Meeting of September 7, 2006, Washington D.C. on Federal Sector EEO Investigations
Good Morning Commissioners, panel members, agency representatives and other esteemed guests. I am honored to represent the U.S. Department of Transportation on this important panel discussion and pleased to share how my complaint operations team has been able to reduce the average processing time in formal complaint investigations.
Before I do, please allow me to introduce three members of my management team who have joined me here today – Mary Whigham Jones, our Deputy Director, Caffin Gordon, Chief of our Compliance Operations Division, and Tami Wright, Regional Director for our Washington D.C. Regional Office.
At the U.S. Department of Transportation our civil rights structure includes the Departmental Office of Civil Rights, or (DOCR) which administers policy, compliance and oversight of the Department’s civil rights program and interfaces with USDOT’s ten operating administrations, each with their own civil rights, human resources and legal functions.
In addition to the timeframes specified in 29 C.F.R. Part 1614, the DOCR Compliance Operation team has instituted its own stringent internal timeframes for the completion of all EEO complaint processing events and major work products to ensure the timely processing of formal complaints in accordance with governing regulations.
For example, DOCR requires the operating administrations to provide the EEO counselor’s report within 15 calendar days of receipt of the formal complaint by DOCR. In addition, DOCR issues the accept/dismiss letter is issued and assigns the case for investigation within 10 days of receipt of the counselor's report. The investigative plan is developed within 10 days, and interrogatories/affidavits are sent out within 15 days of case assignment. In addition, investigators are held accountable for and are professionally committed to meeting the 180-day timeframe, regardless of regulatory allowed extensions or amendments.
To ensure the most effective and efficient method of developing a factual and objective record during the investigation process, DOCR uses in-house and private contractor staff to conduct EEO investigations. EEO investigations may be conducted on-site, by telephone interview, or affidavits by mail. The use of contract investigators serves to balance the workload, ensure cost effective investigations and facilitates the Department’s compliance with the EEOC’s 180-day requirement for completing EEO investigations.
DOCR has implemented an automated tracking system (iComplaints) that tracks and provides timely information on the status of EEO cases from the pre-complaint stage -- all the way through the formal process. The iComplaints system has given us the ability to identify bases and issues for each EEO complaint, to “red flag” events or work processes that are past due, and provide routine and ad hoc reports which are used for monitoring the status of EEO complaints and responding to internal and external reporting requirements.
Adequate in-house staffing and training opportunities to meet needs in accordance with the EEOC regulations have aided the Department in meeting the below 180-day timeframe goal during 2004-2005.
Weekly meetings that have been implemented by the Chief, Compliance Operations Division with DOCR Regional Civil Rights Directors and their legal advisors are helpful in standardizing and resolving formal complaints processing issues that contribute to timely processing.
The result -- in the EEOC’s Fiscal Year 2004 report, the Department’s average processing time for completed investigations was 177 days compared to the government-wide average of 280 days, and based on the latest published DOT profile in the EEOC’s Fiscal Year 2005 report, the Department’s average processing time for completed investigations was 175 days compared to the government-wide average of 237 days.
Let me briefly turn to a broader, but we believe equally important matter in the effective implementation of an EEO program. In March of 2005 -- with the support of former Secretary of Transportation Mineta -- we launched a ONEDOT Civil Rights Evaluation Project, which included a cross-functional Evaluation Committee and seven subcommittees that conducted a review and evaluation of the Department’s civil rights functions with regard to efficiency and cost effectiveness in structure, composition and customer service. The subcommittees were: Alternative Dispute Resolution, Training & Development, EEO Complaint Program Processing, External Civil Rights, Systems and Tracking Databases, Outreach and Special Emphasis Programs, and Civil Rights & Related Resources.
The subcommittees examined the major functions of civil rights programs in the Department and submitted findings, conclusions and recommendations to an Evaluation Committee consisting of a cross-disciplinary team of senior managers representing civil rights, human resources, budget, IT, and legal functions. In its report to the Secretary, the Evaluation Committee outlined several key recommendations to improve the efficiency, effectiveness and customer orientation of the Department’s civil rights policies, programs, processes and practices.
A recurring theme that emerged from the Evaluation Committee was that the success of the DOT civil rights program hinges on:
We are in the process of implementing many of the recommendations to strengthen our civil rights program in all these areas.
So what are we doing at USDOT that works from an overall EEO complaints handling perspective?
We firmly believe an approach of prevention, early intervention and effective resolution of all conflicts and disputes is critical. We see this as particularly important in reducing the number of EEO complaints filed.
For example, the operating administrations (OA) Civil Rights staffs regularly meet with management officials at all levels to discuss developing EEO issues, prevention strategies and early resolution where prevention efforts were unsuccessful. DOCR and OA Civil Rights staffs aggressively encourage the effective use of the mediation, including the discussion of potential settlement options during both the pre-complaint and formal stages -- we use a number of methods to deliver this message across the department and are relentless in our approach.
Again, as part of the pre-complaint and the formal complaint stages, DOT’s EEO Counselors and DOCR Regional Office staff persistently encourage participation in mediation to resolve pre-complaints or formal complaints.
At DOT, Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) awareness is achieved through formal training and coaching, brochures and skills development forums.
The Department and as our largest operating administration, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), have robust ADR programs. Individuals engaged in the EEO complaint process can utilize DOT’s ONEDOT Sharing Neutrals Program or FAA’s in-house ADR program.
To address non-EEO disputes employees or management may contact the Department’s Center for Alternate Dispute Resolution (CADR). In FAA, there is the Center for Early Dispute Resolution (CEDR). This center started as a one-year conflict resolution pilot program that is gradually expanding to service non-headquarters FAA employees. Potentially, it will prove successful enough that it may be expanded to provide DOT-wide services in the future.
Now back to the subject of investigations --- in summary, what does it take for the DOT Departmental Office of Civil Rights to ensure that EEO complaints are processed in a timely, objective and cost effective manner? I would like to emphasize the following:
I believe these three factors are essential to any successes we have had and will have as we seek to continually improve.
Again, I want to thank Commissioner Griffin, the acting Chair and all the members of the Commission for inviting DOT to participate on this panel.
This page was last modified on September 7, 2006.
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