EEOC gets grilled for slow complaint processing

During a crowded and occasionally tense hearing Wednesday, members of a House subcommittee expressed frustration at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's handling of discrimination complaints by federal employees.

In his testimony before the House Government Reform Subcommittee on the Civil Service, Michael Brostek, associate director of federal management and workforce issues at the General Accounting Office, said the rise in discrimination complaints during the last decade has overwhelmed the abilities of EEOC and federal agencies to process cases in a timely fashion. GAO also found problems with the type of data EEOC collected from agencies and the reliability of that data.

"We found that the kinds of data EEOC collected did not provide answers to such basic questions as the number of employees filing complaints, the kinds of discrimination they were alleging, or the specific conditions or events that caused them to file," Brostek said.

When asked by subcommittee chairman Joe Scarborough, R-Fla., if the EEOC had improved over the last five years, Brostek said case backlogs have actually increased amid a flurry of new complaint filings.

"There is a fatal flaw in the EEO process," said Del. Eleanor Holmes-Norton, D-D.C., former head of the EEOC. Norton interrogated Carlton Hadden, acting director of federal operations at EEOC, on the agency's performance measures and number of case settlements. She also blasted the agency for not making more of an effort to reduce complaints and improve data collection efforts.

"Your goals look too modest. You have to incorporate in your request [to Congress] for resources a showing of efficiency. If you show efficiency, you have the credibility to get resources," Norton said.

Both Brostek and Hadden cited recent revisions to the federal EEO complaint process as an important step in revamping the system.

For example, all federal agencies are now required to establish Alternative Dispute Resolution programs, which are designed to settle disputes outside a courtroom using some form of arbitration or mediation.

Witnesses from the Postal Service and the Air Force praised ADR efforts and said the mediation process has worked well in their agencies. Roger Blanchard, assistant deputy chief of personnel at the Air Force, emphasized the flexibility each agency should have to develop its own ADR program.

Gerald R. Reed, president of Blacks in Government, said Congress should criminalize certain civil rights violations. Federal managers should be held personally liable for discrimination, he said. "If there is no incentive to enforce [the Civil Rights Act], why do we have a process in the first place?" he asked.

Hadden also noted that an interagency task force is currently devising options for improving the federal EEO process.

Editor's Note: In an earlier version of this article, we incorrectly reported that three-fourths of federal EEO complaints are dismissed. In his testimony, the EEOC's Carlton Hadden explained that three-fourths of complaints in an experimental pilot program at the Census Bureau were dismissed for reasons such as failure to state a claim and timeliness. We regret the error.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.