EEOC gives tips for preventing discrimination claims

Thursday - 7/7/2011, 3:29pm EDT

Melissa Brand, attorney advisor, EEOC

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By Courtney Thompson
Federal News Radio

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is helping agencies reduce the number of employer retaliation cases in the workplace.

Melissa Brand, an attorney advisor at the EEOC, spoke with Federal News Radio, about ways that agencies can address discrimination claims.

"A lot of times, these workplace disputes might just be miscommunications, and all that is required is that a neutral party sit down and both sides can just be heard," Brand said. "That can alleviate a lot of the complaints that have been filed."

During fiscal year 2010, the EEOC reported resolving 7,213 out of 7,707 federal hearing requests and securing more than $63 million collectively for those employees. The agency's performance and accountability report also said that the number of federal appeals resolved within the 180-day goal had increased during to 4,607 from 4,207 appeals in FY 2009.

The attorney recommended that agencies conduct self assessments of programs to find causes of discrimination or problems with the complaint process, and she added that employees should ensure "demonstrated commitment" from agency leaders and hold management and EEO officials accountable when discrimination claims are presented.

Brand said that agencies can proactively prevent discrimination through training opportunities for employees and EEO staff and also by submitting EEOC reports in a timely manner.

The 2010 report said that the EEOC held more than 3,000 educational, training and outreach events to help nearly 250,000 participants despite a decrease in the number of events held in 2009. It also said that the agency's training institute trained over 20,000 individuals including federal government employees during the fiscal year.

Additionally, she said that the commission encourages Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Programs, which manage claims before they reach the formal complaint phase, are only successful if agencies treat it as an important part of the EEO process.

"We require all agencies to have an ADR program in place." Brand said and that the programs can save complainants time if settled informally or at the pre-complaint stage.

"The total time of these complaints can be very long, so being able to resolve this at the ADR stage would be very helpful," Brand added.

She said that the EEOC is working with agencies to find causes of discrimination through program evaluations that let them audit problems specific to their work environment. She added that the EEOC is encouraging agencies to send claims so that the staff can create a model plan for agencies during their Excel Conference this August.

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Courtney Thompson is an intern with Federal News Radio.

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