EEOC Focuses on COVID-19-Related Discrimination Claims

April 10, 2020

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is now tracking workplace discrimination charges related to the COVID-19 pandemic while extending the deadline for discrimination lawsuits.

The EEOC implemented changes to its charge management system to specifically identify discrimination claims filed by employees that involve COVID-19.  The measure reflects the agency's focus on responding to an expected uptick in discrimination claims associated with COVID-19.

In a statement released in late March, EEOC Chair Janet Dhillon urged employers "to be mindful of instances of harassment, intimidation, or discrimination in the workplace and to take action to prevent or correct this behavior."  Dhillon cited reports of mistreatment and harassment of employees of Asian descent due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Deadline extension:  The agency has temporarily paused closing investigations of workplace discrimination claims in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, granting workers more time to file lawsuits against employers.  When the EEOC closes an investigation of a discrimination claim, it typically issues a "right-to-sue" letter to the employee, who then has 90 days to file a lawsuit against the employer.  "The EEOC appreciates that some people whose charges are currently before the EEOC may be worried that they might have to choose between jeopardizing their safety and protecting their rights," said an agency spokesman.  It is unclear how long the moratorium on right-to-sue letters will last.