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Report to Congressional Requesters:

July 2003:

EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY:

SSA Region X's Changes to Its EEO Process Illustrate Need for 
Agencywide Procedures:

GAO-03-604:

GAO Highlights:

Highlights of GAO-03-604, a report to congressional requesters

Why GAO Did This Study:

Employees at the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) Region X—which 
covers Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington—expressed concern about 
the Region’s equal employment opportunity (EEO) process for employment 
discrimination complaints. GAO was asked to (1) provide information 
for fiscal years 1997 through 2001 on the composition of the Region X 
workforce and for personnel actions such as promotions, awards, and 
adverse actions by EEO group; (2) describe the EEO complaint process 
in Region X and any changes to it; (3) assess whether the Region’s 
process is consistent with federal regulations and related guidance; 
and (4) assess the familiarity with the EEO process of the Region’s 
employees and their attitude toward it.

What GAO Found:

In a geographic area where minorities represent a small portion of the 
civilian workforce (about 13.5 percent), Region X generally had a 
higher percentage of each minority group, except for American Indian 
and Alaska Natives. Moreover, the percentage of minority employees in 
Region X had increased from about 19 percent in fiscal year 1997 to 
about 27 percent in fiscal year 2001. Women represented a much higher 
proportion of SSA’s workforce than of the civilian workforce. 
Differences among racial/ethnic and gender groups for most of the 
personnel actions reviewed were not statistically significant.

For fiscal years 1997 and 1998, current and former Region X EEO 
counselors described a process that mirrored the informal stage of the 
required federal sector complaint process. In fiscal year 1999, Region 
X changed its EEO process, so that EEO counselors were no longer 
allowed to talk with managers but were required to submit their 
questions in writing. In addition, managers were encouraged to 
routinely have an attorney from the Office of the General Counsel 
(OGC) review their written responses before these responses were 
provided to the EEO counselors. After the changes were in place for 
about a year, SSA headquarters officials held discussions with Region 
X officials to explain that having written inquiries and OGC involved 
in the informal EEO process was not consistent with the intent of 
resolving issues informally. Beginning early in fiscal year 2001, 
neither written EEO counselor queries to managers nor OGC involvement 
was required in the informal process. Region X’s former use of written 
queries and OGC involvement were counter to the spirit of EEO 
regulations and their related guidance, which emphasize the informal 
nature of precomplaint counseling. 

In doing its work at Region X, GAO found that SSA had issued EEO 
handbooks for managers and employees, but the handbooks do not contain 
agency-specific procedures on how EEO counselors are to process 
complaints of discrimination. Agency-specific procedures are required 
by EEO regulations. Absent such procedures, components of an agency 
can use different procedures, as illustrated by Region X, resulting in 
employees across the country being treated differently. 

To gain an understanding of how familiar the Region’s employees are 
with the EEO process and their willingness to participate in it, GAO 
surveyed all of the Region’s employees. Most Region X employees 
reported having received or seen within the last 2 years written 
materials about EEO regulations and how to contact regional EEO 
counselors. Also, almost half the employees reported a willingness to 
participate in counseling or to file a formal EEO complaint if they 
believed they had been discriminated against. However, a sizeable 
portion of employees—about 40 percent—reported being unwilling or 
uncertain about becoming involved with the processes established for 
handling EEO complaints. 

What GAO Recommends:

GAO recommends that SSA adopt agency-specific procedures for 
counselors to use in processing discrimination complaints, so 
employees have the same process everywhere. GAO also recommends that 
Region X take actions to enhance its EEO environment to increase trust 
and, where necessary, address differences in personnel actions across 
racial, ethnic, and gender groups.

SSA agreed with GAO’s findings and cited actions it was taking on two 
of GAO’s three recommendations.

www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-03-604.

To view the full report, including the scope and methodology, click on 
the link above. For more information, contact Victor S. Rezendes on 
(202) 512-6806 or at rezendesv@gao.gov.

[End of section]

Contents:

Letter:

Letter:

Results in Brief:

Background:

Composition of the Region X Workforce:

Region X Made Temporary Changes to the Informal Stage of the EEO 
Process:

GAO Survey of Region X Employees about EEO:

Region X's Temporary Changes Were Counter to the Spirit of EEOC's 
Regulations and SSA's Guidance:

Conclusions:

Recommendations:

Agency Comments:

Appendixes:

Appendix I: Objectives, Scope, and Methodology:

Objective 1:

Objective 2:

Objective 3:

Objective 4:

Appendix II: EEO Laws and Regulations Applicable to Federal Employees:

Laws Prohibiting Discrimination:

EEOC Regulations Governing the Processing of Employment Discrimination 
Complaints:

Appendix III: Region X Workforce by Grade Level:

Region X Employees in Grades GS-13 through GS-15:

Region X Employees in Grades GS-9 through GS-12:

Region X Employees in Grades GS-5 through GS-8:

Region X Employees in Grades GS-1 through GS-4:

Appendix IV: Temporary Promotions, Training, and Awards: 

Experience: Temporary Promotions:

Training:

Awards:

Appendix V: Region X Adverse Actions, Appeals of Adverse Actions, EEO
Complaints, and Grievances: 

Adverse Actions:

Adverse Actions Appealed to MSPB:

Region X EEO Precomplaint Counseling and Formal EEO Complaints Filed:

Grievances:

Settlements:

Appendix VI: Selected Results of GAO’s Survey of Region X Employees on
Equal Employment Opportunity: 

Operations of Region X's CREO:

Experiences with Situations Involving EEO in Region X:

Narrative Comments:

Appendix VII: GAO Survey of Region X Employees about EEO:

Appendix VIII: Comments from the Social Secuity Administration:

Appendix IX: GAO Contact and Staff Acknowledgments: 

GAO Contact:

Acknowledgments:

Tables Tables :

Table 1: Composition of Region X Workforce in Fiscal Years 1997 and 
2001 by EEO Group Compared With CLF and CWF:

Table 2: Comparison of the Percentage of Competitive Promotions to the 
Average Percentage Representation of Each EEO Group in the Workforce 
for Fiscal Years 1997 Through 2001 in Region X:

Table 3: Comparison of the Percentage of Separations to the Average 
Percentage Representation of Each EEO Group in the Workforce for Fiscal 
Years 1997 Through 2001 in Region X:

Table 4: Final Disposition of Questionnaire:

Table 5: Percentage Distribution across Grade Levels by Race/Ethnicity 
and Gender for Fiscal Year 1997:

Table 6: Percentage Distribution across Grade Levels by Race/Ethnicity 
and Gender for Fiscal Year 2001:

Table 7: Comparison of the Percentage of JEPs to the Average Percentage 
Representation in the Workforce for Fiscal Years 1997 Through 2001 in 
Region X by EEO Group:

Table 8: Comparison of the Percentage of Temporary Promotions to the 
Average Percentage Representation in the Region X Workforce for Fiscal 
Years 1997 through 2001 by EEO Group:

Table 9: Comparison of the Percentage of GETA Training to the Average 
Percentage Representation by EEO Group in the Region X Workforce for 
Fiscal Years 1998 through 2001:

Table 10: Comparison of the Percentage of Monetary Awards to the Average 
Percentage Representation by EEO Group in the Region X Workforce for 
Fiscal Years 1997 through 2001:

Table 11: Comparison of the Percentage of Quality Step Increases to the 
Average Percentage Representation by EEO Group in the Region X 
Workforce for Fiscal Years 1997 through 2001:

Table 12: Comparison of the Percentage of Honor Awards to the Average 
Percentage Representation by EEO Group in the Region X Workforce for 
Fiscal Years 1997 through 2001:

Table 13: Types of Adverse Actions in Region X for Fiscal Years 1997 
through 2001 by EEO Group:

Table 14: Adverse Actions in Region X for Fiscal Years 1997 through 2001 
That Were Appealed to MSPB and Their Disposition by EEO Group:

Table 15: Requests for Counseling in Region X and Their Disposition in 
Fiscal Years 2000 and 2001:

Table 16: Bases Cited in EEO Counseling for Region X in Fiscal Years 
2000 and 2001:

Table 17: Issues Cited by Individuals Requesting Counseling in Region X 
in Fiscal Years 2000 and 2001:

Table 18: Formal EEO Complaints Filed by Region X Employees for Fiscal 
Years 1997 through 2001 and Their Disposition:

Table 19: Bases for EEO Complaints Filed in Region X in Fiscal Years 
1997 through 2001:

Table 20: Issues Cited in Complaints Filed for Fiscal Years 1997 through 
2001:

Table 21: Reasonable Accommodations Requested by Region X Employees for 
Fiscal Years 1997 through 2001 by EEO Group:

Table 22: Section 9 Grievances Filed in Region X by EEO Group for Fiscal 
Years 1997 through 2001:

Table 23: Number of Settlement Agreements and Amounts Awarded on 
Settlements for MSPB Appeals, EEO Complaints, and a Mixed Case Filed in 
Region X in Fiscal Years 1997 through 2001:

Table 24: Minority Status and Sex of Respondents Who Were Unwilling or 
Uncertain to Participate in Counseling Because They Feared Retaliation: 

Table 25: Minority Status and Sex of Respondents Who Were Unwilling or 
Uncertain to File a Formal Complaint Because They Feared Retaliation:

Table 26: Percentage of Respondents Indicating Whether Decisions Were 
Based on Merit and Free of Bias and Favoritism:

Table 27: Percentage of Respondents Indicating Decisions Were Sometimes 
or Never Based on Merit and Free of Bias and Favoritism:

Figures:

Figure 1: Region X Workforce in Fiscal Years 1997 and 2001 by EEO 
Group:

Figure 2: Hiring in Region X for Fiscal Years 1997 and 2001 by EEO 
Group:

Figure 3: The EEO Complaint Process with Related Time Frames:

Figure 4: Region X Employees in Grades GS-13 through GS-15 in Fiscal 
Years 1997 and 2001 by EEO Group:

Figure 5: Region X Employees in Grades GS-9 Through GS-12 in Fiscal 
Years 1997 and 2001 by EEO Group:

Figure 6: Region X Employees in Grades GS-5 through GS-8 in Fiscal Years 
1997 and 2001 by EEO Group:

Figure 7: Region X Employees in Grades GS-1 through GS-4 in Fiscal Years 
1997 and 2001 by EEO Group:

Abbreviations: 

ADR: alternative dispute resolution:

AFGE: American Federation of Government Employees:

AIAN: American Indian/Alaska Native:

AJ: administrative judge: :

CLF: Civilian Labor Force:

CPS: Current Population Survey:

CREO: Civil Rights and Equal Opportunity:

CWF: civilian workforce:

EEO: equal employment opportunity:

EEOC: Equal Employment Opportunity Commission:

GETA: Government Employees Training Act:

GS: general schedule:

JEP: Job Enhancement Program:

MD-110: Management Directive-110:

MSPB: Merit Systems Protection Board:

NAACP: National Association for the Advancement of Colored People:

OCREO: Office of Civil Rights and Equal Opportunity:

OGC: Office of the General Counsel:

SES: Senior Executive Service:

SSA : Social Security Administration:

Letter July 16, 2003:

Letter 

The Honorable Jim McDermott 
The Honorable Jennifer Dunn 
The Honorable Adam Smith 
House of Representatives:

An October 2000 report by the Seattle branch of the National 
Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)[Footnote 1] 
alleged that the Social Security Administration's (SSA) Region X--which 
covers Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington and has about 1,800 
employees--may have violated federal regulations governing equal 
employment opportunity (EEO) and the processing of employment 
discrimination complaints. The report alleges, among other things, that 
the Office of the General Counsel (OGC) in Region X interfered with EEO 
precomplaint counseling, the informal stage of the EEO complaint 
process.[Footnote 2] In addition, the report alleges that in the 
informal stage, EEO counselors were required by Region X management to 
submit written inquires to responsible management officials rather than 
conversing with them to get information. SSA did not agree with the 
report's allegations but agreed to two of its recommendations: to 
provide on-site precomplaint counseling at one of the Region's largest 
facilities and to provide ongoing training to management on provisions 
concerning employees' rights in SSA's labor-management agreement. As a 
result of the NAACP report, you asked us to look at the Region's EEO 
program.

Federal employees are protected by various federal laws that prohibit 
employment discrimination because of race, color, religion, sex, 
national origin, age, or disability (see app. II). In addition, federal 
employees are protected from retaliation for filing a complaint, 
participating in an investigation of a complaint, or opposing any 
practice made unlawful under these antidiscrimination laws. The Equal 
Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has issued regulations that 
govern how the discrimination claims of federal employees are to be 
processed administratively.[Footnote 3] Federal agencies covered by 
these regulations are responsible for developing and implementing their 
own EEO programs and complaint processing procedures consistent with 
EEOC's regulations.

As agreed with your offices, our objectives were to (1) provide 
information on the composition of Region X's workforce by EEO group 
(race/ethnicity and gender) for fiscal years 1997 through 2001 overall 
and for personnel actions such as promotions, awards, and adverse 
actions; (2) describe the Region's EEO complaint process and any 
changes to it during the 5-year period; (3) assess whether the Region's 
EEO complaint process was consistent with federal regulations and 
related guidance; and (4) assess the familiarity of the Region's 
employees with the EEO process and their attitude toward it.

For our discussion of the composition of Region X's workforce as well 
as the breakdown of personnel actions by EEO group, we used SSA data 
provided by the Region's human resources management information system 
for fiscal years 1997 through 2001 for African Americans, American 
Indian/Alaska Natives (AIAN), Asian/Pacific Islanders (Asian), 
Hispanics, and Whites.[Footnote 4] Each racial/ethnic group was broken 
down by gender. As part of our analysis of the composition of SSA staff 
for selected personnel actions, we tested to see if statistically 
significant differences by EEO group occurred.[Footnote 5] Our analyses 
of personnel actions are designed to provide information at a common 
and aggregate level about EEO group differences in personnel actions at 
Region X and not to determine whether or not discrimination existed. 
The presence of a statistically significant difference does not prove 
discrimination, nor does the absence of a statistically significant 
difference prove that staff have not been discriminated against.

To describe the EEO process in the Region and any changes made to it 
for the 5-year period, we reviewed documents provided by SSA 
headquarters and Region X officials and interviewed those officials. To 
determine whether the Region's EEO complaint process is consistent with 
federal regulations, we reviewed EEOC's regulations governing how the 
discrimination claims of federal employees are to be processed and 
compared their requirements with the processes employed by the Region. 
Also, to assess the familiarity of the Region's employees with the EEO 
process and their attitude toward it, we surveyed all of the Region's 
employees.

We did our work in Washington, D.C., Baltimore, and Seattle from 
January 2002 through May 2003 in accordance with generally accepted 
government auditing standards. Details of our scope and methodology are 
in appendix I.

Results in Brief:

Women made up over 70 percent of SSA's national workforce in fiscal 
year 2002, and Region X's workforce has mirrored this throughout all 
ethnic groups for fiscal years 1997 through 2001, with about two-thirds 
of its employees being women in each of those years. Also in each year, 
White employees comprised the majority of the Region X workforce, but 
their representation declined from about 81 percent of the workforce in 
fiscal year 1997 to about 73 percent in fiscal year 2001. Conversely, 
minority employees in Region X increased a corresponding 8 percentage 
points, from about 19 percent in fiscal year 1997 to about 27 percent 
in fiscal year 2001. Increases occurred in all minority EEO groups, 
except for AIAN women; the largest percentage increase occurred among 
Hispanic women. A comparison of the Region X workforce for fiscal years 
1997 and 2001 with the regional Civilian Labor Force shows that Region 
X generally had a higher representation of minority employees in its 
workforce for all EEO groups except AIANs.

Concerning selected personnel actions, Hispanic women had the largest 
increase in the percentage of hires they represent, and African 
American women had the largest decrease. For each EEO group, we looked 
at the percentage of promotions and found that most EEO groups were 
promoted at a rate that was about the same as or slightly higher than 
each group's average percentage of representation in the workforce. 
African American men and White women had the highest positive 
percentage difference (1.1 percentage points) between their percentage 
of competitive promotions and representation in the workforce. Only 
White men and African American women were promoted at rates lower than 
their average percentage representation in the workforce, with a 2.2 
and 1.0 percentage-point difference, respectively. Also, for each EEO 
group, we compared the percentage of separations with the average 
percentage of the workforce, and this comparison showed that all 
minority EEO groups separated at a rate that was slightly higher than 
the average percentage of each group represented in the workforce for 
the period. African American women had the largest percentage 
difference between their percentage of separations and representation 
in the workforce (1.3 percentage points), followed by AIAN women (1.1 
percentage points). Only White men and women separated at rates lower 
than their average percentage of representation in the workforce.

Our analysis showed no statistically significant differences among EEO 
groups for most of the personnel actions we reviewed. However, it did 
show statistically significant differences for some types of awards and 
adverse actions. The analysis for the 5-year period showed 
statistically significant differences among races concerning quality 
step increases and nonmonetary, or honor, awards. In addition, the 
analysis showed statistically significant differences among races for 
short-term suspensions and between the sexes concerning removals. This 
analysis was not designed to determine whether or not discrimination 
existed but can indicate areas warranting further study by management. 
Region X has not reviewed these differences to uncover their causes or 
to determine their appropriateness.

Region X made changes to its EEO process in fiscal years 1999 and 2001. 
For fiscal years 1997 and 1998, current and former Region X EEO 
counselors described a process that mirrored the informal stage of the 
complaint process outlined in EEOC's guidance to federal agencies. In 
fiscal year 1999, Region X changed its EEO complaint process, so that 
EEO counselors were no longer allowed to talk with managers about what 
had transpired between employees alleging possible discrimination and 
managers but were required to submit their questions in writing. The 
then Regional Commissioner said the changes were instituted because 
regional managers said that EEO counselors were not accurately 
reporting their views. In addition, managers were encouraged to 
routinely have an attorney from OGC review their written responses 
before these responses were provided to the EEO counselors. After the 
changes were in place for about a year, SSA headquarters' officials 
held discussions with Region X officials to explain that having written 
inquiries and OGC involved in the informal EEO process was not 
consistent with the intent of having the process arrive at an informal 
resolution of issues. Beginning early in fiscal year 2001, EEO 
counselors were not required to put queries to managers in writing, and 
OGC involvement was not required in the informal process. The changes 
Region X made to its complaint process in fiscal year 1999 are not 
specifically addressed in federal sector EEOC regulations. Neither 
EEOC's regulations nor its related guidance addresses the 
appropriateness of written counselors' queries, written managers' 
responses, or OGC involvement in the informal process. However, these 
changes seem to have been counter to the spirit of the regulations and 
their related guidance, which emphasize the informal nature of 
precomplaint counseling.

Also, in doing our work at Region X, we found that SSA had issued EEO 
handbooks for managers and employees that discussed EEO in general and 
the basic EEO process. However, the handbooks do not contain agency-
specific procedures on how EEO counselors are to process complaints of 
discrimination. Agency-specific procedures are required by EEO 
regulations. Absent such procedures, components of an agency can use 
different procedures, as illustrated by Region X, resulting in 
employees across the country being treated differently.

To gain an understanding of how familiar the Region's employees were 
with the EEO process and their willingness to participate in it, we 
surveyed all of the Region's employees on the EEO process and EEO in 
the Region. Most Region X employees reported having received or having 
seen within the last 2 years written materials about EEO regulations 
and how to contact regional EEO counselors. When asked about their 
willingness, if they believed that they had been discriminated against, 
to either participate in EEO counseling or to file a formal EEO 
complaint, almost half of respondents indicated that they would be 
generally or very willing to participate in counseling or to file a 
formal EEO complaint. However, a sizeable portion of respondents to our 
survey--about 40 percent--indicated they were unwilling or uncertain 
about becoming involved with the processes established for handling EEO 
complaints. Our survey results indicate that if Region X does not work 
to improve the perceptions of employees, it may not achieve a trusting 
workplace.

We recommend that the Commissioner of SSA adopt agency-specific 
procedures for counselors to use in processing complaints of 
discrimination to ensure that employees face the same process 
everywhere. We also recommend that Region X take actions to enhance its 
EEO environment to increase trust and, where necessary, address 
differences in personnel actions across racial, ethnic, and gender 
groups. In commenting on a draft of this report, SSA said it was 
updating materials dealing with the EEO process and would include 
procedural guidelines as called for in EEOC's regulations governing 
federal agencies' EEO procedures. SSA also said that as part of its 
normal review process, it will review the statistically significant 
differences we found in Region X personnel actions. However, SSA did 
not agree with our recommendation that Region X take actions to enhance 
its EEO environment to increase trust. SSA's written comments are 
discussed near the end of this letter and reproduced in appendix VIII.

Background:

SSA administers three major federal programs that provide benefits to 
more than 50 million people. The Old Age and Survivors Insurance 
program provides benefits to retired workers and their dependents and 
survivors. The Disability Insurance program provides benefits to 
disabled workers. Supplemental Security Income provides income for 
aged, blind, and disabled individuals with limited incomes and 
resources. Heading SSA is a Commissioner who leads a central office in 
Baltimore and 10 regional offices. The field organization, which is 
decentralized to provide service at the local level, includes 
approximately 1,300 field offices.

