While discrimination may be the first thing a person thinks of when learning of the Equal Employment Office, Karen Doran, the District’s equal employment opportunity officer, says discrimination is just one of three main focuses of her job.
One focus is to head the Special Emphasis Program. The District is required by law to have six Special Emphasis programs, and each program has a manager who has completed required training to be a program manager.
Another focus for Doran is compiling an annual report to USACE headquarters on what the district looks like demographically. This is important, because the federal government wants its civilian workforce to resemble America.
One federal government goal is increasing the percentage of disabled employees to 2 percent of the civilian workforce. Currently the District is at 0.9 percent. This can be difficult, because stating a disability is voluntary and not everyone who has a disability will state it.
One reason why many people may not state a disability is fear of discrimination. This is the third focus for Doran.
A major reason the Equal Employment Opportunity office in the Corps exists is to address discrimination issues relating to the workplace. It traces its origins to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which was the first federal law designed to protect most U.S. employees from specific types of employment discrimination. Since it was signed into law, it has expanded to cover discrimination based on age, sex, race, national origin, religion and disability.
When someone feels discriminated against, the first step in the complaint process is to talk to Doran. Complaints can be initiated by both current and former employees, and the complaints can be about anything that affects employment, including awards, training, promotions and working conditions.
In the initial meeting, Doran goes over the rights and responsibilities the person has regarding his or her complaint and a counselor is assigned. In the Corps, Doran said that the counselors have to be either an EEO specialist or manager, and they have to be certified by attending an Army EEO counselor course.
It’s the counselor’s job to gather facts such as written documents and information through interviews. The counselor can also work to mediate the complaint before the formal paperwork is filed. It’s important to note that if someone suspects discrimination, there are deadlines to initiate action. If the deadlines are not met, the complaint may be dismissed.
There are two main methods of informally resolving a complaint. Alternate Dispute Resolution, which is what mediation is called in the Army, allows 90 calendar days for the person to accept mediation. If the compliant is not resolved, then he or she has 15 calendar days to file a formal complaint.
If a person chooses traditional counseling, he or she has 30 calendar days to complete the process and if it’s not resolved, a formal complaint needs to be filed within 15 calendar days. The important thing to remember about EEO is that all employees have the right to a discrimination-free workplace. The District is working diligently to ensure this.
If you have questions about what constitutes discrimination or simply want someone to talk with, stop by the EEO office or call Doran at 505‐342‐3170.