Fedweek

Unions say barring official time would have a chilling effect on the ability of workers to successfully challenge workplace discrimination.

Several federal unions have said that a proposed ban on the use of official time for representing federal employees pursuing EEO complaints will result in a heightened risk of losing valid complaints.

A draft EEOC rule change would bar union representatives from using official time to work on EEO complaints government-wide, which would reverse a practice in effect since the early 1970s. That is a separate, but parallel, effort to the Trump administration’s executive orders, with implementing rules already proposed by OPM and projected to be finalized in March, to limit the amounts and other allowable uses of that time, which is on-the-clock time for employees with union roles to spend on certain union duties.

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The proposed EEOC rule “would deny federal workers who have discrimination claims the right to choose their union to represent them in the EEO process,” the NFFE union said. “This hurts federal employees because the EEO process in the federal sector can be confusing and technical. Federal workers who serve as union stewards and officers are knowledgeable about their agency’s EEO processes and have experience assisting their fellow bargaining unit employees that have faced discrimination on the job.”

The change would “have a chilling effect on the ability of workers to successfully challenge workplace discrimination,” the AFGE union said, and “more victims of discrimination will likely lose their cases as they won’t have access to the help they need.”

Union representation comes at no cost to a bargaining unit employee, they added, noting that employees would have to pay if they chose to hire an outside attorney to pursue their case.