CHICAGO — As of Nov.1, an online filing system for workers to file discrimination charges against their employers has been rolled out nationwide. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's Public Portal had been available on a "pilot" basis in Chicago and in four other cities over the past six months.

In March 2017, the EEOC announced the new program, called the Online Inquiry and Appointment System (OAIS), would be piloted as a new way for employees to initiate claims. Nearly 200,000 inquiries are processed annually. Even after charges are filed, however, individuals have to schedule intake interviews to get the process formally started. 

C.R. Wright, an attorney at Fisher Phillips in Atlanta, told the Cook County Record the new system is a matter of convenience. 

“It basically just makes it much more convenient to be able to do it online," he said. "What they are doing is initiating the process. It still has to go through the EEOC representative. There is always an intake process, whether a charge is mailed in or they have a call center of sorts - which hasn’t worked out as well as they thought it might - but you can file a charge by telephone. Ultimately, you have to do the paper to initiate the process.”

Wright thinks the EEOC decided to expand the OAIS system nationwide in an effort to make the process more efficient.

“They are trying to make their systems and processes more efficient because they are, like the rest of the government, facing potential budgetary constraints," he said. "So this is just something they did want to take nationwide to serve the people, to make it more convenient for them and to streamline and put more efficiency in that process.” 

Employers are facing changes in handling EEOC complaints, too.

“Employers should be aware of this new process and be prepared to expect communications to potentially come in electronically or by email," Wright said.

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