Equal Employment Opportunity:

Responses to Questions Related to Equal Employment Opportunity and Dispute Resolution Issues

GGD-00-123R: Published: Apr 21, 2000. Publicly Released: May 4, 2000.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO responded to congressional questions regarding GAO's testimony on the Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) complaint process for federal employees, focusing on: (1) whether minorities are placed in positions that are "dead end employment tracks;" (2) whether GAO studied the Navy's Pilot Dispute Resolution Program, which is used to resolve EEO complaints; (3) whether the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's (EEOC) Comprehensive Enforcement Program will be able to measure progress towards its goal of eradicating discrimination in the federal workplace; and (4) the prerequisites to a successful alternative dispute resolution (ADR) program.

GAO noted that: (1) GAO has not done any work that specifically addresses the representation of minorities in the federal workforce; (2) however, GAO reviewed data by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and EEOC; (3) these data show that from fiscal years 1993 through 1998, the proportion of the federal workforce made up by minorities increased by 1.5 percentage points; (4) both the number and percentage of minority representation in mid- and senior-level federal white-collar jobs increased; (5) however, these data also show that, proportionately, minorities are more likely than whites to hold General Schedule positions below Grade 13; (6) OPM reports that the average grade level of minority employees is lower than that of white federal workers; (7) the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) reported that although a large portion of the grade level differences between minorities and White men could be accounted for by differences in education and experience, even after controlling for these differences, MSPB found that there was generally a negative effect on the careers of minorities in professional and administrative positions because of their race or national origin; (8) GAO has not studied the Navy's Pilot Dispute Resolution Program; (9) although GAO has not examined initiatives under the Comprehensive Enforcement Program, GAO believes that they are clearly steps in the right direction; (10) however, sustained commitment and follow-through on the part of EEOC will be required if EEOC is to achieve meaningful results; (11) in order for EEOC to measure progress towards its goal of eradicating discrimination, there need to be reliable indicators and measures of discrimination in the federal workplace; (12) measures could be developed that gauge the outcome of discrimination prevention efforts; (13) the strongest feature of the Comprehensive Enforcement Program, in GAO's opinion, is the changes to complaint program regulations that were implemented in November 1999, particularly the requirement for ADR to be used; and (14) based on GAO's report on employers' experiences with ADR in the workplace, the prerequisites to having a successful ADR program are the: (a) need for visible support by top management; (b) importance of involving employees in ADR program development; (c) importance of employing ADR processes early in a dispute before positions have solidified and underlying interests have been obscured; and (d) need to balance the desire to settle and close cases against the need for fairness to employees and managers alike.

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