If you're unfamiliar with the processes of the Ohio Civil Rights Commission (OCRC) or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), receiving a charge can present some confusion in addition to the stress already inherent in responding to a charge.
Having some basic knowledge about the investigation process can go a long way in handling the charge and avoiding preventable mistakes.
After a charge has been filed against your company, an OCRC investigator will call to notify you of the charge. They will usually ask for the contact information of the individual with your company tasked with responding to the charge so that they can send a charge packet. This packet will contain a copy of the charge, plus other relevant and important documents, such as a mediation request form and a request for information (RFI).
Mediation can be an important tool for both parties because it provides the option of resolving the charge early and cost-effectively. However, before agreeing to mediation, you should always consider two important factors: first, how much of your defense is documented through contemporaneous documents or corporate records; and second, whether the charging party is likely to accept a cost-effective settlement.
In order for mediation to occur, both parties in the case must agree. If one or both parties decide against mediation, or if there is no resolution at the end of mediation, the charge proceeds to investigation.
During the investigation, you will be asked to respond to a request for information by providing documents, names of witnesses and affidavits of decision-makers, among other things. More importantly, you will be asked to provide a position statement. The position statement is one of the most important aspects of the investigation and should be taken very seriously since it allows you the chance tell your side of the story.
The position statement should respond to each of the charging party's allegations, provide specific dates of events and names of individuals involved, give a description of the organization, and provide all applicable policies. It should also clearly and succinctly explain the legitimate business reason for any adverse action against the charging party.
Once your investigator has received all the requested documentation from both you and the charging party, the agency will make a determination on the merits. A Letter of Determination will be sent to you and the charging party with a recommendation of either a "Probable Cause" finding of discrimination, or a "No Probable Cause" finding. If there is a finding of no probable cause, the investigation is over, and the charging party receives nothing. However, if the OCRC determines that there is probable cause, then typically the Ohio Attorney General's Office will issue a complaint against your company and you will be required to appear in a formal administrative hearing.
Obviously, the process should be taken very seriously and handled appropriately. To that end, it would be a very prudent decision to hire experienced employment attorneys who can provide valuable insight and present your defenses in the most favorable light.