This attachment can be used to develop or refine counseling techniques when traditional counseling is selected.Below are suggested methods to follow in each step of the counseling process.
EEO counseling consists of the following steps:
In reviewing each step, the Counselor must remember that each informal resolution situation will be different and each Counselor will have his/her own style.There will probably be times when the Counselor will need to make modifications to fit the situation.
Also, the Counselor must advise the aggrieved person that the aggrieved person will remain anonymous during counseling unless s/he chooses not to remain anonymous. 1614.105(g).
After listening to and asking questions of the aggrieved person, it may become apparent that s/he is not alleging discrimination on one or more of the bases protected by the anti-discrimination laws.For example, a person may allege that s/he was the target of reprisal for union activities.In the absence of facts to show that the union activities are related to participation in protected EEO activities or related to opposing discriminatory practices, the Counselor can offer other alternatives for redress.
When the dispute involves an allegation of discrimination, the Counselor should proceed with the initial counseling session and do the following:
Learning early on exactly what it is that the aggrieved person is seeking may well provide the basis for a prompt resolution and save everyone time.
The Counselor's approach to a given situation will depend on several factors, including the following:
The Counselor may be required to interview witnesses and review agency records.An inquiry into an EEO dispute begins when the Counselor attempts to gather information following the initial meeting with the aggrieved person. Upon completion of this initial meeting with the aggrieved person, the issue(s) raised should be clearly defined and the basis(es), i.e., race, color, sex (including equal pay), religion, national origin, age, reprisal, and/or disability, identified.The Counselor should keep in mind that the aggrieved person is best able to assist in defining the issue(s) since s/he is an involved party.The Counselor should not conclude an initial interview with the aggrieved party without a clear understanding of the issue(s) and basis(es).The direction the inquiry will take depends upon the Counselor's understanding of the issue(s) and basis(es). If the issue(s) involves a personnel action, it will be necessary to identify the action with as much specificity as possible.For example, if the aggrieved person alleges discrimination in a promotion action, the Counselor must at least determine the position applied for, and whether the aggrieved person was qualified, was on the list of best qualified candidates, was interviewed, and whether a selection was made.This information will help to focus the inquiry so that the Counselor will know what portion of the personnel action is at issue.The Counselor must include dates to ensure that the dispute was raised in a timely manner.For those issues that involve actions other than personnel actions documented by an SF-50, the data gathering approach is the same, but gathering information can be more difficult.
If the Counselor determines that witness interviews are necessary, s/he should attempt to interview witnesses who have direct knowledge of a particular situation.The Counselor should limit witness interviews to those persons who can provide information that will help the Counselor better understand the dispute so that resolution can be attempted.Sometimes witness interviews will be the only source of information other than information obtained from the aggrieved person and the agency.Such disputes would include allegations of harassment, either sexual or otherwise, or situations where the issue raised is one of inappropriate conduct or treatment based on a prohibited reason.In addition to interviewing witnesses to obtain information, it may be necessary to review agency records as part of the inquiry into the dispute.
When looking at individual records, the EEO Counselor should keep in mind that his/her role is to achieve informal resolution at the lowest possible level, so the number of records reviewed should be kept to a minimum.Only records of the aggrieved person and of those who allegedly received different, more favorable treatment should be examined in an effort to achieve informal resolution.
The Counselor's first contact may be at the personnel office, but the Counselor may determine other sources for obtaining needed documents.
For situations which EEO Counselors encounter often, the following types of issues will require review of certain records:
(1) Promotion - The promotion folder should include the vacancy announcement, job description, ranking/rating factors, and SF- 171 or applications of at least the aggrieved person and the selectee.The Counselor should notify the personnel office that an EEO inquiry was made concerning a promotion action.The Counselor should request that documents relating to the promotion action, which might ordinarily be destroyed, be retained while the inquiry is pending.
Time and Attendance - Agency regulations/orders on time and attendance, time and attendance records of the aggrieved person and person(s) the aggrieved person is comparing himself/herself to, and how each is treated.
Training -Agency procedures for requesting and recommending training, any forms required, training approved and denied with reason(s).
