letter. This letter allows the complaining party to sue their employer in federal court.

In addition, the EEOC itself can sue an employer directly if it determines the employer violated discrimination laws. The EEOC can also investigate employers on its own without a complaint being submitted.

In these cases, an investigator from the EEOC may pose as a job applicant to investigate if discrimination is occurring. This type of work is typically conducted by two investigators with the same qualifications and the same background except for a certain specific factor, such as their gender or race.

If an employer hires one of the investigators but not the other, they may find themselves under further investigation.

How Can I File a Complaint With the EEOC?

An individual can file a complaint, or a charge, with the EEOC by:

  • Submitting their claim online;
  • In-person at their local EEOC office; or
  • By mail.

After the EEOC receives the complaint, it will investigate whether or not there are probable grounds to suspect that discrimination did occur. If it discovers evidence of discrimination, the EEOC will attempt to settle the matter using mediation or another type of dispute resolution process.

In some cases, the EEOC may bring its own lawsuit against an employer. The EEOC mediation process is voluntary.

This process allows the parties involved in a discrimination dispute to address their issues in a neutral environment with the assistance of a mediator. Mediation aims for the parties to come to a mutually acceptable settlement to their issue without requiring a formal inquiry or litigation.

It can also be a less costly and faster alternative to litigation. In addition, it can assist the parties involved in maintaining their working relationships.

Do I Need a Lawyer?

If you have any questions regarding the EEOC organization or if you believe that you may have faced discrimination in the workplace, it is important to consult with an employment lawyer. Your lawyer can help you file a claim with the EEOC and advise you throughout the investigation process.

It is important to be aware that the EEOC does not represent employees even though it does enforce anti-discrimination laws and has the power to bring such cases to court. If the EEOC issues you a right-to-sue letter, you have 90 days following the receipt of that letter to file a lawsuit, so it is important to consult with an attorney as early in the process as possible.


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