EEOC logo. Shutterstock Image # 1236087784 By Vitalii Vodolazskyi

Workforce

EEOC cancels official time for union reps

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission cemented a Trump administration rule change on Thursday that limits the use of official time for federal employees in the filing of discrimination complaints.

The change limits the ability of those filing a complaint to choose a union representative to help them before the EEOC by excluding union members that serve an "officer, steward or otherwise in an official capacity" from the use of official time in the process.

The previous EEOC rule required federal agencies to allow employees to use a "reasonable amount of official time," to file discrimination complaints. It also gave the complainant the right to be accompanied or advised by their choice of representative.

Commissioner Charlotte Burrows, initially nominated by President Barack Obama and then re-nominated for a second term by Trump, also referenced recent events as she remarked on her opposition to the rule change.

"We have seen what partisan overreach looks like in the ugliest possible way yesterday at the U.S. Capitol. I do not understand why we would be doing this now, particularly given that, as Commissioner [ Jocelyn] Samuels points out, [President Trump's] days are numbered," Burrows said. "This proposal is on the wrong side of history."

Supporters said the rule clarifies the use of official time.

"Agencies will be better able to plan and forecast staffing needs based on the agreements negotiated during collective bargaining," said commissioner Andrea Lucas, a Republican nominee. "This is a reasonable rule that will bring clarity and efficiency by harmonizing EEOC regulations with the [Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute] and will ensure that our regulations do not infringe on the statutory scheme laid out by Congress."

Opponents countered that the new rule could create a chilling effect on the complaint process.

"This rule will undoubtedly discourage union officials from serving as representatives," said Samuels, who worked in the Obama administration. "And it is all done to advance the current administration's anti-union posture."

Since its proposal in in Dec. 2019, the rule has garnered over 1,800 comments during two posting periods in the Federal Register, as well as attention on Capitol Hill on the potential impact of the changes.

National Treasury Employees Union President Anthony Reardon said in a comment that the change only affects the use of official time by union officials.

"The proposed rule targets no other group of potential representatives," he said. "Those union officials are, of course, the very people that an employee might naturally seek out for help in combatting illegal discrimination."

The comments included input from 185 members of Congress, led by Reps. Jamie Raskin (D-Md) and Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), who is a former chair of the EEOC. The lawmakers wrote that the proposed rule would "undermine the rights of federal employees" and "harm the mission" of the EEOC.

"This is an outrageous and hypocritical position for EEOC to take during this national reckoning of racial injustice. EEOC should focus on robust civil rights enforcement, not create roadblocks for federal workers who raise internal discrimination complaints," said Everett Kelley, American Federation of Government Employees National President, in an AFGE press release on the rule change.

Reader comments

Wed, Jan 13, 2021 Ann M WI

I don’t understand the law that says that FEMA Reservists (formerly DAE’s) cannot form a union. We have been treated terribly ever since Fugate put the “Workplace Transformation”, changes in place.

Fri, Jan 8, 2021 Jennifer Marshall Richmond DVAMC

No doubt this is another target at the Union, employee rights with intent to deter any EEOC representation by a competent union official. Just another abuse by EEOC that is wrapped up in Trumpster policies. Our New President will overturn this horrible “new rule”

Fri, Jan 8, 2021

Equal opportunity has been completely been destroyed at the Big Outfit in Bethesda. The senior management tailor makes job descriptions for family and friends of division directors and branch chiefs. The administrative officers also assist in making sure family and friends are hired. Long time employees have little or no potential for promotions especially when they have constant bantering from deficient minion managers who are gender and aged bias. Any one that has a medical situation that has resolved or has no influence on the employee's productivity it is used against them in performance reviews. They get away with this on a daily basis and no one has ever called them out for it and made them responsible for their actions.

Fri, Jan 8, 2021

sad day in History for sure

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