According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), in fiscal year 2014, 14,343 individuals filed 15,013 complaints alleging employment discrimination against the federal government.
Who pays for the time spent in preparing, filing and processing these complaints? Does Uncle Sam pay employees while they are filing a complaint against their employer?
The guidance in this column is general guidance that may be of interest to our readers. As noted below, check with your agency for specific requirements that may apply to your situation in your agency.
Generally, the answer is “yes”, the federal government bears the cost of time spent with regard to EEO complaints.
In accordance with 29 CFR 1614.605(b), all Federal employees are entitled to a “reasonable amount of official time” when the employee is on duty to prepare and present an EEO complaint and to respond to Agency requests for information regarding EEO complaints. Designated representatives and witnesses who are Federal employees are also entitled to official time. There are no statistics generally available on the cost to the government for the amount of time spent in these pursuits. No doubt, it is considerable.
The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has issued guidance on using paid time (official time) for EEO complaints. The entire document is attached to this column.
While guidance may vary between agencies, the guidance from this agency will be useful to readers who may be wondering what their general options may be with regard to spending time and getting paid by the federal government regarding the filing and processing of an EEO complaint.
Before embarking on this journey into the Federal bureaucracy, one would be wise to check with your EEO office, union representative or human resources office for advice and to avoid any problems.
Using Official Time for EEO Complaints
An employee is entitled to a reasonable amount of official time to develop, prepare, and present the complaint. The employee is entitled to time to:
- Make initial contacts;
- Discuss and meet with EEO Counselors, human resource specialists, mediators, investigators, and other officials as necessary;
- Assemble and submit documents related to the complaint;
- Consult with his or her representative in preparation for the complaint;
- Draft the complaint;
- Prepare responses to questions or information requests from government officials involved in the EEO complaint process; and
- Prepare for and attend EEOC meetings and hearings.
It would be unreasonable to expect a supervisor to excuse an absence without knowing when you are going to be using time for this purpose and an approximate time for your return. Any problems at work will be exacerbated by just walking away from your worksite. You should request an absence for your workplace in writing before starting to use paid time for this purpose. If you are representing another employee with the filing of an EEO complaint, you should also request time away from your job.
A supervisor and an employee should generally be able to work out an agreement about the amount of time that will be required and will the employee will be away from work for this purpose.
Other employees, including union representatives, may sometimes serve as a representative of a Federal employee and may be entitled to paid time while they are engaged in the EEO complaint process. In some cases, a collective bargaining agreement may also address the amount of time that can be used by union representatives or other agency employees with regard to EEO complaints.
- Official time is often used for purposes such as:
- Assisting in the preparation of a complaint;
- Assisting in responding to requests for information from the Agency or from an EEOC Administrative Judge;
- Preparing for meetings with Agency officials;
- Meeting with Agency officials;
- Preparing for a hearing; or
- Presenting the case before the EEOC.
We wish all parties the best in obtaining a reasonable outcome in cases of this nature which can result in stress, anxiety, and disruption on the workplace for all concerned.