- The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has resumed issuing charge closure documents, ending a temporary suspension due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the agency announced Aug. 3.
- On March 21, EEOC announced it would temporarily suspend issuance of charge documents, unless charging parties requested them. In the Aug. 3 statement, the agency said staff have begun reviewing charge resolution recommendations and will begin issuing right-to-sue notices for charges.
- EEOC will issue notices beginning with charges that were held in suspense the longest, and all right-to-sue notices will be issued by mail. The 90-day deadline from receipt of a right-to-sue notice by which a charging party must typically file a lawsuit has not been changed, EEOC said.
The update follows several operational shifts and other changes for the agency in response to the pandemic.
For example, the agency announced in May that it would delay the opening of its 2019 EEO-1 Component 1 data collection. It also announced similar delays for 2020 EEO-3 and EEO-5 data collections, saying in a press release that the decision would allow filers to be "better positioned to provide accurate, valid and reliable data in a timely manner." Nonetheless, EEOC also confirmed a release timeline for its analysis of EEO-1 Component 2 pay data from the 2017 and 2018 fiscal years, which will be completed by the end of 2021.
Right-to-sue notices constitute a key step in employment discrimination suits in the U.S. They are issued once the EEOC has closed an investigation, determines that a reasonable cause to believe discrimination occurred exists and is unable to resolve the charge together with the parties involved via the conciliation process, according to agency guidelines. They indicate that the agency has decided not to litigate the claim itself.
On a related note, EEOC announced in July the launch of two six-month pilot programs aimed at expanding opportunities for workers and employers to resolve charges voluntarily, rather than through investigation or litigation. One of the programs focuses on expanding the categories of charges available for mediation and also allows for the use of virtual mediation, while the other makes changes to the agency's conciliation process to drive accountability, EEOC said in a statement.
Right-to-sue notices were also the subject of a U.S. Supreme Court case during the pandemic. The high court declined in April to decide whether EEOC can investigate an employer after issuing a right-to-sue letter to one of its employees.