Federal Manager's Daily Report

An IG audit has said that a lack of data on disciplinary actions at the SEC made it unable to assess whether there are disparities by demographic groups in those actions.

The IG noted that in 2014 it found that minority groups and women were underrepresented in the SEC workforce, received relatively fewer and smaller cash awards and bonuses, experienced statistically significant lower performance management and recognition scores, and filed EEO complaints at rates higher than their percentage of the workforce.

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The IG said that it considered comparing penalties that employees received for misconduct to demographic variables to determine whether certain groups received harsher penalties for similar types of misconduct. However, it said that records of about a third of disciplinary actions included either multiple charges of misconduct or no charges identified, “making actions difficult to compare.” Instead, it focused on comparing the total number of cases that were referred to agency general counsel’s office that ended in either a corrective or disciplinary action to the demographics of the SEC as a whole.

“That comparison, on its face, could suggest disparities among certain groups, but ultimately we concluded that the information the SEC currently maintains on employee misconduct and corrective/disciplinary actions is not sufficient to draw meaningful conclusions regarding any suggested disparities. This is not to say that the agency improperly took any particular corrective or disciplinary action,” the report said.

“However, because there is no comprehensive requirement or process for managers to report suspected misconduct—before deciding whether to take action—to OIG and/or management, there is no comprehensive repository for allegations of employee misconduct, and thus no way to associate existing demographic data with those allegations. In sum, complete data related to all three of these components—employee misconduct, corrective and disciplinary actions, and demographics—must be present in order for a review of this type to be meaningful,” it said.

The report instead recommended that the SEC collect fuller data on disciplinary actions and routinely comparing that data to the agency’s overall demographics. It also recommended that the SEC “reduce the potential for bias in its corrective and disciplinary actions by better standardizing its processes and training management on the effects of bias when handling employee misconduct.”

The report did not include a response from management, although the agency promised to reply.

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