Award of Attorney Fees to Prevailing Complainants Under EEOC Interim Regulations

B-199291: Jun 19, 1981

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An Assistant Secretary of the Army requested a GAO opinion on the legality of Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) interim regulations allowing Government agencies to award attorney fees and costs to complainants. Specifically, a decision was requested regarding whether: (1) the EEOC interim regulation was valid with respect to an agency's ability, in the absence of express statutory authority, to award attorney fees as part of the administrative complaint process; and (2) if so, installation operating funds should be used for this purpose. GAO held that the Civil Rights Act grants agencies the authority to enforce the Act through appropriate remedies and, in accordance with the prevailing view of the courts considering the question, GAO interprets that authority to include issuing regulations governing the award of attorney fees to prevailing complainants at the administrative level. Further, payments of fees awarded by agencies pursuant to EEOC regulations are to be made from agency operating funds and not the judgment fund which is statutorily limited to court judgments and a few other situations not relevant here.

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