The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

Meeting of September 7, 2006, Washington D.C. on Federal Sector EEO Investigations

Statement of Andrea E. Brooks
National Vice President for Women and Fair Practices
American Federation of Government Employees

Good morning Chair Earp, Vice Chair, and Commissioners.  I am pleased to be here today to discuss what I and many others feel is a truly important area of concern for many Federal employees. For those of you who believe that work place discrimination no longer exists, I am here to tell you that it is indeed still a problem that many Federal employees struggle with daily.  Many employees struggle to find a way to cope with what they believe is a wrong, a violation of their rights, but see no clear way of addressing the problem.

The number of EEO cases filed does not reflect the number of employees who believe themselves to be victims of discriminatory practices.   Unfortunately, many federal workers are intimidated by the EEO process. The intimidation occurs when the Agency accused of discrimination conducts its own investigation into the allegations of discrimination.  Intimidation continues when retaliation is witnessed by others because an employee filed an EEO complaint, served as a witness in the EEO process, or spoke out against a perceived discriminatory practice. This retaliation is often committed by the same managers who are perceived to be responsible for the work place environment; the same managers who are charged with creating a work place free from discrimination; and the same agency managers who now hire investigators to review and investigate EEO complaints.

The first step in the formal complaint process for Federal employees is to require the aggrieved party to be dependent upon the employing Agency to find itself guilty of the allegation and to prove that the allegation raised is true. This is in total conflict of everything Americans hold dear, e.g., due process, freedom from self incrimination, and equal treatment for all. The Agency investigator or contractor compiles documents that they deem relevant.  They are also charged with conducting interviews of those who have knowledge about the alleged discrimination. The complainant cannot be certain that the interviews will take place or that the documents compiled are correct.  This information is then assembled into a Report of Investigation or “ROI.” At this point, it should be obvious that this is an opportunity for extreme abuse of power by the Agency, and the contractor and/or Agency investigator—both of whom want to keep their jobs. The ROI is deemed factually impartial, but if incomplete or not factual, it can leave the aggrieved party with a weak case.  The employee is then left scrambling to produce the evidence that may eventually help the case within a short window of the discovery process—if discovery is even allowed. The employee is at a complete disadvantage to contest the findings of the Agency.

The ROI and the investigation process all benefit the Agencies and in no way help to deter workplace discrimination. The workplace is adversely impacted in several ways because of this process.

  1. Mutual distrust between managers and employees.
  2. Workplace stress, which has a negative effect on the employees and their ability to perform their jobs.
  3. Continued retaliation that often occur when the time frame is extended.
  4. Unnecessary delays in achieving justice; Federal employees view long delays in getting to a hearing as justice denied. 

Undeniably there is a conflict of interest in having an agency investigate itself.   AFGE finds the process that EEOC uses for the private sector efficient and beneficial to many American citizens.  Criticism of this process lies with staffing and budgeting.  Therefore AFGE recommends:

  1. The task of investigating EEO complaints in the Federal sector be reassigned from the employing agency to the EEOC; this will avoid inherit conflicts of interest.
  2.  A separate unit within EEOC be established to hear Federal EEO complaints. 
  3. Sufficient funding be allocated to hire adequate staff to perform investigations and process cases in a timely manner in both the public and private sectors.

These recommendations can be accomplished by revising the current EEOC regulation 29 CFR 1614 and by closing the poor performing Call Center that is wasting millions of taxpayers’ dollars.  Establishing EEOC as an independent agency with the ability to conduct investigations of employment discrimination within the Federal government would eliminate claims of agency bias.  It would also allow the EEOC a clear and unambiguous avenue to meet its mission of eliminating employment discrimination in the Federal government.

AFGE strongly recommends this process for the investigations of EEO complaints because it provides Federal employees with a fair and open opportunity to address their concerns about workplace discrimination.

I would like to thank the Commission for granting me this opportunity to speak today on an issue that deserves our full attention.  I want to encourage the Commission to continue to remain open to ideas on how to combat workplace discrimination.  

This page was last modified on September 7, 2006.

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