Q. How is it possible to get out of an EEOC discrimination complaint if the employee has tape recordings to prove the claim? Can we prolong the process so the time can run out or is there no time limit in how long the EEOC waits for a position statement from us? — Anonymous, Indiana
A. The EEOC will take as long as it deems necessary to fully investigate the claim. If it believes that the law was violated, it can initiate a lawsuit on behalf of the individual (and others in your workforce similarly situated), or it can issue the employee a “probable cause” finding and a “right to sue” letter that authorizes the employee to file a lawsuit in federal court.
Don’t assume either the EEOC or the individual will go away. Generally speaking, an employer would be better served reaching a settlement with the individual (and the agency, if necessary) than to defend litigation that is expensive and, you suggest, difficult to win. If the individual prevails in such litigation, not only might you be liable for back pay, you may also be required to pay for emotional distress damages, attorneys’ fees, “front pay” and punitive damages.