A fact finding conference (FFC) is a meeting convened by the agency investigating a charge of discrimination to speak to the parties face-to-face. The meeting helps the investigator in determining whether there is sufficient evidence to take the case to an administrative law judge. The FFC typically lasts for about two (2) hours. If a Complainant does not attend or is late, his/her case will likely be dismissed. If a Respondent fails to appear, the agency may enter a default judgment against it, resulting in a finding in favor of the Complainant. During most conferences, the investigator also makes time to discuss possible settlement or other resolution of the case without litigation. The following persons are usually present:
- The investigator from the agency investigating your charge;
- The Complainant and his/her attorney(s);
- Attorney(s) for the Respondent; and
- A company representative for the Respondent.
The investigator typically opens the FFC by reading an opening statement which lays out the rules, course, and procedures for the conference. The Complainant is then required to review the charge in front of all those present, state whether the allegations are true and if any corrections are to be made to the charge.
After the charge is reviewed, the investigator leads a formal discussion of all the allegations in the charge. The investigator will ask the Complainant whether the allegations in the charge are true, and will ask the Respondent whether it agrees or disagrees with the charge allegations. Each side is then given the opportunity respond to the others comments. In preparation for the conference:
- Review the charge throughly to verify that the facts are accurate;
- Try to remember all the incidents, dates, and witnesses to any of the allegations. A good way to do this might be by preparing notes to help your memory;
- Attempt to obtain the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of any potential witnesses to provide the investigator;
- Locate and review any documents that relate to any damages in the case; and
- Prepare a schedule of any lost pay and/or benefits for the discussion regarding possible settlement of the case.
Because fact-finding conferences often involve issues that are difficult for both the employer and employee, it is important to ensure a fruitful session with the following tips:
- Be courteous to the investigator and other attendees;
- Do not interrupt the investigator or other attendees. Most investigators typically give each side an opportunity to respond to issues;
- Make eye-contact and speak directly with the investigator instead of your opponent;
- While your opponent is speaking, take down notes to remind yourself of issues or matters that need to be clarified when it is your turn to speak;
- Remember to stay focused on the allegations in the charge instead of unrelated matters or improper conduct unrelated to the charge allegations. The agency can only investigate allegations related to those on the charge;
- If the investigator requests additional information, be sure to provide it by the deadline. Failure to cooperate with the agency is grounds for judgment against you.
At the conclusion of the conference, the investigator reads a closing statement which advises the parties of what to expect, when a decision is likely to be rendered, and any additional documentation and/or material that is required of the parties.
Each party should attend the fact-finding conference fully prepared to discussed settlement or other resolution of the matter. The investigator usually attempts to get the parties to settle the case during the conference. Even though most cases do not settle at such conferences, both parties are expected to make a good faith attempt to reach a settlement.