Federal Employees News Digest
Lawmakers, unions join to oppose end to ‘official time’ for EEOC complaints
- By FEND Staff
- Aug 17, 2020
Federal employee unions -- joined by 185 lawmakers on Capitol Hill -- are clamoring to block the Trump administration from eliminating federal employees’ use of “official time” for managing workplace discrimination complaints.
For the past half-century, federal employee discrimination cases often have been compiled by the complainant with the help of coworkers operating on paid work time, also used for union business. But last December, the administration proposed a new rule banning this particular use of compensated time.
The administration’s logic in moving to revoke official time for such complaints, which fall under the authority of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, is complicated. But it boils down to this: Paying “complainants and their representatives” for time spent on EEO cases was instituted in 1972 -- well before current federal law governing use of official time was passed, in 1978. Having never been reviewed in light of the later law, the administration says, the current EEO official time rule has no validity.
Many on Capitol Hill have stepped up to oppose the proposed rule change. On July 29, 185 lawmakers joined in sending a letter of protest on the plan to the chair of the EEOC, Janet Dhillon.
The rule, they wrote, “would undermine the rights of federal employees and harm the mission of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the equal employment opportunity process.”
Unions, too, are pushing back. “The EEOC is trying to turn back the clock on the progress we’ve already made and make it harder to address discrimination in the workplace,” Everett Kelley, president of the American Federation of Government Employees, said in a statement. “EEOC … should be promoting robust enforcement, not making access harder for those who are vulnerable.”
Unions want to preserve the use of official time for EEO complaints and other on-the-job conflicts for a number of reasons -- not least because when employees are protected from abusive practices, according to unions and many experts, agency efficiency is better maintained -- which helps both labor and management.
Data provided congressional committees in recent years showed that fewer than 13,000 federal employees -- out of over 2 million total -- use any official time, and fewer than 1,000 of those spent more than 50% of their workday on official time. Girded by such statistics on its use, those opposed to the White House’s push against all official time have argued the highly publicized campaign represents another political attack against labor rather than true cost-cutting.