Equal Employment Opportunity:

Data Shortcomings Hinder Assessment of Conflicts in the Federal Workplace

GGD-99-75: Published: May 4, 1999. Publicly Released: Jun 4, 1999.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the nature and extent of workplace conflicts that underlie the rising number of discrimination cases, focusing on: (1) the statutory bases (e.g., race, sex, or disability discrimination) under which employees filed complaints; (2) the kinds of issues (e.g., nonselection for promotion, harassment) that were cited in these complaints; and (3) why the data collected and reported by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) were not helpful in answering the questions raised.

GAO noted that: (1) relevant and reliable data about the bases for federal employee discrimination complaints and the specific issues giving rise to these complaints would help decisionmakers and program managers understand the nature and extent of conflict in the federal workplace; (2) these data could also be used to help plan corrective actions and measure the results of interventions; (3) however, EEOC does not collect and report data about bases and issues in a way that would help answer some fundamental questions about the nature and extent of workplace conflicts, such as: (a) how many individuals filed complaints; (b) in how many complaints each of the bases for discrimination was alleged; and (c) the most frequently cited issues in employees' discrimination complaints and in how many complaints was each of the issues cited; (4) moreover, the reliability of the data that EEOC collects from agencies and reports is questionable; (5) GAO found that agencies reported basis and issue data to EEOC in an inconsistent manner; (6) GAO also found that agencies did not report to EEOC some of the data it requested and reported some other data incorrectly; and (7) in addition, because EEOC did not have procedures that ensured the reliability of the data it collected from agencies, it published some unreliable data in its annual Federal Sector Report on Equal Employment Opportunity Complaints Processing and Appeals.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: EEOC revised form 462, used to collect summary case data from agencies, to now collect data on (1) the number of individuals filing formal complaints and the number with multiple complaints filed in a reporting year, (2) the number of complaints associated with each of the bases and issues cited in complaints, and (3) the extent of the use of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) and outcomes of ADR efforts. In addition, an official with EEOC's Office of Federal Operations said that EEOC created a diskette with embedded data checks to ensure the accuracy and quality of the data reported. The agencies will now be able to transmit report data electronically and in addition, they will be able to report the data electronically. Further initiatives were to result from the EEOC/NPR Task Force that was assembled to deal with the issues GAO raised. The Task Force reported out in December 2000. NPR disbanded and EEOC has yet to release the report. The Complaint Adjudication Manager said that matters were being held in abeyance with the change of administration and the expected change in EEOC's leadership. She anticipates movement on the data front during 2002. In the meantime, EEOC will soon roll out a web-based data reporting system. Instead of agencies reporting complaint data annually on disc, they will be able to enter data through EEOC's web site. EEOC expects that this will facilitate more timely and accurate reporting (because of built in edit checks) and will also facilitate EEOC's compilation, analysis, and reporting of data governmentwide. This system, which is part of EEOC's continuing effort to respond to GAO's concerns, is expected to be available for agencies to report end of year data for fiscal year 2001 (November timeframe). According to EEOC's fiscal year 2002 performance report, in November 2001, EEOC had fully implemented its new Federal Data Collection web-based system. The new system contains embedded edit checks to increase the validity of the data submitted by the agencies. The performance report said that this system allowed for a more timely collection and analysis of the data, and resulted in the completion of the fiscal year 2001 annual report months sooner than customary. EEOC also said that with improved data analyses, it will be able to better identify agencies' systemic problems and strategically design outreach and technical assistance activities to assist the agencies in complying with the law.

    Recommendation: To help ensure that relevant and reliable data are available to decisionmakers and program managers, the Chairman, EEOC, should take steps to enable EEOC to collect and publish data on complaint bases and issues in a manner that would allow fundamental questions about the number of complainants and the prevalence of bases and issues in the universe of complaints to be answered.

    Agency Affected: Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: EEOC's form 462, used to collect summary case data from agencies, is being revised to collect data on (1) the number of individuals filing formal complaints and the number with multiple complaints filed in a reporting year, (2) the number of complaints associated with each of the bases and issues cited in complaints, and (3) the extent of the use of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) and outcomes of ADR efforts. In the past, EEOC instructions for completing the form were unclear. As a step to further ensure that the data is collected and reported correctly, EEOC has prepared new instructions for completing the form. In addition, an official with EEOC's Office of Federal Operations said that EEOC created a diskette with embedded data checks to ensure the accuracy and quality of the data reported. The agencies will now be able to transmit report data electronically and in addition, they will be able to report the data via the internet.

    Recommendation: To help ensure that relevant and reliable data are available to decisionmakers and program managers, the Chairman, EEOC, should take steps to enable EEOC to develop procedures to help ensure that agencies report data consistently, completely, and accurately.

    Agency Affected: Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

 

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