EEOC dispels misconceptions about federal EEO complaint process
Discrimination may occur in up to a third of federal sector equal employment opportunity (EEO) cases, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). This is one of the “facts” offered by the federal agency in a document aimed at dispelling certain “myths” about the federal sector EEO complaint process.
As to this particular “fact,” the “myth” that the commission seeks to dispel is that bias is found in less that 2 percent of EEO complaints. That statistic tells only part of the story, according to the EEOC, because in fiscal year (FY) 2010, 29 percent of federal sector bias cases were resolved prior to formal determination. Moreover, 55 percent of potential complaints were resolved by settlement or withdrawal prior to the formal filing of a complaint.
In an effort to shed light on the contention that EEO complaints are on the rise because more employees are harassed at work, the EEOC counters that harassment allegations were absent in more than 60 percent of the federal sector EEO complaints filed in FY 2010. Noting that some allegations are based on worker misperceptions and misunderstandings, the commission points out that “gender, ethnic, racial and cultural differences can leave employees feeling isolated, ignored and abandoned, leading to claims of hostile work environments, whether real or perceived.”
The commission also responded to the suggestion that agencies are expending too many resources in processing frivolous bias complaints. Most are not frivolous and “EEO resources pay dividends,” according to the EEOC. Less than half of one percent of the three million federal workers filed an EEO complaint in FY 2010, and the EEO process, which encourages early resolution, saves taxpayers’ money via those early settlements and by avoiding complaints. The commission also points to the “immeasurable benefits” of a discrimination-free workplace.
Finally, the commission clarified that, contrary to claims otherwise, federal agencies are not “hamstrung” when workers who have filed a complaint refuse to cooperate. In FY 2010, 30 percent of the EEO complaint closures resulted in dismissal for administrative reasons, including a complaining worker’s refusal to communicate or cooperate.
“Agencies can avoid the EEO process altogether by working closely with the EEOC to ensure equality, diversity and inclusion for all employees,” according to the myth-busting document that was posted on the EEOC’s website on March 7, 2012. “Like a doctor treating a patient, proactive prevention is still the best medicine to ensure a healthy, discrimination-free workplace.”