In a continuing effort to speed up and improve the federal discrimination complaint process, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission released new guidance last week broadening agencies' authority to settle EEO disputes.
The new guidance allows agencies to provide employees with cash settlements and other remedies, as long as no settlement exceeds the amount of relief the employee would be entitled to if discrimination had been found.
"The commission strongly supports the earliest possible settlement of EEO complaints in appropriate cases," said EEOC Chairwoman Ida L. Castro. "By spelling out the standards for settling such cases, this new chapter will enable federal agencies and employees to resolve disputes in a more efficient and expeditious manner."
The new provision gives agencies more flexibility in settling disputes, enabling them to come up with creative solutions that expedite the complaint process and avoid lengthy litigation.
Michael Brostek, associate director of federal management and workforce issues at the General Accounting Office, testified before the House Subcommittee in Civil Service in March that 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.
Possible remedies for complainants under the new provision include:
- Back pay or compensation not exceeding what the employee would be entitled to under EEO laws.
- Cash settlements in lieu of back pay.
- Personnel actions, such as a promotion or reassignment to a different supervisor in cases where the complainant alleges discriminatory failure to promote.
- A combination of monetary compensation and personnel actions.
In cases where settlement agreements affect retirement status, appropriate contributions to retirement funds must be made.
The commission worked closely with the Office of Personnel Management in devising the new guidance.
"It is apparent that it still takes too long to resolve EEO disputes, which has led to frustration and a lack of faith in the system by federal workers and their representatives. The commission is working hard to address the matter," Castro said.
The new guidance is available online at www.eeoc.gov/federal/md110/chapter12.html.