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Developments at the EEOC: Report on Federal Employee Racial Obstacles

Developments at the EEOC:  On March 13, 2013, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued a report from its African American Working Group, discussing the findings of the African American Working Group concerning continuing obstacles facing African-American federal employees.  The report was prepared at the request of the EEOC Office of Federal Operations, and summarized the observations of various stakeholder groups which were polled by the African American Working Group.

The African American Working Group report identified seven key obstacles which were flagged by the stakeholder groups.  Of particular interest is obstacle 7, which identified the stakeholders' observation that "EEO regulations and laws are not adequately followed by agencies and are not effectively enforced."  The report identified as a key concern the EEOC's lack of authority to impose discipline on managers found by the EEOC to have discriminated against employees.  While EEOC administrative judges have the authority to suggest that agencies consider disciplining such offending managers, the agencies have discretion to not impose discipline.  The African American Working Group report notes stakeholders' perception that agencies do not discipline the offending managers, creating a perception "that the federal government does not take discrimination seriously."  The stakeholders made several key recommendations to address this weakness, including that "Agenc[ies] should consider demotion and/or removal of managerial duties of management officials who have been found to have engaged in unlawful discrimination or have inadequately responded to harassment.", "The EEOC should publicize findings of discrimination in the federal sector via press releases.", "The EEOC should seek legal authority to order punishment for responsible management officials.", and "The EEOC should enter into a new agreement with the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) and explore ways to refer more cases in which agencies have failed to comply with our orders or if a violation warrants prosecution by OSC."

The other obstacles identified in the African American Working Group report were the continuing role of unconscious biases against African-Americans in federal employment decisions, lack of access to mentoring and networking opportunities, insufficient training and developmental assignments, narrow recruitment methods, perceptions of racism dampening career aspirations among African-American federal employees and applicants, and overreliance of formal educational credentials in employment decisions.    

If you are a federal employee or applicant for federal employment and believe that you have suffered unequal treatment on the basis of your race, please contact the law firm of Passman & Kaplan, P.C. to request a consultation.

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