Misleading Language in Employment Complaint Letters

Workers with employment grievances before the state Human Rights Commission were instructed to “do nothing” until the commission reached a decision in their case, a misleading statement that may have discouraged some workers form pursuing their cases through the courts, state auditors have found.

The commission issued letters to complainants telling them you “are to do nothing” until receiving a determination notice in the case, even though workers had the right to file lawsuits at any time within one year of their complaint, the recently released audit covering two years to September 2010 said.

The commission in its formal response said it did not agree with auditors and that investigators “frequently inform complainants about their options to file a lawsuit as opposed to continuing an investigation.” But the commission still removed the problematic “do nothing” language from its letters.

Auditors also found that the commission was prematurely submitting cases as closed, a violation of its contract with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The commission had failed to wait until after the 30-day appeal period before closing each case, based on a sample of cases over two years. The commission said it has since corrected the process.

Auditors also said the commission needed to maintain tighter controls to guard against falsified case information and to close housing cases more efficiently.