The US government rarely moves quickly, and seldom responds to cultural currents.
But either by design or coincidence, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission perfectly timed the release of a new website making it easier to file sexual-harassment complaints.
On Nov. 1, amidst nationwide soul-searching over the treatment of women in the workplace, the commission unveiled a website allowing anyone who thinks they may be a victim of harassment to initiate an inquiry online.
Filing an EEOC complaint is the first step for anyone who intends to sue their employer for any sort of discrimination, such as age, race, religion, or gender, which includes sexual harassment. Previously, a complainant would have to call the agency or make an office appointment to start the process.
Now, anyone who suspects they have grounds to file a complaint can go online and enter some basic information such as the form of discrimination, the nature of the workplace and, critically, when the incidence of discrimination last occurred. Depending on their state, workers can have as little as 180 days to file a complaint before the statutes of limitations expire, which can end the process for many.
If they meet all the requirements for filing a complaint, they can then fill out a form to request an interview from the EEOC.
Last fiscal year, the EEOC fielded 550,000 calls and 140,600 office visits, a number that will likely only rise given the increased attention the issue of workplace harassment is receiving. At least they’ll be prepared.
Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly referred to the Department of Labor as the EEOC’s parent agency. They are separate federal agencies.