If an employee complains about alleged discrimination and you investigate, make sure you let the employee know the result. It could prevent a lawsuit.
In writing, inform the complaining employee of your findings and state that, internally, the matter is considered complete.
Otherwise, she may be able to show that she was tricked into thinking you would fix the problem—an important factor if she misses an EEOC deadline for bringing her case.
Recent case: Yvette lost her job with the English Language Learners Department at the Minneapolis Public Schools.
She complained to the school system’s Office of Diversity and Equal Opportunity about what she believed were financial improprieties within the department and also about alleged discrimination and harassment. Yvette claimed the office’s director told her she would investigate and would “preserve her civil rights” regarding the complaints.
Yvette waited more than 300 days to file her EEOC complaint and the school district asked the court to throw out the case because of the late filing.
Yvette argued that she had been falsely lulled into believing that she didn’t have to file with the EEOC. But the school system showed the court a copy of a letter it sent Yvette after it finished its own internal investigation. The letter clearly stated that the system found no grounds for Yvette’s complaints and that the “investigation is complete.”
The court tossed out her case, saying Yvette had waited too long to file with the EEOC and that the letter superseded anything the director may have told her. (Ford v. Minneapolis Public Schools, No. 10-3142, DC MN, 2012)
Final note: To gain the most legal protection, complete the investigation as soon as possible under the circumstances. If the employee still has time to file her EEOC complaint, the ball is in her court to do so.