Federal law prohibits discrimination against employees and applicants 
for employment on the bases of race, color, religion, sex, national 
origin, age, or disability (see app. II for more details about 
antidiscrimination laws). Under EEOC regulations, employees or 
applicants for employment who believe that they have been discriminated 
against by a federal agency may file a complaint with that agency. 
Before filing a complaint, the employee must consult an EEO counselor 
at the agency in order to try to informally resolve the matter. The 
employee must contact an EEO counselor within 45 days of the matter 
alleged to be discriminatory or, in the case of a personnel action, 
within 45 days of the effective date of the action. EEO counselors 
should determine if the employee believes that his or her problem is 
the result of one or more of the allowable bases--race, color, sex 
(including equal pay), religion, national origin, age (40 and over), or 
disability--or in retaliation for having participated in an activity, 
such as filing a complaint, that is protected by the various 
antidiscrimination statutes. Counselors are to advise individuals that, 
where the agency 
agrees to offer alternative dispute resolution (ADR) in the particular 
case,[Footnote 6] they may choose to participate in either counseling 
or in ADR.

After the counselor determines the basis or bases and claims, he or she 
is to conduct a limited inquiry of the matter, which generally involves 
speaking or meeting with the two parties. When the counselor has a good 
grasp of the issues involved, he or she is ready to attempt resolution. 
Resolution means that the employee and the agency come to terms with 
the matter and agree on a solution. In seeking resolution, the 
counselor is to listen to and understand the viewpoint of both parties 
and act as a neutral and not as an advocate for either the employee or 
the agency. Counseling is to be completed within 30 days from the date 
the employee contacted the EEO office for counseling.[Footnote 7] If 
the matter is not resolved by the 30th day of counseling or if ADR is 
unsuccessful,[Footnote 8] the counselor is required to inform the 
employee in writing of his or her right to file a formal discrimination 
complaint with the agency. The written notice must inform the employee 
of the (1) right to file a discrimination complaint within 15 days of 
receipt of the notice, (2) appropriate agency official with whom to 
file a complaint, and (3) duty to ensure that the agency is informed 
immediately if the complainant retains counsel or a representative.

After a complainant files a formal discrimination complaint, the agency 
must decide whether to accept or dismiss the complaint. If the agency 
dismisses the complaint, the complainant can appeal the dismissal to 
EEOC. If the agency accepts the complaint, it must investigate the 
complaint and present the complainant with a report of the 
investigation results. The complainant may then choose between 
requesting a hearing before an EEOC administrative judge or a final 
decision from the agency. Because SSA requires all employees to file 
formal complaints with its headquarters in Baltimore, the formal 
process was outside of the scope of our review. Appendix II provides 
additional information on the processing of employment discrimination 
complaints.

Composition of the Region X Workforce:

SSA's national workforce is predominantly women--about 71 percent in 
fiscal year 2002--and Region X's workforce mirrors this in all ethnic 
groups. For each of fiscal years 1997 through 2001, about two-thirds of 
all Region X employees were women. The majority of Region X employees 
were age 40 and over, constituting about three-quarters of the 
workforce in each year. The number of employees with disabilities 
increased slightly from about 10 percent in fiscal year 1997 to 11 
percent in fiscal year 2001. Over the 5-year period, most of the Region 
X workforce was in the general schedule (GS) grade levels 5 through 12. 
The distribution across grade levels by EEO group varied somewhat but 
was generally close to the representation of the various EEO groups in 
the Region's workforce. The main differences were higher proportions of 
men in the GS-13 through 15 grade levels and higher representation of 
African Americans and Hispanics in the GS-5 through 8 grades. As 
discussed in the section on hiring, substantial numbers of African 
Americans and Hispanics have been hired over the last few years, which 
may explain their higher representation in grades GS-5 through 8. See 
appendix III for a discussion of grade levels by EEO group. Figure 1 
shows the Region X workforce by EEO group for fiscal years 1997 and 
2001.

Figure 1: Region X Workforce in Fiscal Years 1997 and 2001 by EEO 
Group:

[See PDF for image]

[End of figure]

From fiscal year 1997 to fiscal year 2001, the EEO group that 
experienced the largest increase in its percentage of the workforce was 
Hispanic women, who almost doubled from 57, or 3.3 percent of the 
workforce, to 120, or 6.5 percent. This increase was followed by that 
of Asian women, who increased by almost two-thirds from 55, or 3.2 
percent of the workforce, in fiscal year 1997 to 93, or 5.0 percent of 
the workforce, in fiscal year 2001. The percentage of the workforce 
represented by White men and women and by AIAN women declined over the 
5-year period.

To judge its diversity, SSA compares its workforce with the Civilian 
Labor Force (CLF). Because the CLF data SSA uses are based on 1990 
census data, we also calculated regional civilian workforce (CWF) data 
of those age 18 and older in the four states covered by Region X for 
fiscal year 2001, based on 2001 Current Population Survey 
data.[Footnote 9] Table 1 shows data on the composition of the Region X 
workforce in fiscal years 1997 and 2001 and compares those workforces 
to data on the CLF and CWF. Region X generally had a higher or equal 
representation of minority employees in its workforce for all EEO 
groups compared with both the CLF and the CWF, except AIAN men in 
fiscal years 1997 and 2001 and AIAN women in fiscal year 2001. In 
addition, the representation of White men in the Region was below the 
CLF and the CWF for both fiscal years 1997 and 2001.

Table 1: Composition of Region X Workforce in Fiscal Years 1997 and 
2001 by EEO Group Compared With CLF and CWF:

EEO group: African American men; Region X workforce: As of September 
30, 1997: Number: 39; Region X workforce: As of September 30, 1997: 
Percent: 2.3; Region X workforce: As of 
September 30, 2001: Number: 48; Region X workforce: As of September 30, 
2001: Percent: 2.6; Regional: CLF: (FY 1990): Percent: 1.1; 
Regional: CWF: (FY 2001): Percent: 1.1.

EEO group: African American women; Region X workforce: As of September 
30, 1997: Number: 87; Region X workforce: As of September 30, 1997: 
Percent: 5.0; Region X workforce: As of 
September 30, 2001: Number: 101; Region X workforce: As of September 
30, 2001: Percent: 5.5; Regional: CLF: (FY 1990): Percent: 
0.9; Regional: CWF: (FY 2001): Percent: 1.1.

EEO group: AIAN men; Region X workforce: As of September 30, 1997: 
Number: 7; Region X workforce: As of September 30, 1997: Percent: 0.4; 
Region X workforce: As of September 30, 
2001: Number: 9; Region X workforce: As of September 30, 2001: Percent: 
0.5; Regional: CLF: (FY 1990): Percent: 0.9; Regional: CWF: 
(FY 2001): Percent: 1.0.

EEO group: AIAN women; Region X workforce: As of September 30, 1997: 
Number: 21; Region X workforce: As of September 30, 1997: Percent: 1.2; 
Region X workforce: As of September 30, 
2001: Number: 19; Region X workforce: As of September 30, 2001: 
Percent: 1.0; Regional: CLF: (FY 1990): Percent: 0.8; 
Regional: CWF: (FY 2001): Percent: 1.5.

EEO group: Asian men; Region X workforce: As of September 30, 1997: 
Number: 27; Region X workforce: As of September 30, 1997: Percent: 1.6; 
Region X workforce: As of September 30, 
2001: Number: 41; Region X workforce: As of September 30, 2001: 
Percent: 2.2; Regional: CLF: (FY 1990): Percent: 1.6; 
Regional: CWF: (FY 2001): Percent: 1.8.

EEO group: Asian women; Region X workforce: As of September 30, 1997: 
Number: 55; Region X workforce: As of September 30, 1997: Percent: 3.2; 
Region X workforce: As of September 30, 
2001: Number: 93; Region X workforce: As of September 30, 2001: 
Percent: 5.0; Regional: CLF: (FY 1990): Percent: 1.6; 
Regional: CWF: (FY 2001): Percent: 2.2.

EEO group: Hispanic men; Region X workforce: As of September 30, 1997: 
Number: 36; Region X workforce: As of September 30, 1997: Percent: 2.1; 
Region X workforce: As of September 30, 
2001: Number: 65; Region X workforce: As of September 30, 2001: 
Percent: 3.5; Regional: CLF: (FY 1990): Percent: 2.3; 
Regional: CWF: (FY 2001): Percent: 2.2.

EEO group: Hispanic women; Region X workforce: As of September 30, 
1997: Number: 57; Region X workforce: As of September 30, 1997: 
Percent: 3.3; Region X workforce: As of 
September 30, 2001: Number: 120; Region X workforce: As of September 
30, 2001: Percent: 6.5; Regional: CLF: (FY 1990): Percent: 
1.5; Regional: CWF: (FY 2001): Percent: 2.6.

EEO group: White men; Region X workforce: As of September 30, 1997: 
Number: 443; Region X workforce: As of September 30, 1997: Percent: 
25.7; Region X workforce: As of September 
30, 2001: Number: 447; Region X workforce: As of September 30, 2001: 
Percent: 24.2; Regional: CLF: (FY 1990): Percent: 49.1; 
Regional: CWF: (FY 2001): Percent: 43.2.

EEO group: White women; Region X workforce: As of September 30, 1997: 
Number: 954; Region X workforce: As of September 30, 1997: Percent: 
55.3; Region X workforce: As of September 
30, 2001: Number: 904; Region X workforce: As of September 30, 2001: 
Percent: 48.9; Regional: CLF: (FY 1990): Percent: 40.0; 
Regional: CWF: (FY 2001): Percent: 43.3.

EEO group: Total; Region X workforce: As of September 30, 1997: Number: 
1,726; Region X workforce: As of September 30, 1997: Percent: 100.1; 
Region X workforce: As of September 30, 
2001: Number: 1,847; Region X workforce: As of September 30, 2001: 
Percent: 99.9; Regional: CLF: (FY 1990): Percent: 99.8; 
Regional: CWF: (FY 2001): Percent: 100.0.

Source: Region X data and GAO analysis of Current Population Survey.

Note: Totals do not sum to 100 percent due to rounding.

[End of table]

Composition of Selected Personnel Actions by EEO Group:

We reviewed the EEO groups of those individuals who in fiscal years 
1997 through 2001 were hired, promoted, separated, or received awards 
or against whom Region X took adverse actions. For most of the 
personnel actions we reviewed, our analysis showed no statistically 
significant differences among EEO groups, but it did show statistically 
significant differences for some types of awards and adverse 
actions.[Footnote 10] The analysis showed statistically significant 
differences among races and between the sexes concerning quality step 
increases for fiscal year 2001. We also found statistically significant 
differences by race/ethnicity for nonmonetary, or honor, awards. Our 
statistical analysis showed no significant differences among EEO groups 
for written reprimands; however, it showed statistically significant 
differences among races for suspensions and statistically significant 
differences between the sexes concerning involuntary separations. Human 
capital management principles include certain internal safeguards to 
help achieve consistency, equity, nondiscrimination, and 
nonpoliticization in the performance management process. One of these 
safeguards can be reviewing the results of personnel actions for 
statistically significant differences across groups. According to a 
Region X official, the Region has not reviewed such differences to 
uncover their causes or to determine their appropriateness.

Hiring:

From fiscal 1997 through fiscal year 2001, hiring among all minority 
groups except AIAN men and women increased as a percentage of those 
hired. The largest increase occurred among Hispanics. Hiring of 
Hispanic women increased from 9, or 5.1 percent of all hiring, in 
fiscal year 1997 to 21, or 9.8 percent in fiscal year 2001. Hiring of 
Hispanic men increased from 4, or 2.3 percent of all hiring, in fiscal 
year 1997 to 14, or 6.5 percent in fiscal year 2001. According to SSA 
officials, one of the reasons for the increase in Hispanic hires was 
that in fiscal year 1998 the Region hired 57 Spanish language bilingual 
telephone service representatives[Footnote 11] when Spanish language 
calls began being routed to the Auburn Teleservice Center as part of 
the national phase-in of the "direct-in" option of service for the 
Spanish-speaking:

:

public.[Footnote 12] African American women had the largest decrease in 
the percentage of hires they represent, and the percentage of AIAN men 
and women declined slightly. Figure 2 shows hiring in Region X by EEO 
group for fiscal years 1997 and 2001. All EEO groups were hired at 
rates that were above their representation in the workforce, except 
White men and women.

Figure 2: Hiring in Region X for Fiscal Years 1997 and 2001 by EEO 
Group:

[See PDF for image]

[End of figure]

Promotions:

Promotions involve either the selection of a current or former federal 
employee for a higher grade position, using procedures that compare the 
candidates on merit (i.e., competitive promotions), or promotion of an 
employee without competition when the employee had earlier been 
competitively selected and had demonstrated readiness for the next 
grade (i.e., career ladder promotions). Because career ladder 
promotions do not involve current competition, we focused on 
competitive promotions. We calculated the percentage of promotions 
received by members of each EEO group over the 5-year period and 
compared it with the group's average percentage of the workforce 
overall. This comparison showed that most EEO groups were promoted at a 
rate that was generally about the same as or somewhat higher than each 
group's average percentage of representation in the workforce for the 
period. African American men and White women had the largest positive 
percentage difference (1.1 percent) between their percentage of 
competitive promotions and representation in the workforce. Only White 
men and African American women were promoted at rates lower than their 
average percentage of representation in the workforce, with a 2.2 and 
1.0 percentage difference, respectively.[Footnote 13] Table 2 compares 
the percentage of competitive promotions to the average percentage 
representation of each EEO group in the workforce for fiscal years 1997 
through 2001 in Region X.

Table 2: Comparison of the Percentage of Competitive Promotions to the 
Average Percentage Representation of Each EEO Group in the Workforce 
for Fiscal Years 1997 Through 2001 in Region X:

EEO group: African American men; Total competitive promotions for 5 
years: 25; Percentage of competitive promotions: 3.6; Average 
percentage representation in the workforce (5 years): 2.5.

EEO group: African American women; Total competitive promotions for 5 
years: 30; Percentage of competitive promotions: 4.3; Average 
percentage representation in the workforce (5 years): 5.3.

EEO group: AIAN men; Total competitive promotions for 5 years: 4; 
Percentage of competitive promotions: 0.6; Average percentage 
representation in the workforce (5 years): 0.4.

EEO group: AIAN women; Total competitive promotions for 5 years: 12; 
Percentage of competitive promotions: 1.7; Average percentage 
representation in the workforce (5 years): 1.0.

EEO group: Asian men; Total competitive promotions for 5 years: 13; 
Percentage of competitive promotions: 1.9; Average percentage 
representation in the workforce (5 years): 1.9.

EEO group: Asian women; Total competitive promotions for 5 years: 31; 
Percentage of competitive promotions: 4.5; Average percentage 
representation in the workforce (5 years): 4.0.

EEO group: Hispanic men; Total competitive promotions for 5 years: 20; 
Percentage of competitive promotions: 2.9; Average percentage 
representation in the workforce (5 years): 3.0.

EEO group: Hispanic women; Total competitive promotions for 5 years: 
35; Percentage of competitive promotions: 5.1; Average percentage 
representation in the workforce (5 years): 5.4.

EEO group: White men; Total competitive promotions for 5 years: 156; 
Percentage of competitive promotions: 22.6; Average percentage 
representation in the workforce (5 years): 24.8.

EEO group: White women; Total competitive promotions for 5 years: 364; 
Percentage of competitive promotions: 52.8; Average percentage 
representation in the workforce (5 years): 51.7.

EEO group: Total; Total competitive promotions for 5 years: 690; 
Percentage of competitive promotions: 100.0; Average percentage 
representation in the workforce (5 years): 100.0.

Source: GAO analysis of Region X data.

[End of table]

Experience, training, and awards are among the elements considered in 
the merit promotion process. Appendix IV describes by EEO group, those 
employees in Region X who participated in selected training 
opportunities and received temporary promotions and awards during 
fiscal years 1997 through 2001. Concerning awards, our statistical 
analysis showed that for the 5-year period, Whites were significantly 
more likely to receive quality step increases than African Americans, 
Hispanics, and AIANs; Asians were significantly more likely to receive 
quality step increases than Hispanics and AIANs; and African Americans 
were significantly more likely to receive quality step increases than 
Hispanics. There were no statistically significant differences between 
men and women. Because the Region acknowledged a disparity among 
racial/ethnic groups concerning quality step increases and began trying 
to address this disparity in fiscal year 1997, we also did a 
statistical analysis of quality step increases for fiscal year 2001 
alone. By fiscal year 2001, only two statistically significant 
differences remained--women were significantly more likely to receive 
quality step increases than men and Hispanics were significantly less 
likely to receive quality step increases than African Americans or 
Whites--which shows substantial progress. Our analysis also showed that 
for the 5-year period, Asians were significantly more likely to receive 
nonmonetary, or honor, awards than Whites, African Americans, and 
Hispanics. Also, AIANs were significantly more likely to receive honor 
awards than Hispanics.

Our statistical significance analysis was not designed to determine 
whether or not discrimination occurred. However, the analysis could 
indicate areas warranting further study.

Separations:

Separations include voluntary transfer to another SSA regional office, 
resignation, retirement, and involuntary removal or termination. 
Involuntary separations are discussed under adverse actions. Although 
there were definite increases in the percentage of separations among 
specific EEO groups for fiscal years 1997 through 2001, all EEO groups 
experienced fluctuations in separations over the 5 years we reviewed. 
In addition, the percentage of separations accounted for by retirements 
increased from about a third in fiscal year 1997, to about 40 percent 
in fiscal year 1998, peaked at about 55 percent in fiscal year 1999, 
declined to almost 40 percent in fiscal year 2000, and returned to 
about a third in fiscal year 2001.

We calculated the percentage of separations each EEO group represented 
over the 5-year period and compared it with the average percentage of 
the workforce by EEO. This comparison shows that all minority EEO 
groups separated at a rate that was slightly higher than the average 
percentage each group represented in the workforce for the period. 
African American women had the largest percentage difference between 
their percentage of separations and representation in the workforce 
(1.3 percentage points), followed by AIAN women (1.1 percentage 
points). Only Whites separated at rates lower than their average 
percentage representation in the workforce. Table 3 compares the 
percentage of separations to the average percentage of each EEO group 
in the workforce for fiscal years 1997 through 2001 in Region X.

Table 3: Comparison of the Percentage of Separations to the Average 
Percentage Representation of Each EEO Group in the Workforce for Fiscal 
Years 1997 Through 2001 in Region X:

EEO group: African American men; Total separations for 5 years: 20; 
Percentage of separations: 2.6; Average percentage representation in 
the workforce (5 years): 2.5.

EEO group: African American women; Total separations for 5 years: 50; 
Percentage of separations: 6.6; Average percentage representation in 
the workforce (5 years): 5.3.

EEO group: AIAN men; Total separations for 5 years: 4; Percentage of 
separations: 0.5; Average percentage representation in the workforce (5 
years): 0.4.

EEO group: AIAN women; Total separations for 5 years: 16; Percentage of 
separations: 2.1; Average percentage representation in the workforce (5 
years): 1.0.

EEO group: Asian men; Total separations for 5 years: 19; Percentage of 
separations: 2.5; Average percentage representation in the workforce (5 
years): 1.9.

EEO group: Asian women; Total separations for 5 years: 37; Percentage 
of separations: 4.9; Average percentage representation in the workforce 
(5 years): 4.0.

EEO group: Hispanic men; Total separations for 5 years: 27; Percentage 
of separations: 3.6; Average percentage representation in the workforce 
(5 years): 3.0.

EEO group: Hispanic women; Total separations for 5 years: 48; 
Percentage of separations: 6.3; Average percentage representation in 
the workforce (5 years): 5.4.

EEO group: White men; Total separations for 5 years: 174; Percentage of 
separations: 22.9; Average percentage representation in the workforce 
(5 years): 24.8.

EEO group: White women; Total separations for 5 years: 365; Percentage 
of separations: 48.0; Average percentage representation in the 
workforce (5 years): 51.7.

EEO group: Total; Total separations for 5 years: 760; Percentage of 
separations: 100.0; Average percentage representation in the workforce 
(5 years): 100.0.

Source: GAO analysis of Region X data.

[End of table]

Adverse Actions:

Region X took 142 adverse actions over the 5-year period.[Footnote 14] 
These actions included written reprimands, short-term suspensions 
(i.e., 14 days or less), long-term suspensions (i.e., 15 days or more), 
demotions, and terminations or removals. Of the 142 actions, 65, or 
about 46 percent, were for individuals who entered computer databases 
without authorization. Our statistical analysis showed no significant 
differences among EEO groups for written reprimands. However, for 
short-term suspensions, AIANs and African Americans were significantly 
more likely to receive suspensions of 14 days or less than Whites. 
Also, men were significantly more likely to experience a removal or 
termination than women. As mentioned earlier, our statistical analysis 
was not designed to determine whether or not discrimination existed but 
can identify areas worthy of further study by management. Appendix V 
contains detailed information on adverse actions, appeals of such 
actions, formal EEO complaints filed, and grievances filed under the 
union grievance procedure for fiscal years 1997 through 2001 in Region 
X.

