EEOC Temporarily Halts Issuance of Right-to-Sue Letters During COVID-19 Pandemic

In an emailed statement from Spokeswoman and Director of Communications Kimberly Smith-Brown, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently confirmed that it has stopped issuing right-to-sue letters in an effort to delay the start of litigation deadlines and assuage concerns that charging parties may have to “choose between jeopardizing their safety and protecting their rights” during the public health crisis.

Although the EEOC has not made a formal announcement, it did confirm that charging parties will not receive right-to-sue letters unless they specifically request them. The EEOC has not disclosed how long it intends to implement this practice.

Typically issued at the conclusion of an EEOC investigation, right-to-sue letters indicate whether the Commission found a violation of the relevant employment discrimination statutes, e.g., Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Americans with Disabilities Act, Age Discrimination in Employment Act, etc. Where the EEOC does not resolve a for-cause finding through conciliation or does not file its own suit against the employer, or where the EEOC makes a no-cause finding, the issuance of these right-to-sue letters starts the clock on the charging party’s statutory obligation to file suit within 90 days of receipt of the letter.1

While the EEOC has not clarified whether it will implement any other policies in response to the pandemic, employers should consider the impact of this development. Significantly, the filing deadlines with the EEOC remain the same. Thus, aggrieved employees are still required to file charges with the Commission within either 180 or 300 days of the alleged illegal act in question.2 Furthermore, on March 30, 2020, the EEOC issued a statement confirming that it will continue “to enforce the nation’s employment non-discrimination laws while ensuring that all of [its] activities are consistent with public health guidelines.” Indeed, the March 30th statement encourages employees and applicants to visit the EEOC’s public portal or call the Commission at a designated number to schedule a telephonic intake appointment. Thus, employers should expect that new charges of discrimination (and their related EEOC investigations) will continue to be filed, even though the final agency determination regarding those charges will be delayed for the foreseeable future as we continue to navigate the new realities of COVID-19.

See Footnotes

1 42 U.S.C. § 2000(e)-5(f)(1).

2 42 U.S.C. § 2000(e)-5(e)(1).

Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.