Appraisal/Rating - Agency regulations/orders on system implementation and administration, elements and standards, performance requirements, rating of the aggrieved person, and ratings prepared by same rating and/or reviewing official of similarly situated employees.
EEO counseling will often involve the use of various techniques to bring about early resolution. For example, it may include:
(1) Holding separate meetings, followed by joint meetings, and then telephone contact to work out details of an agreement;
(2) Holding a joint meeting to set forth the facts as both sides see them, followed by separate meetings with the parties in which the various possibilities for resolution are explored; or
(3) Conducting a conference call or separate telephone calls to the parties during which the dispute is resolved.Care should be taken to protect anonymity unless waived.
(1) Gives the aggrieved person and the agency an opportunity to present the facts as each sees them and to clarify points of confusion or misunderstanding.
2) Gives the parties an opportunity to explore directly with each other the means for resolving issues underlying the problems.
(3) Helps the parties establish a more constructive working relationship by getting a better understanding of each other's concerns.
(4) Enables the parties to "shake hands" on any agreements reached and to work together to put them in writing.
(5) Allows the Counselor better control of the process, making sure that the parties treat each other as equals and that threats or coercion are not used.
(1) Risks a blow-up, a hardening of positions, and increased antagonism.
(2) May require the parties to call a recess to explore changes in position with others (e.g., counsel).
(3) May be difficult to schedule.
(4) Can be costly when the parties are in different locations.
(1) The parties' positions are based on different facts or different perceptions of the same facts.
(2) The parties have not had an opportunity to talk with each other or would like a way to reopen discussions.
(3) The Counselor is confident that s/he will be able to control the joint meeting.
(1) Allows the Counselor to learn more about the parties' specific concerns and priorities.
(2) Allows the Counselor to explore alternatives.
(3) Allows the parties to ask questions they do not want to ask in front of the other party.
(4) Prevents the possibility of intimidation.
(5) May be easier to schedule than a joint meeting.
(1) May lead the parties to wonder what the Counselor is saying to the other side.
(2) Unless the resolution reached through separate meetings is re-stated in a joint meeting or through a conference call, the parties do not have the opportunity to talk with each other to make sure each has the same interpretation of the agreement.It is easier for the parties to blame the Counselor for any future misunderstanding about the resolution.
(3) May put the Counselor in the position of having to pass messages back and forth between parties.Misunderstanding of the messages may occur in their transmission.
(1) The parties' hostility and antagonism can get in the way of substantive discussions.
(2) The Counselor needs a better understanding of issues and priorities to be able to control a subsequent joint meeting.
(3) The Counselor needs to help one or both parties be realistic about possible solutions.
(4) Scheduling is a problem.
(5) The parties do not have a current relationship.
(6) One party is afraid to meet with the other.
(1) May be easier to schedule and quicker than joint meetings.
(2) Less costly.
(3) For advantages of conference calls, refer to advantages of joint meetings.
(4) For advantages of separate calls, refer to advantages of separate meetings.
(1) Impersonal communication resulting from the inability to see how the person is responding to what is said.Harder to gain the rapport needed to explore issues and alternatives.
(2) For disadvantages of conference calls, refer to disadvantages of joint meetings.Note: it may be easier to hang up the telephone than leave a meeting chaired by an EEO Counselor.
(3) For disadvantages of separate calls, refer to disadvantages of separate meetings.
(1) The parties are in different locales and are not logistically able to meet face to face.
(2) The issues are comparatively easy to deal with, such as those based on a misunderstanding or incorrect information.
(3) The Counselor needs more information to determine if counseling is productive, and scheduling a meeting for this purpose is too time-consuming.
When the Counselor has a good grasp of the issues involved and has decided on which EEO counseling technique to use, s/he is ready to attempt resolution. Resolution of an EEO problem means that the aggrieved person and the agency come to terms with a problem and agree on a solution.The Counselor should generally concentrate on resolving individual cases independently but, when appropriate, should ask for assistance from the EEO officer in reaching a solution or correcting a problem.When asking the EEO officer for help, the Counselor should relate what s/he has learned in the inquiry (using the aggrieved person's name only if s/he has given permission) and be prepared to recommend specific action.