Region X Made Temporary Changes to the Informal Stage of the EEO 
Process:

Region X made changes to its informal EEO process in fiscal years 1999 
and 2001. For fiscal years 1997 and 1998, current and former Region X 
EEO counselors described an informal process that mirrored the federal 
sector complaint process outlined in EEOC's guidance. In fiscal year 
1999, Region X made changes to this process, under which EEO counselors 
were no longer allowed to talk with managers but were required to 
submit questions in writing to managers about what had transpired 
between employees and managers. In addition, managers were encouraged 
to routinely have an attorney from OGC review their written responses 
before these responses were provided to the EEO counselors. In fiscal 
year 2001, after discussions with SSA headquarters officials had 
occurred, additional training was provided (for EEO counselors, OGC, 
and executive staff), and the then Regional Commissioner made 
conference calls to every manager about this issue, EEO counselors were 
again allowed to talk with managers. Counselors said revoking the 
changes brought the process back to what it was previously.

Because the Region could not provide us with documentation on how it 
carried out its EEO complaint process or how it changed, we contacted 
former and current EEO counselors and discussed this area with regional 
officials. For fiscal years 1997 and 1998, Region X EEO counselors 
described an informal process similar to the informal stage of the 
federal sector complaint process outlined in EEOC guidance Management 
Directive 110 (MD-110).[Footnote 15] First an employee would approach 
an EEO counselor, who would take notes about the person's complaint, 
including the claim being made and the basis or bases for the 
complaint. The EEO counselor would then advise the employee of his or 
her rights. The counselor would call the manager identified by the 
employee, identify for the manager the issues and bases of the 
complaint, and get the manager's input on what had transpired. Several 
counselors said that after meeting or talking with the employees and 
managers, they would typically read back managers' statements to them 
to make sure that they had captured what the managers said. One 
counselor mentioned letting managers read the statement.

According to SSA headquarters and Region X officials, in fiscal year 
1999, Region X made changes to the procedures in the informal stage of 
its EEO complaint process. These changes (1) required Region X EEO 
counselors to put in writing questions to managers and (2) commonly 
involved the Region's OGC in the informal stage of the process. The 
then Regional Commissioner referred to these changes collectively as 
the "written approach." After these changes took place, EEO counselors 
were no longer allowed to talk with managers. In addition, according to 
the then Regional Commissioner, as part of the written approach, 
managers were encouraged to routinely have an attorney from OGC review 
their written responses before these responses were provided to the EEO 
counselors.

SSA's then Associate Commissioner of the Office of Civil Rights and 
Equal Opportunity (OCREO) said that he thought the written queries came 
out of Region X managers' distrust of what the EEO counselors 
attributed to managers in their reports. The then Regional Commissioner 
said that regional managers had reported that EEO counselors were not 
accurately reflecting managers' views in the counselors' reports, 
including a manager who in January 1998 said at a hearing on a formal 
EEO complaint that he had not said things attributed to him. In 
addition, according to the then Regional Commissioner, EEO counselor 
training was inadequate before 1999, and the change to written queries 
was put in place about the same time that the Region put in place a 
formal training process for EEO counselors.[Footnote 16] The then 
Regional Commissioner said that she wanted to use the written approach 
to give managers the opportunity to give their views until training was 
completed.

Also, in 1999, the Region began relying more on OGC in matters 
concerning employee relations. In a memo dated February 4, 1999, the 
Region announced that a new partnership had been put in place and that 
OGC would be providing advice and counsel on all employee relations 
issues and cases. According to the memo, these issues and cases were to 
include misconduct, performance and attendance problems, reasonable 
accommodation for employees with disabilities, and standards of 
conduct. The memo does not refer to OGC involvement in EEO complaints 
and cases. However, according to the then Regional Commissioner and 
others, in fiscal year 1999, OGC began reviewing managers' written 
responses to counselors' inquiries during the informal stage of the EEO 
process. The then Associate Commissioner of OCREO said that after the 
February 1999 memo, he believes that it became normal in Region X for 
managers to consult with OGC. He said that he thought that the OGC 
involvement was gradual in the beginning. The Regional Chief Counsel 
said that not every manager availed himself or herself of OGC's 
services.

The then Associate Commissioner of OCREO said that he started in his 
position in March 2000 and that he thought he first became aware that 
Region X was involving OGC in a routine way in the EEO process in 
summer 2000. The then Associate Commissioner said that he and the then 
SSA Deputy Commissioner for Human Resources agreed that there was a 
perception that Region X's reliance on OGC went beyond the informal 
process. The then Associate Commissioner said that during the informal 
process, there should be a limited inquiry and that it should not 
prevent EEO counselors from talking with managers or involve OGC. The 
then Associate Commissioner said that SSA headquarters officials held 
discussions with Region X officials to explain that having OGC involved 
in the informal EEO process gave the appearance that the "deck is 
stacked against employees." In discussions between SSA headquarters and 
Region X officials, the then Associate Commissioner said that both 
headquarters and regional officials agreed that it would be good to 
have training to get the process back to what was outlined in EEOC's 
guidance. As a result, the then Associate Commissioner said that SSA 
headquarters sent OCREO staff to the Region to provide training in 
October 2000 on basic counseling, limited inquiries, and report 
writing. According to the then Associate Commissioner, the training was 
provided to the Civil Rights and Equal Opportunity (CREO) staff, 
including EEO counselors and the CREO manager, OGC, and executive 
staff.

In addition, the then Regional Commissioner said that she spoke with 
the Area Director for Alaska and Washington, the Area Director for 
Idaho and Oregon, and the Director of the Auburn Teleservice 
Center[Footnote 17] and told them that OGC was not to be used during 
the informal stage of inquiry. After the training took place, the then 
Regional Commissioner said that she also had conference calls with 
every manager about this issue. According to a Region X official, these 
conference calls took place on October 8, 2000. Notes from a Region X 
official concerning these conference calls indicate the following 
topics on the informal stage of the EEO process were discussed:

* The role of the counselor is to conduct a neutral and limited 
inquiry, not an investigation.

* Counselors will no longer submit questions in writing; they will 
engage in a verbal dialogue with managers and supervisors, with 
emphasis on informality.

* It is important to remember that a counselor is not trying to prove 
right or wrong. He or she is working toward a solution.

* Resolution during informal counseling varies with the nature of 
complaint.

Because the Region did not provide documentation that the written 
approach was no longer a part of its informal EEO process, we contacted 
Region X officials and former and current EEO counselors to confirm 
that such a change took place. According to two Region X EEO counselors 
who were in those positions at the time, beginning in early fiscal year 
2001, they no longer had to put their queries in writing and were again 
allowed to talk with managers.

GAO Survey of Region X Employees about EEO:

To gain an understanding of how familiar the Region's employees are 
with the EEO process, their willingness to participate in it, and their 
views on the work environment, we surveyed all of the Region's 
employees on the EEO process and EEO environment in the Region and 
achieved a 75 percent response rate. According to the results of our 
survey, most Region X employees are familiar with the EEO process, with 
almost two-thirds of Region X employees reporting having received or 
having seen within the last 2 years written materials about the federal 
government's EEO regulations and written materials describing how to 
contact regional EEO counselors. Most respondents indicated that they 
believed decisions concerning job or project assignments, training, 
formal ratings, and monetary awards were always or mostly based on 
merit and free of bias and favoritism. However, 23 percent of 
respondents reported that they felt they had been discriminated 
against. For example, when asked if they felt they were denied a job, 
promotion, or other job benefit because of unlawful discrimination, 10 
percent of respondents cited race, 8 percent cited age, and 8 percent 
cited sex. In addition, when asked if they chose not to apply for a 
promotion or developmental opportunity because they felt they had 
little or no chance of being selected, 11 percent of respondents 
indicated that age was the reason for not applying, 10 percent 
indicated race was the reason, and 6 percent indicated sex was the 
reason.

When asked about their willingness, if they believed that they had been 
discriminated against, to either contact Region X's CREO to participate 
in counseling or to contact OCREO in Baltimore to file a formal EEO 
complaint, almost half of respondents indicated that they would be 
generally or very willing to participate in counseling or to file a 
formal EEO complaint. About 40 percent of respondents indicated that 
they were unwilling or uncertain to participate in counseling or to 
file a formal EEO complaint if they believed that they had been 
discriminated against. When asked to describe their reason for this 
unwillingness or uncertainty, about 55 percent indicated that they were 
unwilling or uncertain to participate in counseling, and 51 percent, to 
file a formal EEO complaint because they feared retaliation. Also, 45 
percent of respondents indicated that they were unwilling or uncertain 
to participate in counseling because of a concern that their contact 
with the EEO counselor would not be kept confidential. Our prior work 
has shown that leading organizations work to ensure that they create a 
workplace that is free of discrimination and in which employees do not 
fear or experience retaliation for engaging in activities protected by 
antidiscrimination laws.[Footnote 18] Our survey results indicate that 
if Region X does not work to improve the perceptions of employees, it 
may not achieve a trusting workplace. Appendix VI discusses more of the 
results of our survey, and appendix VII contains a copy of our 
questionnaire and the responses to the questions.

Region X's Temporary Changes Were Counter to the Spirit of EEOC's 
Regulations and SSA's Guidance:

The changes Region X made to the informal stage of its EEO process are 
not specifically addressed in federal sector EEO regulations. Neither 
EEOC's regulations nor the related guidance--MD-110--directly 
addresses the appropriateness of written counselors' queries, written 
managers' responses, or OGC involvement in the informal process. 
However, these changes were counter to the spirit of the regulations 
and the related guidance, which emphasize the informal nature of 
precomplaint counseling. In addition, these changes were counter to 
SSA's EEO handbook for managers and supervisors, which discusses 
meetings and conversations between counselors and managers but not 
written inquiries.[Footnote 19]

One of the stated purposes of precomplaint counseling is for employees 
who believe they have been discriminated against to attempt to 
informally resolve the matter.[Footnote 20] MD-110 states that in 
almost all instances, informal resolution, freely arrived at by all 
parties involved in the dispute, is the best outcome of a counseling 
action. Appendix A to MD-110, which contains methods for seeking 
resolution, suggests that during precomplaint counseling, the counselor 
talk or meet with agency officials to explain the employee's 
allegations, afford the agency an opportunity to present its position 
concerning the allegations, and suggest how the problem might be 
resolved.

SSA's then Associate Commissioner of OCREO said that the changes made 
by Region X in the informal EEO process, although not illegal, were 
counter to the spirit of the regulations and the related guidance, MD-
110.[Footnote 21] The then Associate Commissioner said that by having 
written EEO counselor queries and managers' responses and involving 
OGC, the informal stage of the EEO process in Region X was more like an 
investigation in the formal stage of the EEO process. In addition, in a 
June 2001 letter to a Region X employee, SSA's then Deputy Commissioner 
for Human Resources wrote that, "Except in rare instances, OGC should 
not be involved in the precomplaint process." When asked whether OGC 
was involved in the informal stage of the EEO complaint process in 
other SSA regions, the then Associate Commissioner for OCREO said that 
he has never had any complaints or allegations that OGC was involved in 
the informal part of the process in other regions.

In addition, the EEOC regulations require that all agencies ensure that 
all agency employees provide full cooperation to EEO personnel in the 
processing and resolution of precomplaint matters.[Footnote 22] 
According to a recent EEOC report,[Footnote 23] the involvement of OGC 
during the informal stage of the EEO process may thwart attempts during 
counseling to resolve matters before the filing of a formal complaint. 
An EEOC official responsible for overseeing agencies' EEO programs said 
that involving OGC in the informal stage of the process causes EEOC 
concern because complaints should be resolved informally and OGC 
involvement can hinder the counselor's ability to facilitate 
resolution. This official added that having managers put responses to 
counselors' queries in writing and involving OGC at the informal stage 
of the process could drag out the process and that the longer the 
process takes, the less likely it is to result in an informal 
settlement. In addition, the EEOC official said that EEOC encourages 
alternative dispute resolution (ADR), and requiring managers to put 
responses in writing is counter to ADR. Finally, the EEOC official said 
that written EEO counselor queries and managers' responses and the 
involvement of OGC in the informal process were counter to the spirit 
of the regulations.

Written counselors' queries and written managers' responses were 
counter to SSA's EEO handbook for managers, which discusses meetings 
and conversations between counselors and managers. The handbook also 
discusses EEO counselors contacting responsible management officials to 
discuss the issues causing concern,[Footnote 24] the basis or bases for 
the complaint, and the remedy sought by the employee. The handbook for 
managers also states that the manager's cooperation with the counselor 
is required by regulation and that the manager may have a 
representative present when meeting with an EEO counselor. Thus, the 
language in the handbook for managers is similar to appendix A of MD-
110, which suggests that the counselor talk or meet with agency 
officials and points out the requirement of EEOC's regulations that all 
agencies ensure that all agency employees provide full cooperation to 
EEO personnel in the processing and resolution of precomplaint matters.

SSA Has Not Adopted Procedures for Counselors Processing EEO Complaints 
as Required by EEOC Regulations:

In doing our work on Region X, we asked SSA headquarters and Region X 
for documents pertaining to the processing of EEO complaints. Among 
other things, SSA provided its EEO handbook for managers and 
supervisors as well as its employees' edition, which inform managers 
and employees what they can expect when faced with the EEO process. 
However, the handbooks, which were issued in November 1995, do not 
contain agency-specific procedures on how EEO counselors are to process 
such complaints. Under EEOC's regulations, agencies have certain 
responsibilities for maintaining a continuing affirmative program to 
promote equal opportunity and to identify and eliminate discriminatory 
practices and policies.[Footnote 25] In order to implement their 
programs, the regulations require agencies to (1) make written 
materials available to all employees and applicants informing them of 
the variety of EEO programs and administrative and judicial remedial 
procedures available to them and (2) prominently post such materials in 
all personnel and EEO offices and throughout the workplace.[Footnote 
26] In addition, the regulations require agencies to adopt procedures 
for processing--both at the informal and formal stage--individual and 
class complaints of discrimination that are consistent with all other 
applicable provisions of the regulations and the instructions for 
complaint processing contained in MD-110.[Footnote 27]

SSA has addressed two of these regulatory requirements. It has 
communicated in memorandums to all employees its policy prohibiting 
discrimination against employees and applicants for employment, most 
recently in a February 10, 2003, memorandum. SSA headquarters and 
Region X officials provided us with copies of the written materials 
containing information on the administrative and judicial remedial 
procedures available. On a visit to Region X, we saw such written 
materials posted on a wall in the Auburn Teleservice Center. We also 
used SSA's Intranet to reach the Seattle Civil Rights and Equal 
Opportunity Web site and confirm that the information is available 
electronically to Region X employees as is current information about 
whom to contact. SSA's EEO handbooks for managers and employees 
discussed earlier also provide much information to their target groups. 
However, SSA has not fully implemented the third regulatory requirement 
to adopt agency-specific procedures for processing EEO complaints. When 
asked if SSA had adopted procedures for processing EEO complaints, the 
then Associate Commissioner for OCREO and Region X's manager for CREO 
said that SSA follows the processes and procedures outlined in the 
guidance on the EEOC regulations--MD-110.

An EEOC official responsible for overseeing agencies' EEO programs said 
that EEOC anticipated that an agency would have step-by-step, 
agency-specific procedures on how the agency would implement the 
broader requirements covered by EEOC's regulations and related 
guidance. The EEOC official said that EEOC anticipated that when 
agencies adopted such procedures, they would be in writing, so others 
could review them, if necessary. According to the EEOC official, having 
agency-specific guidance is important so that people processing 
complaints know exactly how to implement the regulations. The official 
said he thinks it is appropriate for agencies to have standard 
operating procedures, especially when they have more than one 
installation or operations spread across installations or regions, to 
help ensure consistent compliance with the regulations. The EEOC 
official said that it was an issue of fairness to both the employees in 
the EEO offices because they need to know what to do and what is 
expected of them and to those who may file a complaint because they are 
entitled to similar treatment across geographic areas for fairness.

Conclusions:

Our analysis showed no statistically significant differences for most 
of the personnel actions we reviewed. However, we found statistically 
significant differences among groups for certain awards and adverse 
actions in Region X. This analysis was not designed to determine 
whether or not discrimination existed. However, the analysis can 
identify areas worthy of further study by management. Human capital 
management principles include reviewing personnel actions to identify 
and address statistically significant differences across groups in 
order to help ensure EEO in the workplace. Region X has not reviewed 
such differences to uncover their causes or to determine their 
appropriateness.

Concerning whether the Region's EEO complaint process is consistent 
with federal regulations, Region X's changes to written queries and OGC 
involvement in its informal EEO complaint process are not specifically 
addressed in federal sector EEO regulations. However, these changes 
were counter to the spirit of the regulations and the related guidance, 
which emphasize the informal nature of precomplaint counseling and 
informal resolution. In addition, these changes were counter to SSA's 
EEO handbook for managers and supervisors, which discusses meetings and 
conversations between counselors and managers.

In doing our work at Region X, we found that although SSA had issued 
EEO handbooks in November 1995 for managers and supervisors as well as 
employees, the handbooks do not contain agency-specific procedures on 
how EEO counselors are to process complaints of discrimination. Agency-
specific procedures on how to process EEO complaints--both at the 
informal and formal stage--are required by EEOC's regulations and are 
especially important if employees are geographically dispersed, as in 
SSA, to ensure that all employees have the same process available to 
them. Without agency-specific procedures for EEO counselors to process 
complaints of discrimination, counselors in different components could 
use different procedures, with the result that employees are not 
treated consistently. Also, agency-specific procedures could alert 
managers to possible problem areas when they consider changing 
processes and could help prevent changes like the temporary ones in 
Region X that ran counter to the spirit of EEOC's regulations.

In addition, a sizeable portion of respondents to our survey--about 40 
percent--indicated they were unwilling to become or uncertain about 
becoming involved with the processes established for handling EEO 
complaints. Frequently cited reasons for concern about becoming 
involved with the EEO process were a fear of retaliation and that 
contact with the EEO counselor would not be kept confidential. These 
concerns could deter individuals in Region X from exercising their 
rights concerning EEO.

Recommendations:

We recommend that the Commissioner of SSA:

* Direct the Regional Commissioner of Region X to review the 
statistically significant differences we found in adverse actions and 
awards to determine why they occurred and what, if any, corrective 
action is needed.

* Adopt standard operating procedures for EEO counselors that include 
step-by-step procedures for processing complaints of discrimination so 
that counselors and others involved in the process across the country 
know what to do and employees face the same process everywhere.

* Direct the Regional Commissioner of Region X to establish a plan to 
(1) enhance the Region's EEO environment to increase trust and (2) 
measure the plan's effectiveness, such as with a periodic survey of 
employees.

Agency Comments:

In a letter dated June 26, 2003 (see app. VIII), SSA's Commissioner 
said that the agency acknowledged the report's general findings and 
said that SSA is committed to ensuring equal treatment for all 
employees and that its policies and practices are in compliance with 
EEOC's procedures for processing complaints of discrimination. 
Regarding our first recommendation, SSA said that it would continue to 
monitor statistically significant differences. However, SSA did not 
address the extent to which it would take action, if needed. We 
continue to believe that this is an important component of following up 
and alleviating concerns. Regarding our second recommendation that it 
adopt standard operating procedures for EEO counselors, SSA stated that 
it has standard operating procedures in the form of EEO handbooks and 
an EEO training manual that SSA uses to instruct EEO counselors on how 
to process EEO complaints. As discussed in the draft report, the 
handbooks did not provide detailed procedures on how EEO counselors are 
to process EEO complaints. However, the comments state that SSA is 
going to update the handbooks and training manual to provide the 
procedural guidelines called for in EEOC's regulations governing the 
EEO process for federal agencies.

SSA said that it agrees all regions should foster an environment where 
employees feel they can raise concerns and take part in a process 
designed to resolve complaints and acknowledged that the change to the 
EEO process in Region X may have caused some distrust. However, SSA 
disagreed with our third recommendation that the Regional Commissioner 
of Region X establish a plan to enhance the Region's EEO environment to 
increase trust and measure the plan's effectiveness. The comments said 
that our survey found that 51 percent of the Region's employees were 
very or generally willing to participate in EEO counseling, 13 percent 
were as willing as unwilling, and 10 percent were uncertain. SSA also 
said that because Region X is no longer following the change to the EEO 
process that may have caused some distrust, implementing a plan to 
improve trust will not be necessary. Our survey was conducted in early 
2003, or about 2 years after the "written approach" to the informal 
stage of EEO complaint processing was discontinued. Our survey found 
that 40 percent of employees were unwilling or uncertain about using 
the current EEO process, indicating to us a need to focus on enhancing 
the environment to increase trust. While SSA said it would share best 
practices from other human resource management audits with Region X, a 
periodic focus on Region X would, in our view, provide knowledge of 
issues specific to Region X.

We will send copies of this report to the Commissioner of SSA, the 
Director of the Office of Management and Budget, and interested 
congressional committees. We also will make copies available to others 
upon request. In addition, the report is available on GAO's home page 
at http://www.gao.gov. If you or your staff have questions about this 
report, please contact me on (202) 512-6806 or Kiki Theodoropoulos, 
Senior Analyst, on (202) 512-4579. Key contributors to this report are 
listed in appendix IX.

