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The Charge Handling Process

Note: Federal employees and job applicants have a different complaint process.

At the time your charge is filed, we will give you a copy of your charge with your charge number. Within 10 days, we will also send a notice and a copy of the charge to the employer. In some cases, we will ask both you and the employer to take part in our mediation program. If the case is not sent to mediation, or if mediation doesn’t resolve the problem, we usually will ask the employer to give us a written answer to your charge. We may also ask the employer to answer questions we have about the claims in your charge. Then your charge will be given to an investigator.


If you and the employer agree to mediation, a mediator will try to help you both reach a voluntary settlement. Mediation allows you and the employer to talk about your concerns. Mediators don’t decide who is right or wrong, but they are very good at suggesting ways to solve problems and disagreements.

Possible Dismissal

If the EEOC does not have jurisdiction, or if your charge is untimely, we will close your charge quickly. We may also close your charge quickly if we decide that we probably will not be able to find discrimination. If your charge is dismissed, you will be notified.


How we investigate a charge depends on the facts of the case and the kinds of information we need to gather. In some cases, we visit the employer to hold interviews and gather documents. In other cases, we interview witnesses over the phone and ask for documents by mail. After we finish our investigation, we will let you and the employer know the result.

How long the investigation takes depends on a lot of different things, including the amount of information that needs to be gathered and analyzed. It took us – on average – nearly 6 months to investigate a charge in 2004. We are often able to settle a charge faster through mediation (usually in less than 3 months).


If an employer refuses to cooperate with an EEOC investigation, EEOC can issue an administrative subpoena to obtain documents, testimony or gain access to facilities.

Possible Action After Investigation Completed

If we haven’t found a violation of the law, we will send you a Notice-of-Right-to-Sue. This notice gives you permission to file a lawsuit in a court of law. If we find a violation, we will try to reach a voluntary settlement with the employer. If we cannot reach a settlement, your case will be referred to our legal staff (or the Department of Justice in certain cases), who will decide whether or not the agency should file a lawsuit. If we decide not to file a lawsuit, we will give you a Notice-of-Right-to-Sue.