The EEOC has said that during internal investigations of EEO complaints, that conflicts of interest, “real or perceived, can arise when the responsible management official who is alleged to have engaged in discriminatory conduct is within the EEO office, or has undue influence over agency personnel.”
The EEOC issued a report on best practices for agencies to follow in such situations in response to requests from agencies for guidance on how to handle cases where such a conflict arises and concerns from employees about the way an EEO office processed such a case. Following work that involved a survey, document reviews, focus groups and meetings with agency officials, the EEOC recommended that agencies have a written policy that “clearly defines what constitutes a conflict case at the agency.”
“Sometimes complainants will claim to have a conflict case when there is no true conflict of interest. For example, they believe that employees in the EEO office are biased. If an agency has a written definition of a conflict case, it can refer the complainants to the definition and explain why their cases are not in fact conflict cases, and that they will process the complaints through their normal channels,” it said.
Agencies “may find it helpful” to include a specific person responsible for making the ultimate determination regarding the nature of a complainant’s alleged conflict case, it added, and to designate a specific point of contact for conflict cases.
Other recommendations included that agencies: develop a separate internal document for employees who will be involved in the processing of conflict cases; take additional steps to protect confidentiality by using additional password protection or tracking such cases through a separate system; and enter into memos of understanding with other agencies to investigate such cases and delegate the writing of the final agency decision to the third party.