Signed by:

Victor S. Rezendes 
Managing Director, Strategic Issues:

[End of section]

Appendixes :

Appendix I: Objectives, Scope, and Methodology:

As agreed, our objectives were to (1) provide information on the 
composition of Region X's workforce by EEO group (race/ethnicity and 
gender) for fiscal years 1997 through 2001 overall and for personnel 
actions such as promotions, awards, and adverse actions; (2) describe 
the EEO complaint process and any changes to it in the Region for the 
5-year period; (3) assess whether the Region's EEO complaint process is 
consistent with federal regulations and related guidance; and (4) 
assess the familiarity with the EEO process of the Region's employees 
and their attitude toward it.

Objective 1:

To identify the composition of Region X's workforce by EEO group (race/
ethnicity and gender) for fiscal years 1997 through 2001 in general and 
for selected personnel actions (i.e., hires, promotions, separations, 
awards, training, and adverse actions), we used SSA data provided by 
the Region's human resources management information system for the 5-
year period.[Footnote 28] These data were limited to those employees of 
Region X who were under the line authority of the then Regional 
Commissioner and, therefore, do not include employees of the Office of 
Inspector General, Office of Hearings and Appeals, the Office of the 
General Counsel, and the Regional Office of Quality Assurance.

We assessed the reliability of data provided by Region X on the 
workforce, hires, promotions, separations, and awards for fiscal years 
1997 and 2001 by comparing them against the number of employees for 
Region X in the Office of Personnel Management's Central Personnel Data 
File and doing electronic data testing for obvious errors in 
completeness, accuracy, and reasonableness. We found data on the 
workforce, permanent promotions, separations, and quality step 
increases to be sufficiently reliable for fiscal years 1997 and 2001 
for the purposes of this report. We did not check the reliability of 
data on temporary promotions because they included details to lateral 
positions, which are not counted as temporary promotions in the Central 
Personnel Data File. Data on race/ethnicity for hires reported to us by 
Region X were significantly different from such data for SSA Region X 
hires in the Central Personnel Data File.

We discussed the differences with SSA headquarters and Region X 
officials to determine the reason for them. The lead human resources 
official in Region X said that when a new hire is processed via an 
accession action, the employee cannot be paid until the personnel 
action is released and updated through the Federal Personnel and 
Payroll System, the automated personnel action processing system SSA 
uses. During fiscal years 1997 through 2001, the official said that 
often, because of time constraints, the system--which required a code 
for race/ethnicity--was coded with unverified data (i.e., White) so the 
action could go through and the employee be paid.[Footnote 29] The 
official said that in August 2002 SSA began requiring the human 
resources staff processing the new hire personnel actions to have the 
completed form with race/ethnicity submitted electronically or by fax 
on the day the employee reports for duty, so the data can be coded 
properly into the initial accession action. An OPM official analyzed 
Region X data on hires and confirmed that submissions of subsequent 
personnel actions updated race/ethnicity for some Region X employees. 
As a result, we decided the data on hires were sufficiently reliable 
for our purposes.

We assessed the reliability of data on selections to the Job 
Enhancement Program, adverse actions and their appeals, EEO counseling 
requests, EEO complaints, reasonable accommodations, grievances, and 
settlements, by doing in-depth comparisons of narratives concerning the 
data with the data provided by Region X. In cases where we found 
differences, we discussed inconsistencies with regional officials and 
took steps to correct them. We determined that the data on Job 
Enhancement Program selections, adverse actions and their appeals, EEO 
counseling requests, EEO complaints, reasonable accommodations, 
grievances, and settlements were sufficiently reliable for the purposes 
of this report.

To judge its diversity, SSA compares its workforce with the Civilian 
Labor Force (CLF). Because data on the U.S. CLF that SSA uses are based 
on 1990 census data, we decided to use data from the 2001 Current 
Population Survey, which is a monthly survey of about 50,000 households 
conducted by the Bureau of the Census and is the primary source of 
current information on the labor force characteristics of the U.S. 
population. To identify the fiscal year 2001 regional civilian 
workforce, we used the March 2001 Current Population Survey to identify 
the number of individuals 18 or older working in the private sector and 
for federal, state, and local governments in the states of Alaska, 
Idaho, Oregon, and Washington.

As part of our analysis, for our discussion of the composition of SSA 
staff for selected personnel actions, we determined whether 
statistically significant differences by race/ethnicity or gender 
occurred. Our analyses of personnel actions are not designed to show 
that discrimination does or does not exist; instead they are designed 
to provide information at a common and aggregate level about race/
ethnicity and gender differences in personnel actions at Region X. 
Therefore, our results should not be interpreted to indicate whether 
discrimination has or has not occurred. The presence of statistically 
significant difference does not prove discrimination, nor does the 
absence of statistically significant difference prove that staff have 
not been discriminated against. The presence of statistically 
significant differences means that we are 95 percent confident that 
differences could happen by chance in less than 5 percent of the cases.

Objective 2:

To describe the EEO process in Region X and any changes made to it for 
the 5-year period, we reviewed documents provided by SSA headquarters 
and Region X officials and interviewed those officials. Because the 
Region was not able to provide us with written documentation on how it 
carried out the informal stage of the EEO complaint process and when 
changes to the process occurred, we contacted former and current Region 
X EEO counselors and headquarters officials and relied on their views 
concerning when these changes took place.

Objective 3:

To determine whether the Region's EEO complaint process was consistent 
with federal regulations, we reviewed EEOC's regulations[Footnote 30] 
and the related guidance--EEOC's Management Directive 110 (MD-110)--
governing how the discrimination claims of federal employees are to be 
processed administratively and compared their requirements with the 
processes described by SSA headquarters and Region X officials. We also 
reviewed a recent EEOC on-site report on the U.S. Department of 
Agriculture, part of which concerned the involvement of OGC in the 
informal part of the EEO process. In addition, we contacted an EEOC 
official responsible for overseeing agencies' EEO programs to identify 
EEOC's views concerning whether the types of changes Region X made to 
its EEO process were consistent with federal regulations and the 
related guidance.

Objective 4:

To assess the familiarity with the EEO process of the Region's 
employees and their attitude toward it, we designed and sent 
questionnaires to all SSA Region X employees to get their views on EEO. 
We pretested the questionnaire instrument to minimize measurement error 
and assure ourselves that respondents could interpret the questions 
correctly and could provide the information requested. We modified 
question wording and questionnaire format on the basis of what we 
learned from these pretests.

SSA provided us with the home addresses for all individuals employed by 
Region X as of August 27, 2002. On September 18, 2002, we mailed 1,801 
questionnaires to these home addresses. One individual returned the 
questionnaire, indicating that he or she was no longer an employee of 
Region X. Because this individual did not answer any questions in the 
survey, we dropped this individual from the universe of employees, 
resulting in a revised universe of 1,800 Region X employees. After the 
initial and a follow-up mailing, we received 1,364 questionnaires. 
However, we received 9 questionnaires in which the tracking number for 
nonresponse follow-up had been removed (see table 4). Therefore, our 
analysis is based on 1,355 questionnaires, for a response rate of 75.3 
percent. Table 4 summarizes the disposition of the questionnaire 
returns for the revised universe of 1,800.

Table 4: Final Disposition of Questionnaire:

Disposition: Useable returns; Number: 1,355; Percent: 75.3.

Disposition: Delivered but not returned; Number: 436; Percent: 24.2.

Disposition: Returned but not useable[A]; Number: 9; Percent: 0.5.

Disposition: Total; Number: 1,800; Percent: 100.0.

Source: GAO analysis.

[A] We received nine questionnaires in which the tracking number for 
nonresponse follow-up had been removed. Because anyone who did not 
respond to the initial mailing was sent two questionnaires, these nine 
questionnaires were not included in our analysis because they may have 
been duplicates.

[End of table]

The questionnaire offered respondents the option of providing 
additional comments relating to any of the items discussed therein. Of 
the 1,355 useable returns, 307 respondents, or 22.7 percent, provided 
narrative comments. The questionnaire results express the viewpoints 
and attitudes of SSA Region X employees. All responses were anonymous; 
if respondents included references to names, these references were 
marked out before questionnaires were submitted to data entry.

All data were double-keyed and verified as part of the data entry 
process. Computer analyses were performed to identify inconsistencies 
(e.g., inappropriate skip patterns) or other indications of errors. All 
computer analyses were verified by a second independent analyst. 
Although it was not possible to test the validity of the respondents' 
answers or the comments they made, we took several steps to check the 
quality of our questionnaire data. We reviewed and edited completed 
questionnaires, made internal consistency checks on several items, and 
rechecked the accuracy of data entry on a random sample of 
questionnaires. The practical difficulties of administering any 
questionnaire may introduce errors, commonly referred to as nonsampling 
errors. For example, differences in how a particular question is 
interpreted by respondents could introduce unwanted variability in the 
questionnaire's results. We took steps in the development of the 
questionnaire, the data collection, and the data analysis to minimize 
nonsampling errors. These steps, which we discussed earlier, included 
pretesting and revising the questionnaires accordingly.

The percentage of respondents by race/ethnicity closely mirrored the 
percentage of each race/ethnicity in the population of Region X 
employees. The percentage of men and women responding to the survey 
also matched their respective percentages in the Region X workforce.

The 95-percent confidence intervals for the percentage of respondents 
who were unwilling or uncertain to participate in counseling or to file 
a formal discrimination complaint were +1.4 percentage points. The 95-
percent confidence intervals for the reasons why respondents were 
unwilling or uncertain to participate in counseling or to file a formal 
discrimination complaint were + 2.3 percentage points.

We did our work in Washington, D.C., Baltimore, and Seattle from 
January 2002 through May 2003 in accordance with generally accepted 
government auditing standards.

[End of section]

Appendix II: EEO Laws and Regulations Applicable to Federal Employees:

Laws Prohibiting Discrimination:

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, makes it illegal 
for employers, including federal agencies, to discriminate against 
their employees or job applicants on the basis of race, color, 
religion, sex, or national origin.[Footnote 31] The Equal Pay Act of 
1963 protects men and women who perform substantially equal work in the 
same establishment from sex-based wage discrimination.[Footnote 32] The 
Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, as amended, prohibits 
employment discrimination against individuals who are 40 years of age 
or older.[Footnote 33] Sections 501 and 505 of the Rehabilitation Act 
of 1973, as amended, prohibit discrimination against qualified 
individuals with disabilities who work or apply to work in the federal 
government.[Footnote 34] Federal agencies are required to provide 
reasonable accommodation to qualified employees or applicants for 
employment with disabilities, except when such accommodation would 
cause an undue hardship. In addition, a person who files a complaint or 
participates in an investigation of an EEO complaint or who opposes an 
employment practice made illegal under any of the antidiscrimination 
statutes is protected from retaliation. The Equal Employment 
Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is responsible for enforcing all of these 
laws.

EEOC Regulations Governing the Processing of Employment Discrimination 
Complaints:

Federal employees or applicants for employment who believe that they 
have been discriminated against by a federal agency may file a 
complaint with that agency.[Footnote 35] EEOC has established 
regulations providing for the 
processing of federal sector employment discrimination 
complaints.[Footnote 36] This complaint process consists of two stages, 
informal, or precomplaint counseling, and formal. Before filing a 
complaint, the employee must consult an EEO counselor at the agency in 
order to try to informally resolve the matter. The employee must 
contact an EEO counselor within 45 days of the matter alleged to be 
discriminatory or, in the case of a personnel action, within 45 days of 
the effective date of the action. EEO counselors should determine if 
the employee believes that his or her problem is the result of 
discrimination on one or more of the bases--race, color, sex (including 
equal pay), religion, national origin, age (40 and over), disability--
or in retaliation for having participated in activity protected by the 
various antidiscrimination statutes. Counselors are to advise 
individuals that, when the agency agrees to offer alternative dispute 
resolution (ADR) in the particular case,[Footnote 37] they may choose 
to participate in either counseling or in ADR.

After the counselor determines the basis or bases and claims, he or she 
is to conduct a limited inquiry of the matter, which generally involves 
speaking or meeting with the two parties. When the counselor has a good 
grasp of the issues involved, he or she is ready to attempt resolution. 
Resolution means that the employee and the agency come to terms with 
the matter and agree on a solution. In seeking resolution, the 
counselor is to listen to and understand the viewpoint of both parties 
and act as a neutral and not as an advocate for either the employee or 
the agency. Counseling is to be completed within 30 days from the date 
the employee contacted the EEO office for counseling.[Footnote 38] If 
the matter is not resolved by the 30th day of counseling or if ADR is 
unsuccessful,[Footnote 39] the counselor is required to inform the 
employee in writing of his or her right to file a formal discrimination 
complaint with the agency. The written notice must inform the employee 
of the (1) right to file a discrimination complaint within 15 days of 
receipt of the notice, (2) appropriate agency official with whom to 
file a complaint, and (3) duty to ensure that the agency is informed 
immediately if the complainant retains counsel or a representative.

After a complainant files a formal discrimination complaint, the agency 
must decide whether to accept or dismiss the complaint. If the agency 
dismisses the complaint, the complainant has 30 days to appeal the 
dismissal to EEOC.[Footnote 40] If the agency accepts the complaint, it 
has 180 days to investigate the accepted complaint and present the 
complainant with a record of investigation.[Footnote 41] Once the 
agency finishes its investigation and the complainant receives the 
investigation results, the complainant has 30 days to choose between 
requesting (1) a hearing before an EEOC administrative judge 
(AJ)[Footnote 42] or (2) a final decision from the agency. When a 
hearing is not requested, the agency must issue a final decision within 
60 days. In cases where a hearing is requested, the AJ has 180 days to 
issue a decision and send the decision to the complainant and the 
agency. If the AJ issues a finding of discrimination, he or she is to 
order appropriate relief. After the AJ decision is issued, the agency 
has 40 days to issue a final order notifying the complainant whether or 
not the agency will fully implement the decision of the AJ, and the 
employee has 30 days to file an appeal with EEOC.[Footnote 43] If the 
agency issues an order notifying the complainant that the agency will 
not fully implement the decision of the AJ, the agency also must file 
an appeal with EEOC at the same time. Figure 3 illustrates the EEO 
complaint process.

Figure 3: The EEO Complaint Process with Related Time Frames:

[See PDF for image]

[A] Where the agency agrees to offer ADR in the particular case, 
employees may choose between participation in ADR and counseling 
activities. ADR generally refers to any procedure agreed to by the 
parties in a dispute that is used to resolve issues in controversy 
including, but not limited to, mediation.

[End of figure]

If a complaint is one that can be appealed to the Merit Systems 
Protection Board (MSPB) such as a removal, reduction in grade or pay, 
or suspension for more than 14 days,[Footnote 44] the complaint is a 
"mixed case." With a mixed-case complaint, the complainant has no right 
to a hearing before an EEOC AJ. However, a complainant may appeal a 
final agency decision to the MSPB within 30 days of receiving the 
agency's decision. EEOC regulations provide that an individual may 
raise claims of discrimination in a mixed case, either as a mixed-case 
EEO complaint with the agency or a direct appeal to MSPB, but not both. 
Under EEOC regulations, whatever action the individual files first is 
considered an election to proceed in that forum. Filing a formal EEO 
complaint constitutes an election to proceed in the EEO forum; 
contacting an EEO counselor or receiving EEO counseling does not 
constitute such an election.[Footnote 45]

[End of section]

Appendix III: Region X Workforce by Grade Level:

Over the 5-year period from fiscal years 1997 through 2001, with the 
exception of managers in the Senior Executive Service (SES) and eight 
wage grade employees, the Region X workforce was in the general 
schedule (GS) pay plan.[Footnote 46] The GS pay plan consists of 15 
grades. The following sections contain a discussion of Region X 
employees by EEO group in grade levels GS-13 through 15, GS-9 through 
12, GS-5 through 8, and GS-1 through 4.

Region X Employees in Grades GS-13 through GS-15:

A total of 75 employees were in grades GS-13 through GS-15 in fiscal 
year 1997, and 134 in fiscal year 2001. The largest proportional gain 
in these grades was among White women, who increased from 19, or about 
25 percent of these grades, in fiscal year 1997 to 44, or about 33 
percent, in fiscal year 2001. This was followed by a proportional 
increase in these grades among Asian women, who increased in number 
from 2, or almost 3 percent of the grades, in fiscal year 1997 to 10, 
or 7.5 percent, in fiscal year 2001. Proportional increases also 
occurred among African American women, AIAN men, and Hispanic men. 
Hispanic women increased from 0 in fiscal year 1997 to 4, or 3 percent 
of these grades in fiscal year 2001. Figure 4 shows the change in 
Region X employees in grades GS-13 through GS-15 by EEO group between 
fiscal years 1997 and 2001.

Figure 4: Region X Employees in Grades GS-13 through GS-15 in Fiscal 
Years 1997 and 2001 by EEO Group:

[See PDF for image]

[End of figure]

Region X Employees in Grades GS-9 through GS-12:

A total of 791 employees were in grades GS-9 through GS-12 in fiscal 
year 1997, and 837 in fiscal year 2001. The largest proportional gain 
in these grades from fiscal year 1997 to 2001 was among Hispanic women, 
who increased from 26, or 3.3 percent of the grades, in fiscal year 
1997 to 46, or 5.5 percent, in fiscal year 2001. This was followed by a 
proportional increase among Asian women, whose presence in the grades 
went from 28, or 3.5 percent in fiscal year 1997, to 41, or 4.9 
percent, in fiscal year 2001. Proportional increases also occurred 
among African American men and women, Asian men, and Hispanic men. 
Figure 5 shows the distribution of Region X employees in grades GS-9 
through GS-12 by EEO group from fiscal year 1997 to fiscal year 2001.

Figure 5: Region X Employees in Grades GS-9 Through GS-12 in Fiscal 
Years 1997 and 2001 by EEO Group:

[See PDF for image]

[End of figure]

Region X Employees in Grades GS-5 through GS-8:

A total of 818 employees were in grades GS-5 through GS-8 in fiscal 
year 1997, and 844 in fiscal year 2001. The largest proportional gain 
in these grades was among Hispanic women, who increased from 28, or 3.4 
percent of these grades, in fiscal year 1997 to 66, or 7.8 percent, in 
fiscal year 2001. This increase was followed by a proportional increase 
among Hispanic men, whose presence in these grades doubled from 20, or 
2.4 percent in fiscal year 1997, to 40, or 4.7 percent in fiscal year 
2001 and Asian women, who increased from 22, or 2.7 percent, to 36, or 
4.3 percent. The largest proportional loss occurred among White women, 
who decreased from 439, or 53.7 percent of the grades in fiscal year 
1997, to 387, or 45.9 in fiscal year 2001; this was followed by a loss 
among White men, who decreased from 213, or 26 percent of the grades in 
fiscal year 1997, to 205, or 24.3 percent in fiscal year 2001. No 
change occurred in the number of African American or AIAN men in these 
grades in fiscal years 1997 and 2001. Figure 6 shows Region X employees 
in grades GS-5 through GS-8 in fiscal years 1997 and 2001 by EEO group.

Figure 6: Region X Employees in Grades GS-5 through GS-8 in Fiscal 
Years 1997 and 2001 by EEO Group:

[See PDF for image]

[End of figure]

Region X Employees in Grades GS-1 through GS-4:

A total of 35 employees were in grades GS-1 through GS-4 in fiscal year 
1997, and 30 in fiscal year 2001. Numbers for both years included 
students. There were no African American, Asian, or Hispanic men in 
these grades in fiscal years 1997 and 2001. The largest proportional 
increase occurred among AIAN women, who increased from 1, or 2.9 
percent of these grades in fiscal year 1997, to 5, or 16.7 percent in 
fiscal year 2001. This increase was followed by a proportional increase 
in Asian women, who doubled from 3, or 8.6 percent of these grades in 
fiscal year 1997 to 6, or 20.0 percent in fiscal year 2001. The largest 
proportional loss was experienced among White women, who decreased from 
21, or 60 percent of these grades in fiscal year 1997 to 10, or 33.3 
percent in fiscal year 2001. Figure 7 shows Region X employees in 
grades GS-1 through GS-4 from fiscal year 1997 through fiscal year 2001 
by EEO group.

Figure 7: Region X Employees in Grades GS-1 through GS-4 in Fiscal 
Years 1997 and 2001 by EEO Group:

[See PDF for image]

[End of figure]

Tables 5 and 6 show the distribution across grade levels by race/
ethnicity and gender compared with their representation in the Region's 
workforce for fiscal years 1997 and 2001, respectively. As shown in the 
tables, the distribution across grade levels by race/ethnicity or 
gender varied somewhat but was generally close to the representation of 
the various racial/ethnic groups or gender makeup of the Region's 
workforce. The main differences were higher proportions of men in the 
GS-13 through GS-15 grade levels and higher representation of African 
Americans and Hispanics in the GS-5 through GS-8 grades.

Table 5: Percentage Distribution across Grade Levels by Race/Ethnicity 
and Gender for Fiscal Year 1997:

Group: African Americans; GS-5 through GS-8: 9.4; GS-9 through GS-12: 
4.9; GS-13 through GS-15: 8.0; Workforce as of: September 30, 1997: 
7.3.

