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:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care


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