Requirements for Class Complaints
Class complaints are processed differently than individual(s) complaints (29 CFR 1614.204). The pre-complaint stage process is the same. Once a formal complaint is filed, the class complaint will be forwarded to the nearest EEOC Washington Field Office for assignment of an EEOC AJ. An EEOC AJ is appointed to decide whether to accept or dismiss the class complaint. The AJ examines the class action to determine whether it meets class certification requirements for:
- Adequacy of representation
A class complaint can be cancelled for failure to meet the requirements listed above or for any of the reasons discussed for individual(s) complaints. A class complaint can begin as an individual(s) complaint. If it is found that there are more parties affected by the same issues, the complainants can ask for class certification at any reasonable point in the process (29 CFR 1614.204b).
Class Complaint Acceptance Process
The AJ will send his or her decision on whether to accept the class complaint to the agency and the class agent. The agency has 40-calendar days from receipt of the AJ's decision to issue a final order. This order must notify the agent whether or not the agency will implement the decision of the AJ. If the agency's final order does not use the AJ's decision, they must also file an appeal to the EEOC's OFO. The appeal must include a copy of the agency's final order (29 CFR 1614.204d7).
A dismissal of a class complaint must inform the class agent whether the complaint will continue as an individual(s) complaint or whether it will also be dismissed as an individual(s) complaint. The dismissal must inform the class agent of the right to appeal to EEOC's OFO or to file a civil action in federal court.
Agency Responsibilities Once the Class Complaint is Accepted
Once a class complaint is accepted, the agency must use reasonable means to notify the class members of the following:
- The acceptance of the class complaint
- A description of the issues accepted as part of the complaint
- An explanation of the binding nature of the final decision or resolution on the class members
- The name, address, and telephone number of the class representative
- 29 CFR 1614.204e
Instead of an investigation by the respondent agency, an EEOC AJ develops the record through discovery and a hearing. The AJ will issue a recommended decision to the agency. The agency has 60-calendar days from receipt of the AJ's decision to issue their final decision. Their final decision can accept, reject, or modify the AJ's recommended decision. If the agency fails to issue a final decision, the AJ's recommended decision will become the final decision in the class complaint.
Individual(s) Claim for Relief in a Class Action
When discrimination is found in the final decision, a class member has 30-calendar days from the receipt of notification to file a written claim with the agency about any relief he or she feels they are entitled. The claim for relief must show that the claimant is a class member entitled to relief. The EEOC regulations state that when the discrimination has been proved, there is a presumption of discrimination to each member of the class. The agency must show clear and convincing evidence that any class member is not entitled to relief. The agency must issue a final decision on each individual(s) claim for relief within 90-calendar days of filing. EEOC still has jurisdiction over the claim. Therefore, any appeals must be made to the EEOC's OFO or a civil action may be filed in federal court (29 CFR 1614.204(1)(3)).
Resolution of a Class Action
The class agent and agency can resolve the complaint at any time. Notice of the resolution has to be provided to all class members and reviewed and approved by an EEOC AJ. If the resolution is not considered fair to the class as a whole by the AJ, a decision to vacate the agreement and replace the class agent with some other eligible class member to continue processing the class complaint. The decision can be appealed to the EEOC. If the AJ decides that the resolution is fair to the class as a whole, it is binding on all class members (29 CFR 1614.204g).
Class Action Appeals
For class action appeals, the class agent or the agency may appeal an AJ's decision accepting or dismissing all or part of the class complaint. A class member may appeal a final decision on an individual(s) claim for relief pursuant to a finding of a class-wide discrimination. Finally, the class agent or the agency may appeal from an AJ decision on the adequacy of a proposed settlement of a class action (29 CFR 1614.401c).