Federal employee unions and Democratic lawmakers have criticized a proposed rule that would strip union employees from the right to official time when aiding a colleague to prepare a discrimination complaint.
The chairs of two House committees on Thursday demanded a number of documents from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission related to a proposed rule that federal employee groups say will make it harder for workers to pursue discrimination complaints.
First reported by Government Executive, the EEOC last month proposed regulations that would end the decades-old guarantee that labor representatives at federal agencies will be granted official time to help their fellow employees prepare discrimination complaints. Instead, union officials’ ability to be compensated while they work on EEO complaints will be subject to individual agencies’ collective bargaining agreements.
Since its posting in the Federal Register, federal employee unions have decried the proposal, arguing that although the measure seems aimed at reducing unions’ influence at agencies, it could hurt workers’ chances before the commission and have a chilling effect on reporting discrimination. Although union officials would not be guaranteed official time to work on complaints, non-union officials would be given time.
In a letter to EEOC Chairwoman Janet Dhillon, House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., and House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., announced their own skepticism of the proposed rule.
“For 40 years, EEOC has required that federal agencies allow employees to use work hours to bring formal complaints of employment discrimination against their agencies,” they wrote. “[We] are extremely concerned about the potential effects of this proposed rule on the enforcement of employment anti-discrimination laws and policies affecting federal employees and the fairness of the federal workforce.”
The EEOC’s proposed rule to make the availability of official time for union employees subject to agencies’ union contracts comes at a time when the Trump administration is moving to severely restrict the practice. Many agencies are in the midst of implementing a series of controversial executive orders that significantly reduce the amount of official time available to labor groups, as well as severely restrict what activities are eligible for official time.
In their letter, Maloney and Scott demanded a slew of documents from EEOC, including analyses of how the proposal would affect the number of complaints, whether fewer union-represented complainants might lead to longer and less efficient proceedings before the commission, and any cost benefit analyses related to the proposal.
They also demanded internal communications about the development of the proposal, as well as any correspondence with the Office of Personnel Management or other federal agencies regarding union representation in EEO cases.
The EEOC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.