Agencies face challenges in bringing equal opportunity information to remote workforce

Tuesday - 9/2/2014, 5:53pm EDT

Federal agencies are required to keep their employees informed of their rights under Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) laws and regulations. This includes posting relevant contact information where employees can file complaints to EEO counselors.

But, with more people teleworking or working at remote sites, some agencies are facing a growing challenge in disseminating EEO information to their widely dispersed workforce.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's Office of Federal Operations (OFO) attempts to tackle this problem with its new report entitled "Preserving Access to the Legal System."

"OFO provides this compilation of practices and ideas to assist federal agencies in implementing effective communication plans to inform all employees about their rights and responsibilities under federal EEO laws and regulations and to ensure that employees who want to file discrimination complaints know how to initiate the EEO complaint process," the report said. "We note that agencies continue to face challenges in disseminating information and effectively communicating the EEO complaint process to their workforce. Agencies with a decentralized workforce encounter the most challenging communication issues."

In the report, OFO offered a number of best practices and solutions that agencies could adopt in order to better disseminate to their dispersed workforce. Many of the suggestions take advantage of some of the new technologies that are now available, but some are as simple as hosting brown bag lunches with discussions focusing on EEO issues.

Other suggestions include:

  • Send out EEO-themed emails on a quarterly basis, including contact information for EEO counselors. "The communication also indicates that an aggrieved person must initiate contact with an EEO Counselor within 45 days of the date of the matter alleged to be discriminatory," the report said.

  • Create and disseminate brochures that outline the EEO complaint process.

  • Take advantage of the agency's intranet homepage to share EEO information.

  • At each of the agency's facilities, designate an employee as the "EEO Point of Contact." That person will act as an EEO resource for employees seeking information on what are their rights, how they can file a complaint and how they can initiate contact with a counselor.

Information can also be distributed via postal mail, webcasts, town hall meetings, one-on-one communications with supervisors and posters placed in prominent locations at remote work sites.

"Continuous communication of EEO laws and regulations and the complaint process is an important factor in an agency's success in becoming a model EEO program," EEOC wrote in the report. "Federal agencies must ensure a prompt and efficient complaint process and should make employees aware of the various anti-discrimination EEO laws."

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