The EEOC has launched a test at five of its offices of an online inquiry and appointment system, designed to allow members of the public to electron¬ically submit initial inquiries and requests for intake interviews with the agency.

The change is part of a trend among agencies seeking to reduce the need for resource-intensive face-to-face interactions at the initial stages of contact with a member of the public; the IRS for example has found that many of the issues previously resolved in personal interactions can be handled without them.

The EEOC said it receives about 200,000 inquiries per year through the mail, in person, and by phone. “About 90,000 of those inquiries become formal charges of discrimination filed with the agency, making the charge-filing process the agency’s most common interaction with the public,” it said.

The system is operating in the Charlotte, N.C., Chicago, New Orleans, Phoenix and Seattle offices, and apply to those living or working within 100 miles of those offices. The results will be evaluated in advance of a planned nationwide rollout.

“This new system will make the EEOC much more accessible to the public — it’s a big step forward in the agency’s move to online services,” the agency said.