Group: AIANs; GS-5 through GS-8: 0.6; GS-9 through GS-12: 1.8; GS-13 
through GS-15: 2.7; Workforce as of: September 30, 1997: 1.6.

Group: Asians; GS-5 through GS-8: 4.4; GS-9 through GS-12: 4.7; GS-13 
through GS-15: 8.0; Workforce as of: September 30, 1997: 4.8.

Group: Hispanics; GS-5 through GS-8: 5.9; GS-9 through GS-12: 4.9; GS-
13 through GS-15: 4.0; Workforce as of: September 30, 1997: 5.4.

Group: Whites; GS-5 through GS-8: 79.7; GS-9 through GS-12: 83.7; GS-13 
through GS-15: 77.3; Workforce as of: September 30, 1997: 81.0.

Group: Men; GS-5 through GS-8: 33.9; GS-9 through GS-12: 27.9; GS-13 
through GS-15: 66.7; Workforce as of: September 30, 1997: 32.0.

Group: Women; GS-5 through GS-8: 66.1; GS-9 through GS-12: 72.1; GS-13 
through GS-15: 33.3; Workforce as of: September 30, 1997: 68.0.

Source: GAO analysis of Region X data.

Note: Because the numbers were so small, we did not include data for 
grades GS-1 through 4.

[End of table]

Table 6: Percentage Distribution across Grade Levels by Race/Ethnicity 
and Gender for Fiscal Year 2001:

Group: African Americans; GS-5 through GS-8: 10.0; GS-9 through GS-12: 
6.2; GS-13 through GS-15: 6.7; Workforce as of September 30, 2001: 8.1.

Group: AIANs; GS-5 through GS-8: 0.9; GS-9 through GS-12: 1.3; GS-13 
through GS-15: 2.2; Workforce as of September 30, 2001: 1.5.

Group: Asians; GS-5 through GS-8: 6.4; GS-9 through GS-12: 7.3; GS-13 
through GS-15: 9.7; Workforce as of September 30, 2001: 7.3.

Group: Hispanics; GS-5 through GS-8: 12.6; GS-9 through GS-12: 8.0; GS-
13 through GS-15: 6.0; Workforce as of September 30, 2001: 10.0.

Group: Whites; GS-5 through GS-8: 70.1; GS-9 through GS-12: 77.2; GS-13 
through GS-15: 75.4; Workforce as of September 30, 2001: 73.1.

Group: Men; GS-5 through GS-8: 34.7; GS-9 through GS-12: 29.2; GS-13 
through GS-15: 51.5; Workforce as of September 30, 2001: 33.0.

Group: Women; GS-5 through GS-8: 65.3; GS-9 through GS-12: 70.8; GS-13 
through GS-15: 48.5; Workforce as of September 30, 2001: 67.0.

Source: GAO analysis of Region X data.

Note: Because the numbers were so small, we did not include data for 
grades GS-1 through 4.

[End of table]

[End of section]

Appendix IV: Temporary Promotions, Training, and Awards:

Experience, training, and awards are among the elements considered 
under SSA's merit promotion process. Experience includes such 
developmental assignments as temporary promotions and outside 
activities. Training includes both external coursework (e.g., college 
courses) and internal courses (provided by the agency). Awards include 
monetary and nonmonetary, or honor, awards. The analysis for the 5-year 
period showed statistically significant differences among races 
concerning quality step increases and honor awards. These analyses were 
not designed to determine whether or not discrimination occurred but 
could indicate areas warranting further study by management.

The following sections describe by EEO group those who participated in 
temporary promotion and selected training opportunities or received 
awards for fiscal years 1997 through 2001.

Experience: Temporary Promotions:

For an employee to receive a temporary promotion to an existing 
position for which he or she is qualified, the employee must meet (1) 
established position qualification standards for the position and (2) 
time-in-grade requirements for promotion. Region X employees can gain 
experience through two kinds of temporary promotions or lateral 
assignments. The Job Enhancement Program (JEP) is a regional 
noncompetitive program that allows employees to voluntarily apply for 
temporary assignments (both promotions and details to existing 
positions) as a method of enhancing career development. According to a 
2002 SSA report on Region X,[Footnote 47] JEPs enable regional 
employees from grades GS-3 up to GS-14 to take a detail for up to 120 
days in different positions. Table 7 shows the distribution of those 
employees selected for JEPs by EEO group over the 5 years.

Table 7: Comparison of the Percentage of JEPs to the Average Percentage 
Representation in the Workforce for Fiscal Years 1997 Through 2001 in 
Region X by EEO Group:

EEO group: African American men; Total JEPs across 5 years: 21; 
Percentage of JEPs: 4.0; Average percentage representation in the 
workforce: 2.5.

EEO group: African American women; Total JEPs across 5 years: 34; 
Percentage of JEPs: 6.5; Average percentage representation in the 
workforce: 5.3.

EEO group: AIAN men; Total JEPs across 5 years: 0; Percentage of JEPs: 
0; Average percentage representation in the workforce: 0.4.

EEO group: AIAN women; Total JEPs across 5 years: 4; Percentage of 
JEPs: 0.8; Average percentage representation in the workforce: 1.0.

EEO group: Asian men; Total JEPs across 5 years: 4; Percentage of JEPs: 
0.8; Average percentage representation in the workforce: 1.9.

EEO group: Asian women; Total JEPs across 5 years: 14; Percentage of 
JEPs: 2.7; Average percentage representation in the workforce: 4.0.

EEO group: Hispanic men; Total JEPs across 5 years: 9; Percentage of 
JEPs: 1.7; Average percentage representation in the workforce: 3.0.

EEO group: Hispanic women; Total JEPs across 5 years: 14; Percentage of 
JEPs: 2.7; Average percentage representation in the workforce: 5.4.

EEO group: White men; Total JEPs across 5 years: 125; Percentage of 
JEPs: 24.0; Average percentage representation in the workforce: 24.8.

EEO group: White women; Total JEPs across 5 years: 295; Percentage of 
JEPs: 56.7; Average percentage representation in the workforce: 51.7.

EEO group: Total; Total JEPs across 5 years: 520; Percentage of JEPs: 
99.9[A]; Average percentage representation in the workforce: 100.0.

Source: GAO analysis of Region X data.

Note: JEPs include both temporary promotions and details to lateral 
positions.

[A] Total does not sum to 100 percent due to rounding.

[End of table]

According to a Region X official, temporary promotions other than those 
under a JEP can be made noncompetitively for up to 120 days.[Footnote 
48] For promotions greater than 120 days, a vacancy announcement is 
required for all positions. Some vacancies are announced as not-to-
exceed promotions for periods ranging from 1 to 2 years, with a 5-year 
maximum allowable. Such announcements may state, "this position may be 
extended or become permanent without further competition." Table 8 
compares the percentage of temporary promotions to the average 
percentage representation of each EEO Group in the workforce for fiscal 
years 1997 through 2001 in Region X.

Table 8: Comparison of the Percentage of Temporary Promotions to the 
Average Percentage Representation in the Region X Workforce for Fiscal 
Years 1997 through 2001 by EEO Group:

EEO group: African American men; Total temporary promotions across 5 
years: 4; Percentage of temporary promotions: 4.3; Average percentage 
representation in the workforce: 2.5.

EEO group: African American women; Total temporary promotions across 5 
years: 9; Percentage of temporary promotions: 9.7; Average percentage 
representation in the workforce: 5.3.

EEO group: AIAN men; Total temporary promotions across 5 years: 0; 
Percentage of temporary promotions: 0.0; Average percentage 
representation in the workforce: 0.4.

EEO group: AIAN women; Total temporary promotions across 5 years: 0; 
Percentage of temporary promotions: 0.0; Average percentage 
representation in the workforce: 1.0.

EEO group: Asian men; Total temporary promotions across 5 years: 2; 
Percentage of temporary promotions: 2.2; Average percentage 
representation in the workforce: 1.9.

EEO group: Asian women; Total temporary promotions across 5 years: 3; 
Percentage of temporary promotions: 3.2; Average percentage 
representation in the workforce: 4.0.

EEO group: Hispanic men; Total temporary promotions across 5 years: 4; 
Percentage of temporary promotions: 4.3; Average percentage 
representation in the workforce: 3.0.

EEO group: Hispanic women; Total temporary promotions across 5 years: 
1; Percentage of temporary promotions: 1.1; Average percentage 
representation in the workforce: 5.4.

EEO group: White men; Total temporary promotions across 5 years: 19; 
Percentage of temporary promotions: 20.4; Average percentage 
representation in the workforce: 24.8.

EEO group: White women; Total temporary promotions across 5 years: 51; 
Percentage of temporary promotions: 54.8; Average percentage 
representation in the workforce: 51.7.

EEO group: Total; Total temporary promotions across 5 years: 93; 
Percentage of temporary promotions: 100.0; Average percentage 
representation in the workforce: 100.0.

Source: GAO analysis of Region X data.

[End of table]

Training:

When asked for data on training opportunities in Region X for fiscal 
years 1997 through 2001, the Region provided data on employees who 
participated in the Government Employees Training Act (GETA) program 
(for fiscal years 1998 through 2001). Under the GETA program, SSA pays 
for tuition and book expenses for an employee who enrolls in an 
approved course taken at a university, college, or other recognized 
educational institution. Courses covered included American Sign 
Language; various languages (e.g., Spanish, French, and Russian); 
writing; and Windows-based computing (e.g., Excel, PowerPoint). Table 9 
compares the percentage of individuals receiving GETA training to the 
average percentage representation by EEO group in the Region X 
workforce for fiscal years 1998 through 2001.

Table 9: Comparison of the Percentage of GETA Training to the Average 
Percentage Representation by EEO Group in the Region X Workforce for 
Fiscal Years 1998 through 2001:

EEO group: African American men; Total GETA training across 4 years: 8; 
Percentage of GETA training: 1.8; Average percentage representation in 
the workforce: 2.5.

EEO group: African American women; Total GETA training across 4 years: 
35; Percentage of GETA training: 7.9; Average percentage representation 
in the workforce: 5.3.

EEO group: AIAN men; Total GETA training across 4 years: 0; Percentage 
of GETA training: 0.0; Average percentage representation in the 
workforce: 0.4.

EEO group: AIAN women; Total GETA training across 4 years: 4; 
Percentage of GETA training: 1.0; Average percentage representation in 
the workforce: 1.0.

EEO group: Asian men; Total GETA training across 4 years: 8; Percentage 
of GETA training: 1.8; Average percentage representation in the 
workforce: 1.9.

EEO group: Asian women; Total GETA training across 4 years: 11; 
Percentage of GETA training: 2.5; Average percentage representation in 
the workforce: 4.0.

EEO group: Hispanic men; Total GETA training across 4 years: 12; 
Percentage of GETA training: 2.7; Average percentage representation in 
the workforce: 3.0.

EEO group: Hispanic women; Total GETA training across 4 years: 30; 
Percentage of GETA training: 6.8; Average percentage representation in 
the workforce: 5.4.

EEO group: White men; Total GETA training across 4 years: 69; 
Percentage of GETA training: 15.6; Average percentage representation in 
the workforce: 24.8.

EEO group: White women; Total GETA training across 4 years: 265; 
Percentage of GETA training: 60.0; Average percentage representation in 
the workforce: 51.7.

EEO group: Total; Total GETA training across 4 years: 442; Percentage 
of GETA training: 100.1[A]; Average percentage representation in the 
workforce: 100.0.

Source: GAO analysis of Region X data.

[A] Total does not sum to 100 percent due to rounding.

[End of table]

Awards:

SSA's awards are divided into monetary and honor awards. According to 
Region X, monetary awards consist of Recognition of Contribution 
awards, which recognize employees who have maintained high-quality 
performance and may be either a one-time performance award paid as a 
lump sum or a quality step increase, which permanently increases pay; 
Commendable Act or Service awards, which are granted to an employee--as 
an individual or as a member of a group--to recognize major 
accomplishments or contributions that have promoted the mission of the 
organization; and On-the-Spot awards, which are special act or service 
awards that recognize employees for noteworthy accomplishments or 
contributions on individual tasks or assignments.[Footnote 49] We found 
for the 5-year period statistically significant differences among races 
concerning quality step increases and honor awards. Table 10 compares 
the percentage of monetary awards to the average percentage 
representation by EEO group in the workforce for the 5-year 
period.[Footnote 50]

Table 10: Comparison of the Percentage of Monetary Awards to the 
Average Percentage Representation by EEO Group in the Region X 
Workforce for Fiscal Years 1997 through 2001:

EEO group: African American men; Total monetary awards for 5 years: 
173; Percentage of monetary awards: 2.0; Average percentage 
representation in the workforce: 2.5.

EEO group: African American women; Total monetary awards for 5 years: 
443; Percentage of monetary awards: 5.0; Average percentage 
representation in the workforce: 5.3.

EEO group: AIAN men; Total monetary awards for 5 years: 27; Percentage 
of monetary awards: 0.3; Average percentage representation in the 
workforce: 0.4.

EEO group: AIAN women; Total monetary awards for 5 years: 96; 
Percentage of monetary awards: 1.1; Average percentage representation 
in the workforce: 1.0.

EEO group: Asian men; Total monetary awards for 5 years: 174; 
Percentage of monetary awards: 2.0; Average percentage representation 
in the workforce: 1.9.

EEO group: Asian women; Total monetary awards for 5 years: 296; 
Percentage of monetary awards: 3.3; Average percentage representation 
in the workforce: 4.0.

EEO group: Hispanic men; Total monetary awards for 5 years: 229; 
Percentage of monetary awards: 2.6; Average percentage representation 
in the workforce: 3.0.

EEO group: Hispanic women; Total monetary awards for 5 years: 436; 
Percentage of monetary awards: 4.9; Average percentage representation 
in the workforce: 5.4.

EEO group: White men; Total monetary awards for 5 years: 2,159; 
Percentage of monetary awards: 24.4; Average percentage representation 
in the workforce: 24.8.

EEO group: White women; Total monetary awards for 5 years: 4,823; 
Percentage of monetary awards: 54.5; Average percentage representation 
in the workforce: 51.7.

EEO group: Total; Total monetary awards for 5 years: 8,856; Percentage 
of monetary awards: 100.1[A]; Average percentage representation in the 
workforce: 100.0.

Source: GAO analysis of Region X data.

[A] Total does not sum to 100 percent due to rounding.

[End of table]

According to the Region X Affirmative Employment Plan for fiscal year 
1997, the region conducted an analysis of award types and recipient EEO 
profiles in fiscal years 1996 and 1997. According to this report, in 
fiscal year 1996, only Whites received quality step increases; the 
Region began addressing this disparity in fiscal year 1997. Our 
statistical analysis for the 5-year period showed that Whites were 
significantly more likely to receive quality step increases than 
African Americans, Hispanics, and AIANs; Asians were significantly more 
likely to receive quality step increases than Hispanics and AIANs; and 
African Americans were significantly more likely to receive quality 
step increases than Hispanics. There were no statistically significant 
differences between men and women. Because the Region acknowledged a 
disparity among racial/ethnic groups concerning quality step increases 
and began trying to address this disparity in fiscal year 1997, we also 
did a statistical analysis of quality step increases for fiscal year 
2001 alone. By fiscal year 2001, only two statistically significant 
differences remained--women were significantly more likely to receive 
quality step increases than men and Hispanics were significantly less 
likely to receive quality step increases than African Americans or 
Whites--which shows substantial progress. Table 11 compares the 
percentage of quality step increases to the average percentage 
representation by EEO group in the workforce for the 5-year period.

Table 11: Comparison of the Percentage of Quality Step Increases to the 
Average Percentage Representation by EEO Group in the Region X 
Workforce for Fiscal Years 1997 through 2001:

EEO group: African American men; Total quality step increases for 5 
years: 8; Percentage of quality step increases: 1.6; Average percentage 
representation in the workforce: 2.5.

EEO group: African American women; Total quality step increases for 5 
years: 22; Percentage of quality step increases: 4.4; Average 
percentage representation in the workforce: 5.3.

EEO group: AIAN men; Total quality step increases for 5 years: 0; 
Percentage of quality step increases: 0.0; Average percentage 
representation in the workforce: 0.4.

EEO group: AIAN women; Total quality step increases for 5 years: 2; 
Percentage of quality step increases: 0.4; Average percentage 
representation in the workforce: 1.0.

EEO group: Asian men; Total quality step increases for 5 years: 11; 
Percentage of quality step increases: 2.2; Average percentage 
representation in the workforce: 1.9.

EEO group: Asian women; Total quality step increases for 5 years: 22; 
Percentage of quality step increases: 4.4; Average percentage 
representation in the workforce: 4.0.

EEO group: Hispanic men; Total quality step increases for 5 years: 3; 
Percentage of quality step increases: 0.6; Average percentage 
representation in the workforce: 3.0.

EEO group: Hispanic women; Total quality step increases for 5 years: 
12; Percentage of quality step increases: 2.4; Average percentage 
representation in the workforce: 5.4.

EEO group: White men; Total quality step increases for 5 years: 130; 
Percentage of quality step increases: 25.7; Average percentage 
representation in the workforce: 24.8.

EEO group: White women; Total quality step increases for 5 years: 295; 
Percentage of quality step increases: 58.4; Average percentage 
representation in the workforce: 51.7.

EEO group: Total; Total quality step increases for 5 years: 505; 
Percentage of quality step increases: 100.1[A]; Average percentage 
representation in the workforce: 100.0.

Source: GAO analysis of Region X data.

[A] Total does not sum to 100 percent due to rounding.

[End of table]

According to Region X, honor awards consist of the Commissioner's 
Citation, which is SSA's highest honorary award that is granted to 
individuals who have made a superior contribution to SSA; the 
Commissioner's Team Award, which recognizes groups of employees for 
their team approach in carrying out or supporting SSA's mission of 
providing quality service in administering national Social Security 
programs; and the Deputy Commissioner's Citation and the Regional 
Commissioner's Citation, both of which recognize SSA employees for 
outstanding achievements to SSA. Our analysis showed that for the 5-
year period, Asians were significantly more likely to receive honor 
awards than Whites, African Americans, and Hispanics. Also, Native 
Americans were significantly more likely to receive honor awards than 
Hispanics. Table 12 compares the percentage of honor awards to the 
average percentage representation by EEO group in the workforce for the 
5-year period.

Table 12: Comparison of the Percentage of Honor Awards to the Average 
Percentage Representation by EEO Group in the Region X Workforce for 
Fiscal Years 1997 through 2001:

EEO group: African American men; Total honor awards for 5 years: 2; 
Percentage of honor awards: 1.3; Average percentage representation in 
the workforce: 2.5.

EEO group: African American women; Total honor awards for 5 years: 5; 
Percentage of honor awards: 3.4; Average percentage representation in 
the workforce: 5.3.

EEO group: AIAN men; Total honor awards for 5 years: 2; Percentage of 
honor awards: 1.3; Average percentage representation in the workforce: 
0.4.

EEO group: AIAN women; Total honor awards for 5 years: 2; Percentage of 
honor awards: 1.3; Average percentage representation in the workforce: 
1.0.

EEO group: Asian men; Total honor awards for 5 years: 4; Percentage of 
honor awards: 2.7; Average percentage representation in the workforce: 
1.9.

EEO group: Asian women; Total honor awards for 5 years: 11; Percentage 
of honor awards: 7.4; Average percentage representation in the 
workforce: 4.0.

EEO group: Hispanic men; Total honor awards for 5 years: 4; Percentage 
of honor awards: 2.7; Average percentage representation in the 
workforce: 3.0.

EEO group: Hispanic women; Total honor awards for 5 years: 2; 
Percentage of honor awards: 1.3; Average percentage representation in 
the workforce: 5.4.

EEO group: White men; Total honor awards for 5 years: 31; Percentage of 
honor awards: 20.8; Average percentage representation in the workforce: 
24.8.

EEO group: White women; Total honor awards for 5 years: 86; Percentage 
of honor awards: 57.7; Average percentage representation in the 
workforce: 51.7.

EEO group: Total; Total honor awards for 5 years: 149; Percentage of 
honor awards: 99.9[A]; Average percentage representation in the 
workforce: 100.0.

Source: GAO analysis of Region X data.

[A] Total does not sum to 100 percent due to rounding.

[End of table]

[End of section]

Appendix V: Region X Adverse Actions, Appeals of Adverse Actions, EEO 
Complaints, and Grievances:

The following sections discuss the adverse actions taken by Region 
X,[Footnote 51] appeals of such actions filed with the Merit Systems 
Protection Board (MSPB), precomplaint EEO counseling sought, formal EEO 
complaints filed, and grievances filed by Region X employees in fiscal 
years 1997 through 2001.

Adverse Actions:

Region X took 142 adverse actions over the 5-year period.[Footnote 52] 
For nonprobationary employees, the common pattern of progressive 
discipline is reprimand, short-term suspension (a suspension of 14 days 
or less), long-term suspension (a suspension of 15 days or more), and 
removal. Probationary employees face terminations.[Footnote 53] Of the 
142 actions, 65, or about 46 percent, were for individuals who entered 
computer databases without authorization.[Footnote 54]

Our statistical analysis showed no significant differences among EEO 
groups for written reprimands. However, we found statistically 
significant differences among races for short-term suspensions and 
between the sexes concerning removals. For short-term suspensions, 
AIANs and African Americans were significantly more likely to receive 
suspensions of 14 days or less than Whites. Men were significantly more 
likely to experience a removal or termination than women. About 14 
percent of those who had adverse actions taken against them had 
disabilities compared with the representation in the Region's workforce 
of about 11 percent. Table 13 shows the types of adverse actions by EEO 
group.

