EEOC Proposes Changes To Federal Discrimination Complaint Process
Alyssa Rosenberg | Government Executive
December 23, 2009
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission this week unveiled a wide range of changes to how discrimination complaints in federal agencies are filed, processed and decided.
The recommendations were the product of an internal agency working group, led by acting EEOC Chairman Stuart Ishimaru, and inspired by a 2002 public meeting held to solicit suggestions for improving the EEO complaint process.
Peggy Mastroianni, EEOC’s deputy legal counsel, said the working group decided to proceed with incremental changes that would update the complaints process and make agencies more aware of their responsibilities.
EEOC stakeholders have in the past proposed broader overhauls — suggesting, for example, that agencies no longer be allowed to perform initial investigations of discrimination complaints, or that the federal complaint process be modified to look more like the private sector process. But Mastroianni said the working group focused on issues on which it could reach consensus.
Among the process updates EEOC outlined in a Federal Register notice published on Monday was a requirement that agencies file responses to complaints electronically, and that federal employees be encouraged to file complaints online as well.
Gabrielle Martin, president of the American Federation of Government Employees Council of EEOC Locals, cautioned that such a process might disadvantage certain federal workers.
“If electronic submissions are to be the norm, agencies must be accountable for providing this technology to complainants,” Martin said. “Otherwise, this will be another strike against complainants who paper file and whose files are not as readily [or] easily reviewable, causing dismissals.”
The proposed regulations also would change the way class complaints are handled. Currently, after administrative judges render decisions in such cases, agencies can accept, reject, or modify the findings in their final decisions. The regulations would make judges’ findings final, giving agencies the option only to accept or appeal them.
In addition, under the proposed regulations, if an agency failed to finish an investigation into a discrimination complaint within the 180-day time limit, it would be required to inform the employee who filed the complaint when the investigation would be finished. The agency also would have to let the employee know he or she had the right to request a hearing into the complaint or to file a lawsuit.