Agencies Found to Frequently Dismiss EEO Complaints Improperly

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For federal managers, defending against EEO complaints is increasingly becoming a commonplace part of the job. It also appears as though more and more EEO complaints are being dismissed improperly. The report by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission titled Common Errors by Federal Agencies in Dismissing Complaints of Discrimination on Procedural Grounds was released September 15th. The report details how federal agencies have increasingly dismissed EEO complaints without proper adjudication.

As a refresher on the process, when a federal employee believes he/she has been discriminated against, the next step is to notify the agency’s EEO office. At this point, there is counseling, and if this does not resolve the issue a formal EEO complaint ensues. The agency then has the choice to initiate an investigation into the complaint or to dismiss the complaint outright. Reasons for dismissal include lack of filing on time, the complaint addressing a previously settled matter, or a lack of necessary information. If the complainant feels the complaint was dismissed unfairly, there is the option to appeal to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

The EEOC revealed in the report that it had reversed 33% of all agency dismissals between the years of 2008 and 2012, with the reversal rate hitting a high of 45% in 2012. This figure was a full 15% higher than the rate in 2008, and in raw terms means that of the 1,548 dismissal appeals the EEOC heard, almost 700 were remanded back to the agency. The report listed many reasons why agencies had improperly dismissed claims: they ranged from wrongly dismissing complaints as minor instead of looking for a pattern of discrimination to failing to account for valid excuses when complainants were unable to submit their formal complaints in time. Carlton Hadden, the director of the EEOC’s Office of Federal Operations, said that the report was issued with hope to “reduce the number of incorrect procedural dismissals by federal agencies.”

If the report does indeed have that desired impact, there could be a noticeable increase in formal EEO complaints in the coming years. More agencies taking heed of the EEOC’s findings would naturally lead to less complaints being dismissed and more progressing to the formal stage. This development would likely make the jobs of federal managers even more difficult. For many managers, especially those dealing with “problem” employees, it can already seem as though the EEO system is too accommodating to frivolous complaints and often keeps these complaints in the works for years at a time. Less agency dismissals could portend even more fringe complaints becoming formal.

An increase in EEO complaints across the government would only reinforce what many federal managers already know: in today’s federal environment, having a professional liability insurance policy is one of the most important career protections a member of management can have. The PLI policy administered by FEDS provides for up to $200,000 in legal defense costs for administrative actions, which include defending against formal EEO complains. While it may seem as though your interests and the agency’s interests are aligned when defending against an EEO complaint, many managers can attest to that not always being the case. When that divergence of interests occurs it is invaluable to have top-notch legal representation at your side, looking out only for you.

A FEDS PLI policy starts at only $290 a year, and all federal employees in management are eligible for a reimbursement up to 50% of the premium cost from their agency. Before you find yourself dealing with a complaint on your own, make the decision to protect your career and your peace of mind. Visit or call 866.955.FEDS today. 

Posted in Manager Matters


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