There is no set formula for a Counselor to follow in attempting a resolution using the techniques described. The Counselor can attempt resolution by talking with the parties separately or together.The Counselor can talk with them together only if the aggrieved person has given permission; otherwise, they must be spoken with separately.
The following subsections highlight barriers faced when attempting resolution and provide guidance on how to attempt resolution using the EEO counseling techniques of joint meetings, separate meetings, and telephone communication.
In order to resolve an EEO dispute, the agency and the aggrieved person must agree on a solution.However, only the agency has the authority to resolve an EEO dispute. Like most situations involving two parties, the Counselor can expect barriers to resolution of EEO disputes.These barriers can be put up by both parties.The challenge is to overcome these barriers and work out a solution.
Sometimes barriers can be overcome by bringing the parties together and having them candidly discuss their attitude toward working out a solution.Other times, barriers can be lessened by helping the parties explore possible outcomes if the dispute is escalated to the formal complaint level.However, the EEO Counselor must recognize that not all barriers can be overcome and attempts at resolution should end when it is apparent that the parties are unable to come to an agreement.
(1) "There was no discrimination, so nothing should be done."
(2) "The decision at issue was correctly made, procedures were correct, nothing should be done for the aggrieved person."
(3) "Resolution will encourage frivolous complaints."
(4) "Subordinates and supervisors will lose respect for a manager who settles rather than fights."
(1) "Discrimination must be punished."
(2) "My manager must be disciplined."
(3) "My manager must apologize"
(4) "No remedy is sufficient."
(5) "The agency must pay punitive damages."(1)
This subsection outlines the steps and activities involved in arranging and conducting joint meetings.The Counselor should make sure the aggrieved person has consented to joint meetings with the agency before arranging a joint meeting.
(1) Is there a suitable and feasible alternative to the joint meeting?If so, the Counselor should use it.
(2) Does the scheduling problem appear to be real, or does it appear to be a delaying tactic?
(3) If the scheduling problem appears to be real, how do the parties feel about postponing the meeting?Would a request for an extension make resolution within 30 days impossible?
(4) If the scheduling problem is more of a delaying tactic and if there is no suitable alternative to a joint meeting, the Counselor should terminate counseling.
The Counselor should:
(1) If one party does not appear for the meeting, the Counselor should find out why.Discuss the issues involved with the party who does appear.Try to get a sense of what it would take to resolve the dispute.See if the party is interested in continuing EEO counseling and is willing to reschedule the meeting.
(2) If one of the parties is about to break off discussions and leave in a huff, the Counselor should try to calm the parties down and do the following:
(1) Later, if appropriate, the Counselor can clarify what happened and try to regain acceptance.
(2) Apologize for any misconceptions that might have been created.
(3) Decide whether to terminate EEO counseling.
A joint EEO counseling session can end in one of the following ways:
The Counselor should make sure that each party agrees on the way the meeting is ending.
Separate EEO counseling sessions with each party can be used in place of or to supplement joint meetings.If separate meetings are to be used, the parties should know:
The following paragraphs describe situations which may occur in separate meetings and suggest ways each situation might be handled.
(1) The Counselor can explore alternative solutions to the problem, for example, suggesting that the agency consult with appropriate officials to review the dispute and merits with a view towards possible resolution.The Counselor should consult with his/her EEO officer to discuss the dispute before a suggestion is made to the agency to consult with legal counsel.
(2) The Counselor must be careful not to prejudge a case because a formal investigation may not find the situation to be as the parties described it.
(3) The Counselor may assist the agency and the aggrieved person in reaching an acceptable resolution of the dispute.
(1) Inform the parties that s/he cannot comment on the strength or weakness of a given situation.
(2) Let the parties judge the strength and weakness of an allegation.
The general procedures outlined for joint and separate meetings also apply to telephone conference calls and separate telephone calls to each party.However, at the start of the conversation the Counselor should:
1. Under the Civil Rights Act of 1991, punitive damages are not available against a federal employer.
This page was last modified on November 8, 1999.
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