Are EEOC complaints confidential?
Employees suffering employment discrimination often worry about the effects of reporting employment discrimination to the EEOC. This is especially true for employees who still work at the job where discrimination occurs. Retaliation for complaining about employment discrimination is a real and serious concern. This concern may lead workers to not contact the EEOC or an employment lawyer in Dallas or Fort Worth who can investigate and take action to protect the employee from employment discrimination and retaliation. Today’s post discusses how information shared with the EEOC (or the Texas Workforce Commission) is protected and what is shared with the employer.
Initial contact with the EEOC in Dallas, Texas
Employees in the Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas area report charges of discrimination to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) office in downtown Dallas, Texas. The employee may have an employment attorney before contacting the EEOC or hire a lawyer afterwards. If the employee contacts the EEOC without an employment attorney then the EEOC will open an investigation and prepare a charge of discrimination. The EEOC will have the employee complete a intake-type complaint form that provides information about the employee and the workplace situation.
A charge of discrimination is a document the employee signs, identifying the employer and laying out allegations of employment discrimination. The signed charge of discrimination is filed with the EEOC and begins the formal charge process. An employee who already has a Dallas or Fort Worth employment lawyer usually will not contact the EEOC to assemble a charge of discrimination. Employment lawyers draft the charge of discrimination for the client and submit the signed charge to begin the formal charge process.
Confidentiality and the charge of discrimination
Any information the EEOC receives up to the point the employee files a signed charge of discrimination with the EEOC is kept completely confidential. The initial intake documents and investigation prior to filing a charge will all stay confidential. If you do not file a signed charge of discrimination then the EEOC will not investigate further. The agency will not disclose any of the information provided by you or an employment attorney on your behalf. Your employer will not know that you contacted the EEOC or hired an employment lawyer.
However, once the EEOC receives a charge of discrimination the agency has a duty to share certain information with your employer. It must provide the employer with a copy of the charge of discrimination within ten days. That will identify you, the basic allegations of employment discrimination and the factual allegations within the charge.
Anonymous EEOC charge of discrimination?
It is possible to file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC anonymously. This is done by having another individual or entity, such as an employment lawyer, file on your behalf. In this case the charge will include the information of the third party rather than the employee. The EEOC must know the identity of the victim of employment discrimination; but it will not release that information during the investigation.
In some circumstances it makes sense to conceal the identity of the victim; however, it is generally of little value. The employer will likely figure out the name of the employee just from the factual allegations. Further, if the EEOC or your employment lawyer decides to pursue the case to trial it will be impossible to hide your identity.
Other information shared by the EEOC and your employment lawyer
In the course of the EEOC investigation, it will collect information from the employee, employer and their employment attorneys. During the investigation the agency generally does not share information collected by one side with the other without permission. After the investigation is complete, both sides may request the EEOC’s file. The EEOC will redact some information but otherwise release the file to either side.
Your employment lawyer may also need to release certain information about you and your allegations. If you participate in mediation then your employment lawyer will normally have to release some additional information to your employer in the course of negotiations. If a lawsuit is filed then your employment attorney must disclose information in the petition and other litigation documents. In the course of a lawsuit the parties exchange information and documents in the discovery process. This will definitely require your lawyer to identify you and information about your claims.
Protections from retaliation for filing a charge of discrimination in Dallas
Very little will stop your employer from retaliating for filing a charge of discrimination; however, such retaliation is unlawful and creates another independent claim. Even if your employment discrimination claim ultimately proves to be untrue, your employer may still be liable for retaliating. Remedies for retaliation include much of the same monetary and other forms of relief as other employment discrimination claims.
If you continue to work for a discriminating employer then you always should consider the risk of retaliation. It may make sense to find new employment before filing a charge of discrimination. (For many reasons.) This is a conversation to have with an employment lawyer before contacting the EEOC. Don’t wait until after filing a charge of discrimination to hire a Dallas or Fort Worth employment lawyer.
Adam Kielich is an employment attorney, divorce lawyer and principal attorney at The Kielich Law Firm in Bedford, Texas. The Kielich Law Firm represents clients in employment law and family law matters across the Dallas and Fort Worth area. Attorney Adam Kielich helps clients with employment discrimination, wrongful termination, overtime pay, FMLA, contested and uncontested divorce, modifications, QDROs and more.