An employee went to the EEOC. She was being sexually harassed in a pretty blatant manner by the owner of a small company somewhere in the USA. She meets with an investigator who tells her that she has no case, because she has no evidence. EEOC investigators should not give legal advice, but it happens sometimes. They are investigators, after all. Investigation sometimes involves discussions about evidence.
The complainant then responds that she has witnesses. Investigator tells her to call her Human Resources person to make a report. The employee calls HR from the investigator’s office. She reports the sexual harassment.
Within ten minutes, the owner calls the employe, still at the investigator’s office. She puts him on speaker phone. The owner says, "I understand you complained about me. You don’t need to return to the office." The owner fired the employee over the EEOC’s own phone within ten minutes of her complaint. The investigator heard it all.
One might think, great, what great evidence! The silly owner called and fired the employee for pursuing her rights with the EEOC – right where the EEOC could observe the whole chain of events.
Wrong. The invstigator still insisted she had no case and refused to allow her to file a claim for discrimination or for retaliation. He tells the employee she should just go collect her last paycheck and move on with her life.
This is the organization that on its own website says:
"The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee because of the person’s . . . sex . . . . It is also illegal to discriminate against a person because the person complained about discrimination, filed a charge of discrimination, or participated in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit."
As I have mentioned before, do not expect much from the EEOC. Most investigators mean well. They have far too many cases to perform an adequate investigation in any one case. Of course, this situation goes beyond mere investigation. The investigator already has all the necessary facts on which to start and conclude an investigation. I can only conclude that the culture at some EEOC offices is indifferent and blind to the realities of the workplace.
Is there room for doubt that the employer just retaliated against the woman because she opposed discrimination? The investigator saw and hard it all. He already has enough evidence to find in her favor on the issue of retaliation for opposing discrimination.
The EEOC does have some teeth. They do file lawsuits on behalf of employees. But, situations like this one suggest that sometimes they will not see discrimination even if it is in front of their nose……