:

Table 13: Types of Adverse Actions in Region X for Fiscal Years 1997 
through 2001 by EEO Group:

EEO group: African American men; Written reprimand: 0; 
Suspension: Short-term: 5; Suspension: Long-term: 1; 
Involuntary separation[A]: Termination: 1; Involuntary separation[A]: 
Removal: 3; Demotion: 0; Total actions: 10; Percent: 7.0%.

EEO group: African American women; Written reprimand: 4; 
Suspension: Short-term: 7; Suspension: Long-term: 1; 
Involuntary separation[A]: Termination: 1; Involuntary separation[A]: 
Removal: 1; Demotion: 0; Total actions: 14; Percent: 9.9%.

EEO group: AIAN men; Written reprimand: 0; Suspension: Short-
term: 0; Suspension: Long-term: 2; Involuntary separation[A]: 
Termination: 1; Involuntary separation[A]: Removal: 0; Demotion: 0; 
Total actions: 3; Percent: 2.1%.

EEO group: AIAN women; Written reprimand: 0; Suspension: 
Short-term: 4; Suspension: Long-term: 0; Involuntary 
separation[A]: Termination: 0; Involuntary separation[A]: Removal: 0; 
Demotion: 0; Total actions: 4; Percent: 2.8%.

EEO group: Asian men; Written reprimand: 1; Suspension: Short-
term: 2; Suspension: Long-term: 0; Involuntary separation[A]: 
Termination: 0; Involuntary separation[A]: Removal: 1; Demotion: 0; 
Total actions: 4; Percent: 2.8%.

EEO group: Asian women; Written reprimand: 0; Suspension: 
Short-term: 3; Suspension: Long-term: 1; Involuntary 
separation[A]: Termination: 0; Involuntary separation[A]: Removal: 1; 
Demotion: 0; Total actions: 5; Percent: 3.5%.

EEO group: Hispanic men; Written reprimand: 1; Suspension: 
Short-term: 4; Suspension: Long-term: 0; Involuntary 
separation[A]: Termination: 1; Involuntary separation[A]: Removal: 1; 
Demotion: 1; Total actions: 8; Percent: 5.6%.

EEO group: Hispanic women; Written reprimand: 3; Suspension: 
Short-term: 4; Suspension: Long-term: 0; Involuntary 
separation[A]: Termination: 3; Involuntary separation[A]: Removal: 2; 
Demotion: 0; Total actions: 12; Percent: 8.5%.

EEO group: White men; Written reprimand: 9; Suspension: Short-
term: 12; Suspension: Long-term: 2; Involuntary separation[A]: 
Termination: 9; Involuntary separation[A]: Removal: 5; Demotion: 0; 
Total actions: 37; Percent: 26.1%.

EEO group: White women; Written reprimand: 10; Suspension: 
Short-term: 21; Suspension: Long-term: 5; Involuntary 
separation[A]: Termination: 5; Involuntary separation[A]: Removal: 4; 
Demotion: 0; Total actions: 45; Percent: 31.7%.

EEO group: Total; Written reprimand: 28; Suspension: Short-
term: 62; Suspension: Long-term: 12; Involuntary 
separation[A]: Termination: 21; Involuntary separation[A]: Removal: 
18; Demotion: 1; Total actions: 142; Percent: 100.0.

Source: GAO analysis of Region X data.

[A] When a probationary employee is discharged or a temporary employee 
is separated because of conduct or performance, the action is 
characterized as a termination. When a nonprobationary employee is 
discharged, the action is characterized as a removal. Eight other 
individuals resigned when faced with termination or removal--one 
African American woman, one Hispanic man, three White men, and three 
White women.

[End of table]

Adverse Actions Appealed to MSPB:

Employees can appeal adverse actions to MSPB.[Footnote 55] Appealable 
actions include removal, reduction in grade or pay, or suspension of 15 
days or more. Under the negotiated national agreement between SSA and 
the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), employees may 
elect to appeal such actions to MSPB or through the negotiated 
grievance procedure but not both.

Of the 142 adverse actions Region X took from fiscal year 1997 through 
fiscal year 2001, 15 employee appeals were filed with MSPB. Of these 15 
appeals, SSA settled 9; MSPB found that SSA's action was appropriate in 
3 cases; MSPB dismissed 2 appeals; and 1 is still pending. Table 14 
shows the number of Region X employee appeals to MSPB by EEO group and 
their disposition for the 5-year period.

Table 14: Adverse Actions in Region X for Fiscal Years 1997 through 
2001 That Were Appealed to MSPB and Their Disposition by EEO Group:

[Empty].

EEO group: African American men; Appeals filed: 2; 
Disposition: Settled: 2; 

EEO group: African American women; Appeals filed: 0; 

EEO group: AIAN men; Appeals filed: 1; Disposition: Affirmed[A]: 1; 

EEO group: AIAN women; Appeals filed: 0; 

EEO group: Asian men; Appeals filed: 0; 

EEO group: Asian women; Appeals filed: 2; Disposition: Affirmed[A]: 2; 

EEO group: Hispanic men; Appeals filed: 0; 

EEO group: Hispanic women; Appeals filed: 2; Disposition: Settled: 2; 

EEO group: White men; Appeals filed: 3; Disposition: Settled: 
2; Disposition: Dismissed: 1; 

EEO group: White women; Appeals filed: 5; Disposition: 
Settled: 3; Disposition: Dismissed: 1; Disposition: Pending: 1.

EEO group: Total; Appeals filed: 15; Disposition: Settled: 9; 
Disposition: Affirmed[A]: 3; Disposition: Dismissed: 2; Disposition: 
Pending: 1.

Source: GAO analysis of Region X data.

Note 1: Settlements include reduced, rescinded, and mitigated agency 
actions.

Note 2: One employee may have filed more than one appeal.

[A] Affirmed means that an agency's action was found to be appropriate.

[End of table]

When a federal employee alleges that a removal, reduction in grade or 
pay, or suspension of 15 or more days is discriminatory, the employee 
may file a formal EEO complaint, and because the complaint can be 
appealed either to MSPB or EEOC, the complaint is a "mixed case." Under 
EEOC regulations, whatever action an employee files first is considered 
an election to proceed in that forum. For example, filing a formal EEO 
complaint constitutes an election to proceed in the EEO forum, although 
contacting an EEO counselor or receiving EEO counseling does not 
constitute such an election. For Region X employees, who are covered by 
a collective bargaining agreement that permits claims of discrimination 
to be raised in a negotiated grievance procedure, they similarly may 
elect to file an EEO complaint or a grievance. Before filing a 
grievance that alleges discrimination, the employee may first discuss 
the allegation with an EEO counselor.

Region X EEO Precomplaint Counseling and Formal EEO Complaints Filed:

SSA is required to prepare and submit an annual report to EEOC that 
includes the number of individuals counseled, monetary and nonmonetary 
settlements made during the precomplaint counseling phase, the number 
of complaints filed during a reporting period, the bases and issues 
alleged in all complaints filed during a reporting period, and the 
number and amounts of monetary and nonmonetary settlements of closed 
complaints.

Precomplaint Counseling:

We requested data for fiscal years 1997 through 2001 on the number of 
individuals who approached the Region's Civil Rights and Equal 
Opportunity office to ask for counseling because they felt that they 
had experienced discrimination. The Region provided data for only the 
last 2 years because, according to a Region X official, verifiable data 
were only available for fiscal years 2000 and 2001.[Footnote 56] Table 
15 shows the incidents of counseling requests for fiscal years 2000 and 
2001.

Table 15: Requests for Counseling in Region X and Their Disposition in 
Fiscal Years 2000 and 2001:

Fiscal year: 2000; Requests for counseling[A]: 38; 
Disposition: Withdrawn: 6; Disposition: Settled: 2; Disposition: Not 
pursued: 2.

Fiscal year: 2001; Requests for counseling[A]: 35; 
Disposition: Withdrawn: 0; Disposition: Settled: 1; Disposition: Not 
pursued: 11; Disposition: Closed[B]: 28: 23.

Fiscal year: Total; Requests for counseling[A]: 73; 
Disposition: Withdrawn: 6; Disposition: Settled: 3; Disposition: Not 
pursued: 13; Disposition: Closed[B]: 28: 51.

Source: GAO analysis of Region X data.

[A] Does not necessarily equate to the number of individuals seeking 
counseling, because one individual may account for more than one 
request for counseling in each year.

[B] Closed includes matters that were resolved with an informal 
settlement agreement, resolved without an informal settlement 
agreement, and unresolved.

[End of table]

Under EEOC regulations, before filing an EEO complaint, in order to try 
to informally resolve the matter, individuals who believe they have 
been discriminated against on the basis of race, color, religion, sex 
(including equal pay), national origin, age (i.e., 40 or over), or 
handicapping condition or who have suffered retaliation or reprisal 
must consult an EEO counselor. Table 16 provides the bases cited in 
fiscal years 2000 and 2001--the 2 years for which Region X provided 
data on incidents of EEO counseling.

Table 16: Bases Cited in EEO Counseling for Region X in Fiscal Years 
2000 and 2001:

Bases: Race; Fiscal years: 2000: 14; Fiscal years: 2001: 7; Total: 21.

Bases: Color; Fiscal years: 2000: 0; Fiscal years: 2001: 0; Total: 0.

Bases: Religion; Fiscal years: 2000: 0; Fiscal years: 2001: 0; Total: 
0.

Bases: Sex; Fiscal years: 2000: 7; Fiscal years: 2001: 12; Total: 19.

Bases: National origin; Fiscal years: 2000: 1; Fiscal years: 2001: 0; 
Total: 1.

Bases: Age; Fiscal years: 2000: 13; Fiscal years: 2001: 7; Total: 20.

Bases: Disability; Fiscal years: 2000: 17; Fiscal years: 2001: 16; 
Total: 33.

Bases: Retaliation/reprisal; Fiscal years: 2000: 12; Fiscal years: 
2001: 5; Total: 17.

Bases: Parental status[A]; Fiscal years: 2000: 0; Fiscal years: 2001: 
1; Total: 1.

Bases: Unstated; Fiscal years: 2000: 1; Fiscal years: 2001: 0; Total: 
1.

Bases: Total; Fiscal years: 2000: 65; Fiscal years: 2001: 48; Total: 
113.

Source: GAO analysis of Region X data.

Note: One request for counseling may contain one or more bases.

[A] This basis is not covered by the EEOC regulations but is 
prohibited by Executive Order 13152 (May 2, 2000).

[End of table]

Table 17 shows the issues cited by individuals who requested EEO 
counseling in fiscal years 2000 and 2001.

Table 17: Issues Cited by Individuals Requesting Counseling in Region X 
in Fiscal Years 2000 and 2001:

Issues: Assignment of duties; Number of requests for counseling citing 
issue: 3.

Issues: Suspension; Number of requests for counseling citing issue: 3.

Issues: Termination; Number of requests for counseling citing issue: 4.

Issues: Disparate treatment; Number of requests for counseling citing 
issue: 3.

Issues: Duty hours; Number of requests for counseling citing issue: 3.

Issues: Evaluation/appraisal; Number of requests for counseling citing 
issue: 2.

Issues: Harassment (nonsexual); Number of requests for counseling 
citing issue: 18.

Issues: Harassment (sexual); Number of requests for counseling citing 
issue: 2.

Issues: Hostile work environment; Number of requests for counseling 
citing issue: 2.

Issues: Promotion/nonselection; Number of requests for counseling 
citing issue: 21.

Issues: Retirement (involuntary); Number of requests for counseling 
citing issue: 2.

Issues: Time and attendance/leave; Number of requests for counseling 
citing issue: 5.

Issues: Training; Number of requests for counseling citing issue: 3.

Issues: Reasonable accommodation; Number of requests for counseling 
citing issue: 7.

Issues: Working conditions; Number of requests for counseling citing 
issue: 7.

Issues: Other; Number of requests for counseling citing issue: 10.

Issues: Total; Number of requests for counseling citing issue: 95.

Source: GAO analysis of Region X data.

Note: One request for counseling may contain one or more issues.

[End of table]

Employees requesting counseling and Region X entered into three 
informal settlement agreements during counseling requested in fiscal 
years 2000 and 2001. The informal settlements agreed to included a lump 
sum payment of $5,000, a letter of recommendation, and a temporary 
promotion under a JEP.

Formal EEO Complaints Filed:

If employees cannot resolve to their satisfaction the matters for which 
they sought counseling, they file formal complaints with the Office of 
Civil Rights and Equal Opportunity in SSA headquarters in Baltimore. 
Table 18 shows the number of formal complaints filed by Region X 
employees for fiscal years 1997 through 2001 and the disposition of 
those complaints.

Table 18: Formal EEO Complaints Filed by Region X Employees for Fiscal 
Years 1997 through 2001 and Their Disposition:

Fiscal year: 1997; Filed[A]: 10; Disposition: Withdrawn: 1; 
Disposition: Settled: 6; Disposition: Dismissed: 1; Disposition: 
Disposition: Finding of discrimination: No: 1; Disposition: 
Finding of discrimination: Yes: 1[B]; Disposition: Total closed: 10; 
Disposition: Pending: 0.

Fiscal year: 1998; Filed[A]: 26; Disposition: Withdrawn: 4; 
Disposition: Settled: 9; Disposition: Dismissed: 7; Disposition: 
Disposition: Finding of discrimination: No: 3; Disposition: 
Finding of discrimination: Yes: 0; Disposition: Total closed: 23; 
Disposition: Pending: 3.

Fiscal year: 1999; Filed[A]: 23; Disposition: Withdrawn: 3; 
Disposition: Settled: 10; Disposition: Dismissed: 4; Disposition: 
Disposition: Finding of discrimination: No: 4; Disposition: 
Finding of discrimination: Yes: 0; Disposition: Total closed: 21; 
Disposition: Pending: 2.

Fiscal year: 2000; Filed[A]: 16; Disposition: Withdrawn: 4; 
Disposition: Settled: 5; Disposition: Dismissed: 4; Disposition: 
Disposition: Finding of discrimination: No: 1; Disposition: 
Finding of discrimination: Yes: 0; Disposition: Total closed: 14; 
Disposition: Pending: 2.

Fiscal year: 2001; Filed[A]: 14; Disposition: Withdrawn: 0; 
Disposition: Settled: 2; Disposition: Dismissed: 3; Disposition: 
Disposition: Finding of discrimination: No: 0; Disposition: 
Finding of discrimination: Yes: 0; Disposition: Total closed: 5; 
Disposition: Pending: 9.

Fiscal year: Total; Filed[A]: 89; Disposition: Withdrawn: 12; 
Disposition: Settled: 32; Disposition: Dismissed: 19; Disposition: 
Disposition: Finding of discrimination: No: 9; Disposition: 
Finding of discrimination: Yes: 1; Disposition: Total closed: 73; 
Disposition: Pending: 16.

Source: GAO analysis of Region X data.

Note: For settlements, a global settlement can address more than one 
filed EEO discrimination complaint, MSPB appeal, or union grievance and 
may account for more than one individual settlement.

[A] Because one individual may have filed more than one EEO complaint, 
the number filed is not necessarily equal to the number of 
complainants.

[B] The EEOC administrative judge hearing the case had a finding of 
discrimination and offered partial relief, which SSA and the 
complainant are appealing.

[End of table]

Table 19 shows by fiscal year the bases for the 89 EEO complaints filed 
by Region X employees in fiscal years 1997 through 2001.

Table 19: Bases for EEO Complaints Filed in Region X in Fiscal Years 
1997 through 2001:

Bases: Race; Fiscal years: 1997: 7; Fiscal years: 1998: 12; Fiscal 
years: 1999: 10; Fiscal years: 2000: 8; Fiscal years: 2001: 5; Total: 
42.

Bases: African American; Fiscal years: 1997: 5; Fiscal years: 1998: 4; 
Fiscal years: 1999: 8; Fiscal years: 2000: 4; Fiscal years: 2001: 2; 
Total: 23.

Bases: Asian; Fiscal years: 1997: 1; Fiscal years: 1998: 0; Fiscal 
years: 1999: 0; Fiscal years: 2000: 1; Fiscal years: 2001: 0; Total: 2.

Bases: Hispanic; Fiscal years: 1997: 1; Fiscal years: 1998: 1; Fiscal 
years: 1999: 0; Fiscal years: 2000: 0; Fiscal years: 2001: 2; Total: 4.

Bases: Other; Fiscal years: 1997: 0; Fiscal years: 1998: 1; Fiscal 
years: 1999: 0; Fiscal years: 2000: 0; Fiscal years: 2001: 0; Total: 1.

Bases: White; Fiscal years: 1997: 0; Fiscal years: 1998: 6; Fiscal 
years: 1999: 2; Fiscal years: 2000: 3; Fiscal years: 2001: 1; Total: 
12.

Bases: Color; Fiscal years: 1997: 0; Fiscal years: 1998: 0; Fiscal 
years: 1999: 0; Fiscal years: 2000: 0; Fiscal years: 2001: 1; Total: 1.

Bases: Religion; Fiscal years: 1997: 0; Fiscal years: 1998: 3; Fiscal 
years: 1999: 0; Fiscal years: 2000: 0; Fiscal years: 2001: 1; Total: 4.

Bases: Sex; Fiscal years: 1997: 4; Fiscal years: 1998: 25; Fiscal 
years: 1999: 14; Fiscal years: 2000: 7; Fiscal years: 2001: 3; Total: 
53.

Bases: Women; Fiscal years: 1997: 3; Fiscal years: 1998: 14; Fiscal 
years: 1999: 5; Fiscal years: 2000: 1; Fiscal years: 2001: 2; Total: 
25.

Bases: Men; Fiscal years: 1997: 1; Fiscal years: 1998: 11; Fiscal 
years: 1999: 9; Fiscal years: 2000: 6; Fiscal years: 2001: 1; Total: 
28.

Bases: National origin; Fiscal years: 1997: 2; Fiscal years: 1998: 3; 
Fiscal years: 1999: 7; Fiscal years: 2000: 1; Fiscal years: 2001: 1; 
Total: 14.

Bases: Age; Fiscal years: 1997: 0; Fiscal years: 1998: 5; Fiscal years: 
1999: 7; Fiscal years: 2000: 7; Fiscal years: 2001: 0; Total: 19.

Bases: Handicapping; condition; Fiscal years: 1997: 2; Fiscal years: 
1998: 7; Fiscal years: 1999: 11; Fiscal years: 2000: 9; Fiscal years: 
2001: 8; Total: 37.

Bases: Mental; Fiscal years: 1997: 1; Fiscal years: 1998: 0; Fiscal 
years: 1999: 4; Fiscal years: 2000: 3; Fiscal years: 2001: 3; Total: 
11.

Bases: Physical; Fiscal years: 1997: 1; Fiscal years: 1998: 7; Fiscal 
years: 1999: 7; Fiscal years: 2000: 6; Fiscal years: 2001: 5; Total: 
26.

Bases: Retaliation/reprisal; Fiscal years: 1997: 4; Fiscal years: 1998: 
11; Fiscal years: 1999: 14; Fiscal years: 2000: 8; Fiscal years: 2001: 
2; Total: 39.

Bases: Total; Fiscal years: 1997: 19; Fiscal years: 1998: 66; Fiscal 
years: 1999: 63; Fiscal years: 2000: 40; Fiscal years: 2001: 21; Total: 
209.

Source: GAO analysis of Region X data.

Note: Because one individual may have filed more than one EEO 
complaint, the number filed is not necessarily equal to the number of 
complainants, and one EEO complaint may contain one or more bases.

[End of table]

Table 20 shows the number of issues cited in the 89 EEO complaints 
filed by Region X employees during fiscal years 1997 through 2001.

Table 20: Issues Cited in Complaints Filed for Fiscal Years 1997 
through 2001:

Issues: Assignment of duties; Number of issues cited in complaints 
filed: 5.

Issues: Awards; Number of issues cited in complaints filed: 8.

Issues: Reprimand; Number of issues cited in complaints filed: 7.

Issues: Suspension; Number of issues cited in complaints filed: 8.

Issues: Termination; Number of issues cited in complaints filed: 4.

Issues: Duty hours; Number of issues cited in complaints filed: 2.

Issues: Evaluation/appraisal; Number of issues cited in complaints 
filed: 2.

Issues: Harassment (nonsexual); Number of issues cited in complaints 
filed: 30.

Issues: Harassment (sexual); Number of issues cited in complaints 
filed: 2.

Issues: Hostile work environment; Number of issues cited in complaints 
filed: 4.

Issues: Pay including overtime; Number of issues cited in complaints 
filed: 3.

Issues: Promotion/nonselection; Number of issues cited in complaints 
filed: 29.

Issues: Reasonable accommodation; Number of issues cited in complaints 
filed: 16.

