Don’t hesitate to inform employees about their right to report sexual harassment to the EEOC or a state agency. Your failure to provide information about alternatives to internal reporting won’t prevent employees from seeking redress from a government authority. In fact, your reluctance to reveal such information may be used against you as proof that you don’t have the employees’ interests at heart.
It’s also important that your anti-harassment policy and complaint procedure contain information about the time frames for filing charges of unlawful harassment with the EEOC or a state’s fair employment practice agency. It should explain that the deadline runs from the last date of unlawful harassment, not from the date that any internal complaint is resolved.
Generally, workers have 180 days from the harassing incident to file a complaint with the EEOC. If there is a state agency that handles discrimination cases, the complaint must generally be filed with that agency first, and the employee gets up to 300 days to file with the EEOC. However, in cases of a hostile work environment, the time limit doesn’t start running as long as the environment continues to be hostile.
What happens if you don’t tell workers they can file a complaint with the EEOC or a state or local agency? Some courts have said that actively discouraging workers from filing or dragging the case out so that the worker misses a filing deadline acts to stop the clock. The employer can’t turn around and argue that the worker missed the deadline. See Currier v. Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty, Inc., 159 F.3d 1363 (D.C. Cir. 1998)
Complaining parties don't need to retain an attorney to request help from the EEOC. When evaluating alleged charges, the EEOC will look at the nature of the accusations and the company’s track record in responding to complaints. The agency will likely interview the alleged victim to obtain as much information as possible about the incident; notify the employer that charges have been filed; interview witnesses; make a determination regarding the merits of the charge; and attempt to seek remedy from the employer.
If the employer doesn’t agree to resolve the case voluntarily, the EEOC may file charges in federal district court on the plaintiff’s behalf.