In July 2012, The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued a final rule modifying parts of the complaint process used by federal employees and applicants who have been victims to employment discrimination by federal agencies. These changes are effective as on September 24th, 2012.

The changes are expected to expedite the filing, processing and decision making. However, the effectiveness of these changes is yet to be seen. Listed below are the significant changes that have been made:

  1. Conformity: EEOC has the authority to issue notices to agencies that do not conform to its directives and guidelines or show no signs of reform. Agencies can also seek approval from the EEOC to conduct pilot projects (that run for 2 years) in which the complaint processing procedures vary from the requirements of Part 1614.
  2. Reprisal: A complaint, which accuses a proposal or preliminary step to taking a personnel action to be discriminatory, can be dismissed unless the complainant alleges that the proposal is a reprisal.
  3. Notification of Complainant’s Rights: An agency that has not completed its investigation within the stipulated time should inform the complainant, in writing, that the investigation is not complete, give a new estimated end date, and let the complainant know that he/she has the right to request a hearing or file a lawsuit.
  4. Class Complaints: In the case of class complaints, the decision made by an administrative judge is final; which an agency can implement or appeal but not reject.
  5. The EEOC is leaning towards digital filings (as also covered by our blog article on E-signatures ) and insists that appeals and complaints must be submitted in a digital format, unless there is a good cause for not doing so.

According to an article in Government Executive, NTEU President Colleen Kelley feels the changes will provide feds “with the same protections against retaliation as their private sector counterparts.” She also mentioned the concern federal employees have had, over the years, about the long-drawn EEO process and the “potential for conflicts of interest when agencies investigate internal complaints. In giving agencies the authority to create pilot processes, we hope that the agencies will work closely with their workplace representatives to address these issues,” she said.