Issues: Retirement (involuntary); Number of issues cited in complaints 
filed: 1.

Issues: Time & attendance; Number of issues cited in complaints filed: 
11.

Issues: Training; Number of issues cited in complaints filed: 3.

Issues: Working conditions; Number of issues cited in complaints filed: 
19.

Issues: Other; Number of issues cited in complaints filed: 4.

Issues: Total; Number of issues cited in complaints filed: 158.

Source: GAO analysis of Region X data.

Note: One filed complaint may contain one or more issues.

[End of table]

As shown in table 19, the top four bases for which Region X employees 
filed EEO complaints were sex, race, retaliation (i.e., for filing a 
complaint or participating in an investigation of a complaint), and 
handicapping condition. Of those bases that involved handicapping 
condition, six also claimed that they were denied reasonable 
accommodation. Reasonable accommodation includes any modification or 
adjustment to a job application process, the work environment, or the 
way a job is customarily performed that enables a qualified applicant 
with a disability to compete equally or a qualified person with a 
disability to perform the essential 
functions of the position or enjoy equal benefits and privileges of 
employment.[Footnote 57]

As shown in table 20, the top four issues cited in the filed complaints 
were harassment (nonsexual), nonselection for promotion, working 
conditions, and reasonable accommodation.

The reasonable accommodation process begins when an individual makes a 
request for the accommodation, followed by a request in writing 
(completion of a form) or in electronic format. Among the items that 
can be approved of as an accommodation at the regional level are 
requests of office equipment costing less than $100, a change in 
schedule, and requests for reassignment. For office equipment or 
assistive technologies (e.g., computer hardware or software that enable 
people with disabilities to perform the essential functions of their 
job) costing $100 or more, assistive technologies training, and sign 
language interpreter services, a request must be forwarded to the 
Disability Services Team in the Office of Civil Rights and Equal 
Opportunity in SSA headquarters in Baltimore. Table 21 shows the number 
of accommodations requested by Region X employees for fiscal year 1997 
through 2001 and their disposition.

Table 21: Reasonable Accommodations Requested by Region X Employees for 
Fiscal Years 1997 through 2001 by EEO Group:

EEO group: Requested: : Accommodation: [Empty].

EEO group: African American men; Requested: 6; Accommodation: 
Withdrawn: 0; Accommodation: Approved: 0; Accommodation: Denied: 2; 
Accommodation: Alternate: 1; Accommodation: Forwarded: 3; 
Disability Services Team: Approved: 3; Disability Services Team: 
Denied: 0; Disability Services Team: Alternate: 0.

EEO group: African American women; Requested: 7; 
Accommodation: Withdrawn: 0; Accommodation: Approved: 4; 
Accommodation: Denied: 3; Accommodation: Alternate: 0; Accommodation: 
Forwarded: 1; Disability Services Team: Approved: 1; 
Disability Services Team: Denied: 0; Disability Services Team: 
Alternate: 0.

EEO group: Hispanic women; Requested: 4; Accommodation: 
Withdrawn: 1; Accommodation: Approved: 1; Accommodation: Denied: 0; 
Accommodation: Alternate: 0; Accommodation: Forwarded: 3; 
Disability Services Team: Approved: 2; Disability Services Team: 
Denied: 1; Disability Services Team: Alternate: 0.

EEO group: White men; Requested: 23; Accommodation: Withdrawn: 
0; Accommodation: Approved: 9; Accommodation: Denied: 6; Accommodation: 
Alternate: 4; Accommodation: Forwarded: 4; Disability Services 
Team: Approved: 2; Disability Services Team: Denied: 0; Disability 
Services Team: Alternate: 1.

EEO group: White women; Requested: 45; Accommodation: 
Withdrawn: 5; Accommodation: Approved: 18; Accommodation: Denied: 4; 
Accommodation: Alternate: 4; Accommodation: Forwarded: 19; 
Disability Services Team: Approved: 7; Disability Services Team: 
Denied: 10; Disability Services Team: Alternate: 0.

EEO group: Total; Requested: 85; Accommodation: Withdrawn: 6; 
Accommodation: Approved: 32; Accommodation: Denied: 15; Accommodation: 
Alternate: 9; Accommodation: Forwarded: 30[A]; Disability 
Services Team: Approved: 15; Disability Services Team: Denied: 11; 
Disability Services Team: Alternate: 1.

Source: GAO analysis of Region X data.

Note: Multiple categories may be recorded for a single request for 
accommodation. For example, in one case, an accommodation may be 
denied. In another case, a request may be forwarded to the Disability 
Services Team, which may deny the requested accommodation and approve 
an alternative accommodation. We counted each category of 
accommodation; therefore, one person may have multiple results to his 
or her request.

[A] For three requested accommodations that were forwarded to the 
Disability Services Team, there is no record of the Disability Services 
Team's decision.

[End of table]

Grievances:

Under the negotiated national agreement between SSA and the AFGE, 
individual employees or their union representatives may file Section 9 
grievances on such matters as adverse actions or EEO issues.[Footnote 
58] At any time after the Section 9 grievance is filed, up to the time 
the grievance decision is issued, the grievance may be withdrawn. If a 
management official finds that the grievance has merit, or can agree 
with the employee/representative on some or all of the points at issue, 
he or she may grant full or partial relief, giving the employee all or 
a portion of what was requested.[Footnote 59] If the management 
official does not find a violation of the negotiated agreement or 
workplace policy or practice, or cannot agree to the requested relief, 
the grievance is denied. Unresolved Section 9 grievances may be 
advanced to arbitration by the union. Multiple categories may be 
recorded for a single grievance. For example, in one case, a grievance 
may be denied, and the grievant takes no additional action. In another 
case, a grievance may be denied, and the grievant/representative 
invokes arbitration, and then does or does not pursue the case. We 
counted each category of relief or arbitration for each grievance. 
Table 22 shows the Section 9 grievances filed in Region X for fiscal 
years 1997 through 2001.

Table 22: Section 9 Grievances Filed in Region X by EEO Group for 
Fiscal Years 1997 through 2001:

EEO group: African American men; Grievances filed[A]: 16; Withdrawn[B]: 
2; Relief: Granted: 2; Relief: Partial: 0; Relief: Denied: 13; 
Arbitration: Invoked: 8; Arbitration: Not: pursued: 1; 
Arbitration: Awarded: 3; Arbitration: Settlement: reached: 3.

EEO group: African American women; Grievances filed[A]: 24; 
Withdrawn[B]: 8; Relief: Granted: 7; Relief: Partial: 4; 
Relief: Denied: 6; Arbitration: Invoked: 2; Arbitration: Not: 
pursued: 1; Arbitration: Awarded: 0; Arbitration: Settlement: reached: 
0.

EEO group: AIAN men; Grievances filed[A]: 2; Withdrawn[B]: 1; 
Relief: Granted: 0; Relief: Partial: 0; Relief: Denied: 1; 
Arbitration: Invoked: 1; Arbitration: Not: pursued: 1; Arbitration: 
Awarded: 0; Arbitration: Settlement: reached: 0.

EEO group: AIAN women; Grievances filed[A]: 3; Withdrawn[B]: 0; 
Relief: Granted: 0; Relief: Partial: 1; Relief: Denied: 2; 
Arbitration: Invoked: 0; Arbitration: Not: pursued: 0; 
Arbitration: Awarded: 0; Arbitration: Settlement: reached: 0.

EEO group: Asian men; Grievances filed[A]: 1; Withdrawn[B]: 0; 
Relief: Granted: 0; Relief: Partial: 0; Relief: Denied: 1; 
Arbitration: Invoked: 0; Arbitration: Not: pursued: 0; Arbitration: 
Awarded: 0; Arbitration: Settlement: reached: 0.

EEO group: Asian women; Grievances filed[A]: 5; Withdrawn[B]: 0; 
Relief: Granted: 1; Relief: Partial: 0; Relief: Denied: 4; 
Arbitration: Invoked: 0; Arbitration: Not: pursued: 0; 
Arbitration: Awarded: 0; Arbitration: Settlement: reached: 0.

EEO group: Hispanic men; Grievances filed[A]: 6; Withdrawn[B]: 2; 
Relief: Granted: 2; Relief: Partial: 0; Relief: Denied: 3; 
Arbitration: Invoked: 3; Arbitration: Not: pursued: 1; 
Arbitration: Awarded: 0; Arbitration: Settlement: reached: 1.

EEO group: Hispanic women; Grievances filed[A]: 12; Withdrawn[B]: 3; 
Relief: Granted: 1; Relief: Partial: 1; Relief: Denied: 7; 
Arbitration: Invoked: 3; Arbitration: Not: pursued: 2; 
Arbitration: Awarded: 0; Arbitration: Settlement: reached: 1.

EEO group: White men; Grievances filed[A]: 57; Withdrawn[B]: 17; 
Relief: Granted: 7; Relief: Partial: 6; Relief: Denied: 28; 
Arbitration: Invoked: 5; Arbitration: Not: pursued: 2; 
Arbitration: Awarded: 1; Arbitration: Settlement: reached: 1.

EEO group: White women; Grievances filed[A]: 134; Withdrawn[B]: 20; 
Relief: Granted: 36; Relief: Partial: 11; Relief: Denied: 66; 
Arbitration: Invoked: 10; Arbitration: Not: pursued: 8; 
Arbitration: Awarded: 0; Arbitration: Settlement: reached: 0.

EEO group: Total; Grievances filed[A]: 260; Withdrawn[B]: 53; 
Relief: Granted: 56; Relief: Partial: 23; Relief: Denied: 131; 
Arbitration: Invoked: 32; Arbitration: Not: pursued: 16; Arbitration: 
Awarded: 4; Arbitration: Settlement: reached: 6.

Source: GAO analysis of Region X data.

Note 1: One individual may have filed more than one grievance.

Note 2: Multiple categories may be recorded for a single grievance. For 
example, in one case, a grievance may be denied, and the grievant takes 
no additional action. In another case, a grievance may be denied, and 
the grievant/representative invokes arbitration, and then does or does 
not pursue the case. We counted each category of relief or arbitration, 
when appropriate, for each grievance; therefore, one person may have 
multiple categories to his or her grievance.

[A] Two grievances were found not grievable, so they were only counted 
as filed.

[B] Withdrawn includes five grievances that were withdrawn after 
arbitration was invoked.

[End of table]

Settlements:

Twenty-one settlement agreements were signed by SSA and the individuals 
who appealed an adverse action, filed an EEO complaint, or filed a 
grievance. These agreements could consist of monetary or nonmonetary 
terms or both, and five consisted entirely of nonmonetary 
terms.[Footnote 60] A global settlement addressed more than one filed 
EEO discrimination complaint, MSPB appeal, or union grievance; 
therefore, the number of complaints settled is higher than the number 
of settlement agreements.[Footnote 61] Table 23 contains information on 
settlement agreements for appealed adverse actions, filed EEO 
complaints, and a mixed case that includes a union grievance for fiscal 
years 1997 through 2001.

Table 23: Number of Settlement Agreements and Amounts Awarded on 
Settlements for MSPB Appeals, EEO Complaints, and a Mixed Case Filed in 
Region X in Fiscal Years 1997 through 2001:

Fiscal year settled: 1999; Number of settlement agreements[A]: 2; 
Amount: $17,820.00.

Fiscal year settled: 2000; Number of settlement agreements[A]: 4; 
Amount: 11,163.91.

Fiscal year settled: 2001; Number of settlement agreements[A]: 2; 
Amount: 8,337.86.

Fiscal year settled: 2002; Number of settlement agreements[A]: 11; 
Amount: 143,831.66.

Fiscal year settled: 2003; Number of settlement agreements[A]: 2; 
Amount: 20,000.

Fiscal year settled: Total; Number of settlement agreements[A]: 21; 
Amount: $201,153.43.

Source: GAO analysis of Region X data.

Note: A global settlement can address more than one filed EEO 
discrimination complaint, MSPB appeal, or union grievance; therefore, 
the number of complaints settled may be higher than the number of 
settlement agreements.

[A] The number of settlement agreements includes five that had only 
nonmonetary terms. Settlement agreements do not constitute an admission 
of any wrongdoing, harassment, discrimination, and/or violation of law, 
statute, or regulation.

[End of table]

[End of section]

Appendix VI: Selected Results of GAO's Survey of Region X Employees on 
Equal Employment Opportunity:

In our survey of Region X employees about EEO, we asked all Region X 
employees for their views (1) on the operations of Region X's Civil 
Rights and Equal Opportunity (CREO) office and (2) about their 
experiences with situations involving EEO in Region X within the past 2 
years. Because we received more than a 70 percent response rate (75 
percent), our results are representative of the views and attitudes of 
Region X employees.[Footnote 62]

Operations of Region X's CREO:

Almost 60 percent of respondents were either generally or very familiar 
with the responsibilities of the CREO office before reading our 
description of those responsibilities. In addition, most Region X 
employees are familiar with the EEO process. About two-thirds of 
respondents reported having received or having seen within the last 2 
years written materials about the federal government's EEO regulations 
and written materials describing how to contact regional EEO 
counselors.

When asked about their willingness, if they believed that they had been 
discriminated against, to either contact Region X's CREO to participate 
in counseling or to contact the Office of Civil Rights and Equal 
Opportunity (OCREO) in Baltimore to file a formal EEO complaint, almost 
half of respondents indicated that they would be generally or very 
willing to participate in counseling or to file a formal EEO complaint. 
Also, 3 percent of respondents indicated that they had contacted CREO 
to participate in counseling in the last 2 years, and 2 percent of 
respondents indicated that they had contacted OCREO in Baltimore to 
file a formal complaint during that time.

About 40 percent of respondents indicated that they were unwilling or 
uncertain to participate in counseling or to file a formal EEO 
complaint if they believed that they had been discriminated against; we 
did an analysis of their responses to identify the reason for this 
unwillingness or uncertainty. About 55 percent of the respondents 
indicated that they were unwilling or uncertain to participate in 
counseling and 51 percent to file a formal EEO complaint if they 
believed that they had been discriminated against because they feared 
retaliation.

We did a further analysis of those respondents who indicated that they 
were unwilling or uncertain to participate in counseling if they 
believed that they had been discriminated against because they feared 
retaliation. Table 24 shows the breakdown of respondents by race/
ethnicity and sex of those who indicated an unwillingness or 
uncertainty to participate in counseling. Table 25 shows the breakdown 
of respondents by race/ethnicity and sex of those who indicated an 
unwillingness or uncertainty to file a formal complaint.

Table 24: Minority Status and Sex of Respondents Who Were Unwilling or 
Uncertain to Participate in Counseling Because They Feared Retaliation:

Race/ethnicity: Nonminority; Percentage of respondents who feared 
retaliation: 73.

Race/ethnicity: Minority; Percentage of respondents who feared 
retaliation: 27.

Sex: Men; Percentage of respondents who feared retaliation: 
29.

Sex: Women; Percentage of respondents who feared 
retaliation: 71.

Source: GAO's survey of Region X employees about EEO.

[End of table]

Table 25: Minority Status and Sex of Respondents Who Were Unwilling or 
Uncertain to File a Formal Complaint Because They Feared Retaliation:

Race/ethnicity: Nonminority; Percentage of respondents who feared 
retaliation: 77.

Race/ethnicity: Minority; Percentage of respondents who feared 
retaliation: 23.

Sex: Men; Percentage of respondents who feared retaliation: 
28.

Sex: Women; Percentage of respondents who feared 
retaliation: 72.

Source: GAO's survey of Region X employees about EEO.

[End of table]

Other reasons respondents indicated for being unwilling or uncertain to 
participate in counseling if they believed that they had been 
discriminated against included the concern that their contact with the 
EEO counselor would not be kept confidential (about 45 percent) and the 
concern that the matter, if resolved informally, would not result in a 
mutually satisfactory solution for all parties concerned (about 34 
percent). Other reasons respondents indicated for being unwilling or 
uncertain to file a formal complaint if they believed that they had 
been discriminated against included the concern that their complaint 
would not be handled in a fair manner (about 33 percent).

Experiences with Situations Involving EEO in Region X:

As shown in table 26, most Region X employees responding to our survey 
indicated that they believed decisions concerning job or project 
assignments, training, formal ratings, and monetary awards were always 
or mostly based on merit and free of bias and favoritism. About half of 
the respondents indicated that they believed that decisions concerning 
nonmonetary awards and recognition were always or mostly based on merit 
and free of bias and favoritism. Less than half of the respondents 
indicated that they believed decisions concerning promotion and career 
advancement were always or mostly based on merit and free of bias and 
favoritism.

Table 26: Percentage of Respondents Indicating Whether Decisions Were 
Based on Merit and Free of Bias and Favoritism:

Type of personnel or pay decision: Job or project assignments; 
Percentage of respondents indicating decisions were: Always or mostly 
based on merit and free of bias and favoritism: 61; Percentage of 
respondents indicating decisions were: Sometimes or never or almost 
never based on merit and free of bias and favoritism: 18.

Type of personnel or pay decision: Training; Percentage of respondents 
indicating decisions were: Always or mostly based on merit and free of 
bias and favoritism: 68; Percentage of respondents indicating decisions 
were: Sometimes or never or almost never based on merit and free of 
bias and favoritism: 12.

Type of personnel or pay decision: Formal performance appraisals/
ratings; Percentage of respondents indicating decisions were: Always or 
mostly based on merit and free of bias and favoritism: 74; Percentage 
of respondents indicating decisions were: Sometimes or never or almost 
never based on merit and free of bias and favoritism: 11.

Type of personnel or pay decision: Monetary awards and bonuses; 
Percentage of respondents indicating decisions were: Always or mostly 
based on merit and free of bias and favoritism: 61; Percentage of 
respondents indicating decisions were: Sometimes or never or almost 
never based on merit and free of bias and favoritism: 21.

Type of personnel or pay decision: Promotion and career advancement; 
Percentage of respondents indicating decisions were: Always or mostly 
based on merit and free of bias and favoritism: 44; Percentage of 
respondents indicating decisions were: Sometimes or never or almost 
never based on merit and free of bias and favoritism: 21.

Type of personnel or pay decision: Nonmonetary awards and recognition; 
Percentage of respondents indicating decisions were: Always or mostly 
based on merit and free of bias and favoritism: 50; Percentage of 
respondents indicating decisions were: Sometimes or never or almost 
never based on merit and free of bias and favoritism: 22.

Source: GAO's survey of Region X employees about EEO.

[End of table]

Table 27 shows, by sex and minority status, those respondents who 
indicated that they believed such personnel or pay decisions were 
sometimes or never or almost never based on merit and free of bias and 
favoritism.

Table 27: Percentage of Respondents Indicating Decisions Were Sometimes 
or Never Based on Merit and Free of Bias and Favoritism:

Type of personnel or pay decision: Job or project assignments; Men: 7; 
Women: 11; Nonminority: 13; Minority: 6.

Type of personnel or pay decision: Training; Men: 5; Women: 8; 
Nonminority: 8; Minority: 4.

Type of personnel or pay decision: Formal performance appraisals/
ratings; Men: 4; Women: 6; Nonminority: 7; Minority: 3.

Type of personnel or pay decision: Monetary awards and bonuses; Men: 8; 
Women: 14; Nonminority: 15; Minority: 6.

Type of personnel or pay decision: Promotion and career advancement; 
Men: 9; Women: 13; Nonminority: 16; Minority: 6.

Type of personnel or pay decision: Nonmonetary awards and recognition; 
Men: 8; Women: 15; Nonminority: 17; Minority: 6.

Source: GAO's survey of Region X employees about EEO.

[End of table]

Narrative Comments:

The questionnaire offered respondents the option of providing 
additional comments relating to any of the items discussed therein. Of 
the 1,355 useable returned questionnaires (see app. I), 307 
respondents, or 22.7 percent, provided narrative comments. In 
descending order, these comments most frequently concerned:

* perceived inequities in merit hiring, promotions, and awards (30.3 
percent);

* complaints of perceived discrimination or other negative personal 
experiences (21.5 percent); or:

* disgruntlement over affirmative action and workforce diversity (9.4 
percent).

[End of section]

Appendix VII: GAO Survey of Region X Employees about EEO:

[See PDF for image]

[End of figure]

[End of section]

Appendix VIII: Comments from the Social Secuity Administration:

SOCIAL SECURITY 
The Commissioner 
June 26, 2003:

Mr. Victor S. Rezendes:

Managing Director, Strategic Issues 
U.S. General Accounting Office 
Washington, D.C. 20548:

Dear Mr. Rezendes:

Thank you for the opportunity to review and comment on the draft report 
"Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO): SSA Region X's Changes to Its EEO 
Process Illustrate Need for Agencywide Procedures," (GAO-03-604). We 
acknowledge the general findings and are committed to ensuring equal 
treatment for all employees, and that our policies and practices are in 
compliance with Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's (EEOC) 
procedures for processing complaints of discrimination.

Enclosed, please find our comments on the report contents and specific 
recommendations. The report states that the data and analysis were not 
designed to determine whether or not discrimination existed, but can 
indicate areas warranting further study. I want to take this 
opportunity to highlight the results of a comprehensive internal human 
resources management (HRM) audit conducted in Region X in fiscal year 
2002. It is significant because that review included a Merit System 
Principles Questionnaire (MSPQ) that directly addressed fairness, 
equity and other trust-related merit principles. We provided a copy of 
the report to your staff on July 24, 2002, as an internal management 
document with restricted distribution.

