EEOC Complaint Processing by Federal Agencies

The Equal Employment Opportunity Act enacted by Congress in 1972, provided for increased authority in the area of employment discrimination and extended protection to many different classes of individuals in an effort to reduce or eliminate discriminatory practices in the workplace. Major provisions of the Act included ("The 1970s: The Toothless Tiger" Gets its Teeth," n. d): 1. The EEOC received litigation authority to sue nongovernmental respondents' employers unions, and employment agencies. 2. The EEOC could file pattern or practice lawsuits.

Title VII coverage was expanded to include the Federal Government and state and local governments, as well as elementary, secondary, and higher educational institutions. 4. The number of employees needed for Title VII coverage over employers was reduced from 25 to15. 5. The Equal Employment Opportunity Coordinating Council was established, composed of EEOC, the Departments of Justice and Labor, the Civil Service Commission, and the Civil Rights Commission to 'maximize effort, promote efficiency, and eliminate conflict, competition, duplication and inconsistency' among the various federal programs.

Resultant of several important cases brought before the Supreme Court of the United States, the enforcement authority of regulators at the EEOC continued to expand and support the commission's general characterization of discrimination by adding protections for women, immigrants, older workers, and minorities. In an effort to streamline and simplify the process, members of the Carter administration consolidated many federal EEO programs through executive order, and in 1978, Congress passed the Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures (UGESEP) (Barrett and Barrett, 2004).

With the cooperation of the Department of Labor, Department of Justice, and other federal agencies, overseers at the EEOC continued to expand the organizations role in education and enforcement of employment and discrimination law and in fulfilling its mission of addressing every individual complaint of discrimination in the workplace. Throughout the 1980s, officials from the EEOC continued to oversee and expand employment discrimination protection for every class of minority worker (EEOC, 2003).

During the early 1990s the commissioner of the EEOC continued to expand its jurisdiction and authority as Congress passed several other important acts and laws aimed at further eliminating discrimination in the workplace including the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Civil Rights Act of 1991, and the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act. (Barrett and Barrett, 2004). These newly adopted federal programs included many important enhanced protections for a variety of oppressed individuals in an ongoing effort to eliminate workplace discrimination and provide for fair and impartial employment practices.

The Civil Rights Act of 1991, passed in November of that same year, provided workers with the right to demand jury trials and recover compensatory and punitive damages under Title VII of the Act in lawsuits involving intentional discrimination (Barrett and Barrett, 2004). Throughout its history, members of the EEOC have taken on the responsibility of educating the public about employment discrimination and encouraged voluntary compliance of discrimination laws by employers while continuously increasing its enforcement role.

Over the years, this highly effective organization has evolved to meet the challenges presented by inequality in the workplace by providing assistance to businesses and civil rights groups through various methods including the hosting of seminars and conferences aimed at both educating and promoting affirmative action and equal employment practices (EEOC, 2003). Because of the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the EEOC (2005) was created to eradicate discrimination in the workplace.

Since 1964, the EEOC has grown in both its area of responsibility and enforcement authority and today is the federal governments "lead enforcement agency in the area of workplace discrimination" ("Pre-1965,") EEOC regulations require all federal agencies to utilize ADR programs and encourage voluntary settlement of EEO complaints as expeditiously as possible. After FY 2000, the commissioner of the EEOC required every agency within the federal government to implement and make ADR available for employees to settle EEO complaints.

In addition, the commissioner of the EEOC (2005) has made ADR central to its five-point plan to improve the process asserting: Agencies have the discretion to determine when an EEO matter is appropriate for ADR. They may establish written procedures to identify when ADR will be offered, or they may decide to offer ADR on a case-by-case basis. Agencies may not decline to offer ADR to particular cases solely because of the basis involved (i. e. , race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, disability, or retaliation).

("Executive Summary, section A, ) Filing a complaint is a three-step process: 1). Employees have up to 45 days after the alleged discriminatory act took place to contact an EEO counselor; 2). The individual can choose either counseling or accept ADR processes; 3). If either process does not end in settlement of the complaint, the employee may file an official complaint with the offending agency (Facts about Federal Sector EEOC Processing Regulations, 2003, April 23, Filing a Complaint with a Federal Agency).

If the agency staff accepts the complaint, an investigation is conducted and a copy of the findings provided to the complainant. If the findings by the investigation are not acceptable to the employee the individual may request a hearing or request a final agency decision, appeal to the EEOC, or revert to more formal and traditional resolution processes by filing an action in federal court. All investigations must be complete within 180 days in order to meet EEOC timeliness guidelines.