Fedweek Legal

On March 27, 2003, a coalition of civil rights organizations, employee

advocates and other interested parties submitted a 7-step proposal to improve

the federal sector EEO process to the EEOC. This proposal is in response to

EEOC’s intent to drastically change the EEO process to curtail federal

employees’ rights to a hearing on charges of discrimination. The coalition

highlighted that its proposal was intended to achieve the co-existing goals

of: 1) adding (or restoring) credibility to the process; 2) making the

process more timely; and, 3) preserving the EEOC’s primary federal-sector

role as the adjudicator of claims of discrimination.

The 7-step proposal consisted of the following recommendations: 1)

alternative dispute resolution (including, but not necessarily limited to,

mediation) should be mandatory at the EEOC hearing stage and for managers at

the informal/formal administrative stages; 2) EEOC should adopt a uniform

standard for what complaints “state a claim,” which standard is acceptable

to all stakeholders, consistent with law; 3) cases should be assigned to one

of three “litigation tracks” depending upon the complexity and detail of the

issues involved; 4) agency EEO directors must report directly to the agency

head; to ensure compliance with this requirement, in its annual report to

congress, the EEOC should specifically identify which agencies are not in

compliance with this requirement; 5) agency counsel must be prohibited from

interfering with the EEO investigation, and the EEOC should adopt minimum

standards for EEO investigations; 6) agencies should be required to issue a

“180-day letter”, informing the employees of their right to immediately

request to hearing; and, 7) EEOC must take steps to regain its prominence as

the agency of the United States Government responsible for ensuring

compliance with anti-discrimination laws and to become a “change agent” for

those agency cultures where discrimination is tolerated.

The coalition was emphatic in insisting on the maintenance of the

investigative function at the agency level and on the continuation of EEOC

hearings. These two issues are consistent with the recommendations made on

an August 5, 2002 letter sent to EEOC from eleven organizations affiliated

with the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Employment Task Force and with

the majority of the panelists who testified at a November 12, 2002 open

session meeting at EEOC.

The coalition supporting these proposals consists of various groups and

employee advocates, including: the American Federation of Government

Employees; Blacks in Government, Region XI Council; The Council of Federal

EEO and Civil Rights Executives; National Association for the Advancement of

Colored People; NAACP, Federal Sector Task Force; and the National Employment

Lawyers Association. Passman & Kaplan, PC, the author of this article, is a

supporting member of the coalition.

** This information is provided by the attorneys at Passman

& Kaplan, P.C., a law firm dedicated to the representation

of federal employees worldwide. For more information on

Passman & Kaplan, P.C., go to http://www.passmanandkaplan.com. **