Based on the results of the 2002 HRM report, I believe our current EEO 
process is fair and consistent with the spirit of EEOC's regulations 
and guidance. To determine what can be done to further enhance the 
process, we have begun a national dialogue among SSA's Regional 
Commissioners to address diversity topics at the regional and national 
levels. Finally, as we manage our human capital resources, we will 
continue to support an atmosphere of communication and commitment to 
equal employment opportunities for all employees.

If you have any questions, please have your staff contact Laura Bell at 
(410) 965-2636.

Sincerely,

Jo Anne B. Barnhart: 

Signed by Jo Anne B. Barnhart:

Enclosure:

SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION	13ALTIMORE MD 21235-0001:

COMMENTS ON THE GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE (GAO) DRAFT REPORT "EQUAL 
EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY (EEO): THE SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION'S 
(SSA) REGION X CHANGES TO ITS EEO PROCESS ILLUSTRATE NEED FOR 
AGENCYWIDE PROCEDURES" (GAO-03-604):

Thank you for the opportunity to review and comment on the draft 
report. I want to take this opportunity to state our commitment to 
ensuring equal treatment for all employees and that our policies and 
practices comply with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's 
(EEOC) procedures for processing complaints of discrimination.

As part of our ongoing efforts to monitor our human resources 
activities, in Fiscal Year (FY) 2002, our Office of Human Resources 
(OHR) conducted a comprehensive Human Resource Management (HRM) audit 
of Region X. The audit included a Merit System Principles Questionnaire 
(MSPQ) that directly addressed fairness, equity and other trust-related 
merit principles. The results of the audit were that the Region 
operates in a "principle-based" manner where managers are encouraged to 
make decisions consistent with the Merit System Principles. Most 
notable was the fact that the Region scored significantly higher in the 
areas of Merit Principles and EEO than the Government average. In 
addition, approximately 20 best practices were observed in the region 
and recommended as models of effective HRM practices.

Some of the more notable conclusions provided in the 2002 HRM audit 
report were:

The Human Resources (HR) and Equal Opportunity (EO) staffs are doing a 
good job in terms of activities designed to enhance the effectiveness 
of EO-related processes. These activities include training and 
developmental programs, improved communications to line managers and 
employees, targeted recruitment and ongoing monitoring and reporting.

The Seattle Region makes good use of its external hiring authorities. 
We found no illegal appointments, and we found Seattle to comply with 
all applicable regulatory requirements.

The Seattle Region conducts its merit promotion activities according to 
Merit System Principles.

The Region is in compliance with EEO regulations.

Of additional significance are the results of the MSPQ's that were 
administered prior to OHR's onsite visit to gather information on how 
well Region X employees perceive the Agency is doing in ensuring that 
HRM practices conform to the spirit and the letter of the nine Merit 
Systems Principles that are applicable Government-wide. The validity of 
these survey results are demonstrated by the fact that the MSPQ was 
designed and 
developed by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) for use in its 
oversight reviews. Subsequent adoption by SSA was through a Memorandum 
of Understanding (MOU) with OPM, which gave SSA the authority to 
conduct its own internal reviews of HRM practices in lieu of OPM's 
cyclical agency-wide reviews.

Merit System Principles that reflect fairness, integrity and trust 
received "favorable" ratings on the MSPQ using OPM's "absolute 
standards criterion." Some of the more notable results are highlighted 
below:

"Recruit, select and advance on the basis of merit." (Percent Favorable 
= 71.5):

"Treat employees and applicants fairly and equitably." (Percent 
Favorable = 74.2):

"Maintain high standards of integrity, conduct and concern for the 
public interest." (Percent Favorable = 82.2):

Comments from the focus group participants were also consistent with 
the Region X's MSPQ results. Finally, the demographic analysis of the 
responses indicated that proportionately more minorities were pleased 
with their supervisors' role in managing poor performers and in helping 
all employees to improve their job performance. The minority 
respondents also expressed more favorable attitudes when queried about 
the performance awards system and about their own opportunities to 
participate in developing long-range plans in their work units.

In summary, we believe our current EEO process is fair and consistent 
with the spirit of the EEO regulations and related guidance. In 
addition, to further enhance our efforts in this area, we have begun a 
national dialogue among the Regional Commissioners to address diversity 
topics at the regional and national levels. As we manage our human 
capital resources, we will continue to support an atmosphere of 
communication and commitment to equal employment opportunities for all 
employees.

Our response to the report conclusions and specific recommendations are 
provided below. In addition, we are providing some technical comments 
that should be considered in preparing the final report.

General Comment:

GAO found the change that Region X implemented in 1999 to the EEO 
process was not in the spirit of the regulations and related guidance.

SSA Response:

The written communication process that was implemented in Region X in 
1999 was discontinued as of October 2001. The process was used by EEO 
Counselors on a temporary basis to address management concerns with the 
existing EEO process.

Management officials had expressed concern that EEO counseling reports 
did not accurately reflect their statements. In one case, an attempt 
was made to impugn a manager's credibility at the hearing using a 
counseling report. Management officials complained that the EEO 
counselors acted as investigators, and they wanted representation at 
the informal stage.

Additionally, the Director, Center for Human Resources was having 
difficulty implementing some informal resolution agreements. Some 
agreements contained ambiguous language, and others did not comply with 
Federal law, Agency policy or the collective bargaining agreements. The 
Office of the General Counsel (OGC) review ensured that informal 
resolution agreements complied with applicable statutes, regulations, 
policies and collective bargaining agreements.

An EEOC judge has held that it is appropriate for OGC attorneys to 
provide advice and guidance to management officials during the EEO 
process. In that case, OGC attorneys assisted a high level SSA 
executive in answering interrogatories propounded by the EEO contract 
investigator. Specifically, the judge stated, "The job and function of 
the attorneys for the Government generally is to represent their 
client, the Agency, and its management officials.":

Recommendation 1:

The Commissioner of SSA should direct the Regional Commissioner (RC) of 
Region X to review the statistically significant differences we found 
in adverse actions and awards to determine why they occurred and what, 
if any, corrective action is needed.

SSA Response:

We will continue, as part of our ongoing efforts to ensure equity to 
all employees, to monitor statistically significant differences in the 
processing of personnel actions in various categories including adverse 
actions and awards.

However, it should be noted that the GAO data shows that of 142 adverse 
actions in a 5-year period, 65 (46 percent) were attributed to systems 
security sanctions cases. We would like to emphasize that these cases 
are identified largely from security reviews and that the proposing and 
deciding officials for sanctions cases are required to follow a uniform 
table of penalties that is applicable Agency-wide. Additionally, to 
ensure consistency, the deciding official is the same person for all 
cases in each region. These factors should be taken into consideration 
when drawing any conclusions from the data.

Recommendation 2:

The Commissioner of SSA should adopt standard operating procedures for 
EEO Counselors that include step-by-step procedures for processing 
complaints of discrimination so that Counselors and others involved in 
the process across the country know what to do and employees face the 
same process everywhere.

SSA Response:

The Agency has standard operating procedures in place to ensure that 
all employees, regardless of their geographical location, have the same 
EEO process available to them.

An EEO Handbook for Managers and Supervisors and an EEO Handbook for 
Employees were issued in FY 1996, shortly after SSA became an 
independent agency. These handbooks identify the specific 
responsibilities of the employees, the counselors and management to 
ensure that all managers, supervisors and employees, SSA-wide, are 
aware of the EEO process and their responsibilities. The handbooks are 
currently being updated to include additional guidance that will ensure 
that the informal counseling process is conducted within the spirit of 
the EEOC regulations. The handbook will also include information on the 
Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) process and will be re-issued to 
all managers, supervisors and employees by the end of Calendar Year 
2003. An EEO statement is also posted on all bulletin boards that 
provide the procedures and timelines for requesting an informal inquiry 
on EEO issues.

SSA also has a training manual that includes step-by-step procedures 
for processing informal complaints of discrimination that is used by 
the CREO Managers and headquarters staff to train EEO Counselors.	The 
manual is used for initial and refresher training and serves as the 
Agency's standard operating procedures for EEO Counselors. The training 
manual mirrors much of the same information contained in Appendix A of 
EEO-MD 110. We plan to update this material with the procedural 
guidelines as described in CFR 1614.104. We also developed and issued 
two EEO Counseling Technical Advisory Letters in May of 2003. The 
letters are designed to supplement the training manual and are used to 
transmit guidance and EEO technical information to CREO Managers and 
EEO Counselors to ensure consistency in our EEO counseling program 
across the Agency.

Recommendation 3:

The Commissioner of SSA should direct the RC of Region X to establish a 
plan to 1) enhance the Region's EEO environment to increase trust and 
2) measure the plan's effectiveness, such as with a periodic survey of 
employees.

SSA Response:

We agree that all regions should foster an environment where employees 
feel they can raise concerns and take part in a process designed to 
resolve complaints. GAO survey data actually show that more than half 
(51 percent) of the employees are "very willing" (24 percent) or 
"generally willing" (27 percent) to participate in the EEO counseling 
phase in Region X. In addition, another 13 percent said that they are 
"as willing as unwilling" to participate, with a final 10 percent that 
were "uncertain." Since Region X is no longer following the change to 
the EEOC process that may have caused some distrust, implementing a 
plan and specific surveys will not be necessary. We will continue to 
share best practices learned from our Human Resource audits with Region 
X, and Region X will be a part of the ongoing national dialogue of 
Regional Commissioners concerning diversity topics that we mentioned 
above.

Technical Comments:

The separation statistics and language in paragraph 1 (page 15) refers 
to higher separation rates for minorities. It is suggested that the 
reference show "Region X hired a significant number of minorities in 
the past few years. Based on the data and their experience that 
separation rates are always higher in the first several years, the 
higher percentage of separation rates for minorities can be expected.":

In paragraph 1 (page 27), GAO concluded that "a sizeable portion of 
respondents to our survey - about 40 percent --indicated that they are 
unwilling or uncertain about becoming involved with the processes 
established for handling EEO complaints." Combining the "unwilling" and 
"uncertain" responses implies "uncertain" as a negative vs. neutral 
response. It is suggested that the two responses be reported 
separately.

[End of section]

Appendix IX: GAO Contact and Staff Acknowledgments:

GAO Contact:

Victor S. Rezendes, (202) 512-6806:

Acknowledgments:

In addition to the individual named above, Thomas G. Dowdal, Karin K. 
Fangman, Nathan Morris, Terry Richardson, Kiki Theodoropoulos, Michael 
R. Volpe, and Gregory H. Wilmoth made key contributions to this report.

(450090):

FOOTNOTES

[1] Seattle Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of 
Colored People, Racism and Disparate Treatment Issues: Region 10, 
Social Security Administration (Seattle: 2000).

[2] Although the Region handles the informal stage of the EEO complaint 
process, SSA requires formal complaints be filed with SSA headquarters 
in Baltimore.

[3] 29 C.F.R. Part 1614. 

[4] These data include temporary employees but do not include SSA 
components in Region X that are not under the line authority of the 
then Regional Commissioner (i.e., the Office of Hearings and Appeals, 
OGC, the Office of Inspector General, and the Regional Office of 
Quality Assurance). 

[5] The presence of statistically significant differences means that we 
are 95-percent confident that differences could happen by chance less 
than 5 percent of the time.

[6] ADR generally refers to any procedure agreed to by the parties in a 
dispute that is used to resolve issues in controversy including, but 
not limited to, mediation or arbitration. As of January 1, 2000, all 
federal agencies covered by 29 C.F.R. Part 1614 were required to 
establish or make available an ADR program during the informal 
(precomplaint counseling) and formal complaint stages of the EEO 
process. According to a Region X official, as of March 7, 2003, 
participation in the ADR process is currently limited to mediation and 
available to Region X employees within the Seattle commuting area.

[7] Before the end of the 30-day period, the employee may agree in 
writing with the agency to postpone the final interview and extend the 
counseling period for up to an additional 60 days.

[8] ADR is to be completed within 90 days.

[9] The Current Population Survey is a monthly survey of about 50,000 
households conducted by the Bureau of the Census and is the primary 
source of current information on the labor force characteristics of the 
U.S. population. 

[10] We were unable to determine whether minorities and women were 
significantly less likely to be hired or promoted because we had no 
data on applicants by race/ethnicity and gender.

[11] Telephone service representatives provide information to inquirers 
about eligibility and benefits paid under SSA programs. 

[12] "Direct-in" refers to when a caller is first connected to the 1-
800-number, hears an option that allows the bypass of English prompts, 
and allows the caller to go directly to Spanish prompts. According to a 
Region X official, in fiscal year 2002, the number of Spanish calls 
handled by Spanish bilingual employees in the teleservice center in 
Auburn, Wash., reached a high of 362,200.

[13] Hispanics were promoted at slightly lower rates than their 
representation in the workforce. Hispanic men represented 2.9 percent 
of competitive promotions and 3.0 percent in the Region's workforce for 
the 5-year period. Hispanic women represented 5.1 percent of 
competitive promotions and 5.4 percent of the Region's workforce.

[14] Of the 142 actions, 8 were for performance, not conduct.

[15] EEOC uses MD-110 to supplement its EEO regulations (29 C.F.R. Part 
1614) with additional guidance relating to the processing of 
complaints.

[16] A Region X official said that in 1999 Region X management 
instituted an intensive training plan to address subject matter needs 
of EEO specialists and established the practice of reinforcing each EEO 
counselor's role as a neutral third party. This new training in the 
Region was put into place about the same time that EEOC began requiring 
specific training for EEO counselors. According to EEOC's Director of 
Federal Sector Programs, EEOC guidance did not have a specific training 
requirement for EEO counselors until November 9, 1999, when the 
regulations and guidance were revised. Under the revised guidance, EEOC 
requires new EEO counselors to receive a minimum of 32 hours of EEO 
counselor training before assuming counseling duties.

[17] The Auburn Teleservice Center is one of SSA's four largest such 
centers with telephone service representatives.

[18] U.S. General Accounting Office, Human Capital: The Role of 
Ombudsmen in Dispute Resolution GAO/GGD-01-466 (Washington, D.C.: Apr. 
13, 2001) and A Model of Strategic Human Capital Management GAO-02-
373SP (Washington, D.C.: Mar. 15, 2002).

[19] Social Security Administration, Equal Employment Opportunity 
Handbook for Managers and Supervisors of the Social Security 
Administration (Baltimore: Nov. 1995).

[20] 29 C.F.R. sec. 1614.105(a).

[21] SSA's then Associate Commissioner of OCREO said that he prefaced 
all of his remarks about the EEO process in Region X with the fact that 
his office did not find or see anything illegal or that any person had 
been discriminated against.

[22] 29 C.F.R. sec. 1614.102(b)(6).

[23] U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Onsite Report: U.S. 
Department of Agriculture (Washington, D.C.: Feb. 26, 2003).

[24] According to SSA officials, SSA is currently revising its EEO 
handbook for managers and supervisors as well as its employees' 
edition. 

[25] 29 C.F.R. sec. 1614.102 (a).

[26] 29 C.F.R. sec. 1614.102 (b) (5).

[27] 29 C.F.R. sec. 1614.104 (a).

[28] Region X provided data on the following EEO groups: African 
American men and women, American Indian/Alaska Native (AIAN) men and 
women, Asian/Pacific Islander (Asian) men and women, Hispanic men and 
women, and White men and women. 

[29] According to the Region X official, such coding was done with the 
knowledge and confidence that the code would be corrected when the new 
employee paperwork was received, usually within the following week, 
providing accurate race/ethnicity data based on the new employee's 
self-identification for the system. 

[30] 29 C.F.R. Part 1614.

[31] 42 U.S.C. secs. 2000e et seq. 

[32] 29 U.S.C. sec. 206(b).

[33] 29 U.S.C. secs. 621 et seq. 

[34] 29 U.S.C. secs. 791 and 794a.

[35] For allegations of discrimination under Title VII and the 
Rehabilitation Act, filing an administrative complaint is a 
prerequisite to filing a civil action in court. See 42 U.S.C. sec. 
2000e-16(c) and 29 U.S.C. sec. 794a(a)(1).

[36] 29 C.F.R. Part 1614. EEOC has supplemented these regulations with 
additional guidance relating to the processing of complaints with 
Management Directive-110 (MD-110), issued November 9, 1999.

[37] ADR generally refers to any procedure agreed to by the parties in 
a dispute that is used to resolve issues in controversy including, but 
not limited to, conciliation, facilitation, or mediation. As of January 
1, 2000, all federal agencies covered by 29 C.F.R. Part 1614 were 
required to establish or make available an ADR program during the 
informal (precomplaint counseling) and formal complaint stages of the 
EEO processes. According to an SSA Region X official, as of March 7, 
2003, participation in the ADR process is currently limited to 
mediation and is available to Region X employees within the Seattle 
commuting area.

[38] Before the end of the 30-day period, the employee may agree in 
writing with the agency to extend the counseling period for up to an 
additional 60 days.

[39] ADR is to be completed within 90 days.

[40] An agency may dismiss an individual's complaint for a number of 
reasons, including failure to contact an EEO counselor in a timely 
manner, failure to file a complaint in a timely manner, or failure to 
state a claim based on covered discrimination. 

[41] This period can be extended an additional 90 days when both 
parties agree. 

[42] A complainant may request a hearing at any time after 180 days 
have elapsed from the filing of the complaint, regardless of whether 
the agency has completed its investigation. 

[43] If the agency does not issue a final order within 40 days, the 
decision of the AJ becomes the final action of the agency.

[44] MSPB is an independent quasi-judicial agency in the executive 
branch that serves as the guardian of federal merit systems. 

[45] For employees of agencies subject to 5 U.S.C. sec. 7121(d) and 
covered by a collective bargaining agreement that permits claims of 
discrimination to be raised in a negotiated grievance procedure, the 
employees similarly must elect to file an EEO complaint or a grievance.

[46] The then Regional Commissioner, a White man, was the only SES 
manager in Region X in fiscal year 1997 and most of fiscal year 1998. 
In fiscal years 1999 through 2001, there were two SES managers in the 
Region, the then Regional Commissioner, an Hispanic woman, and the then 
Deputy Commissioner, an African American man. 

[47] Social Security Administration, Human Resources Management 
Assessment Report for Review Conducted April 29-May 3, 2002 in Region 
X, Office of Human Resources (Baltimore: 2002).

[48] If a temporary promotion that was not expected to exceed 120 days 
was originally made on a noncompetitive basis, any extension beyond 120 
days must be made under a competitive procedure. Temporary promotions 
can be made for either bargaining or nonbargaining unit positions.

[49] For the 5-year period on which we focused, Region X gave group 
special act awards only in fiscal year 2001. 

[50] Because more monetary awards are given than there are people in an 
EEO group in the Region (i.e., some individuals get more than one 
monetary award), we could not test for statistical significance of 
monetary awards.

[51] Eight actions were for performance, not conduct.

[52] Because numbers of adverse actions were small in each of the 5 
years, we combined all actions for the 5-year period.

[53] The Region stated that any of these steps may be bypassed if 
management determines by the severe nature of the behavior that a 
lesser form of discipline would not be appropriate. 

[54] Other offenses each accounted for less than 10 percent of all 
actions and included failure to adhere to leave rules or being away 
without leave and failure to follow standards of conduct.

[55] MSPB's mission is to ensure that federal employees are protected 
against abuses by executive branch agency management, that agencies 
make employment decisions according to merit systems principles, and 
that federal merit systems are kept free from prohibited personnel 
practices. 

[56] SSA changed its national reporting mechanism from manual to 
electronic reporting, and beginning in fiscal year 2000, SSA initiated 
a national database for tracking EEO counseling activity. 

[57] The accommodation must be job related and not items already 
required for personal use (e.g., hearing aids, prosthetic devices, 
wheelchairs, and transportation to work). Reasonable accommodation is 
determined on a case-by-case basis, taking into consideration the 
individual's specific disability and existing limitations to the 
performance of a job function, the essential duties of the job, the 
work environment, and the feasibility of the proposed accommodation. 

[58] Such grievances are filed in accordance with Article 24, Section 9 
of the SSA/AFGE National Agreement. In addition, the union as an 
institution may file grievances against a particular level of 
management in accordance with Article 24, Section 10 of the SSA/AFGE 
National Agreement; such grievances are not discussed in this report.

[59] Occasionally, management may offer something other than what was 
requested, which satisfies the employee/representative, and the 
grievance is resolved.

[60] The terms of the five nonmonetary settlements agreed to for 
complaints filed in fiscal years 1997 through 2001 included rescinded 
terminations, removals, or suspensions; restoration or credit for sick 
and annual leave; lateral reassignment or promotion; and a handwritten 
apology. 

[61] For EEO complaints alone, 32 complaints filed in fiscal years 1997 
through 2001 were settled (as shown in table 18).

[62] The percentage of respondents by race/ethnicity closely mirrored 
the percentage of each race/ethnicity in the population of Region X 
employees. The percentage of men and women responding to the survey 
also matched their respective percentages in the Region X workforce.

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