Evaluation of the Discrimination Complaint System at the Fort Worth, Texas, Post Office

FPCD-79-82: Published: Sep 6, 1979. Publicly Released: Sep 20, 1979.

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GAO was requested to investigate alleged abuses of the equal employment opportunity (EEO) complaint processing system at the Fort Worth, Texas, Post Office. The reports charged that millions of dollars were being spent annually in processing frivolous EEO complaints involving employees' work habits, excessive absenteeism, and other matters unrelated to discrimination. The investigation covered 158 offices responsible to the Fort Worth Post Office, representing a work force of over 4,000 employees. GAO did not find millions of dollars being spent on frivolous claims, and determined that abuses of EEO complaint system were not great enough to be alarming. Estimated costs of all EEO complaints at the Fort Worth Post Office, both legitimate and unfounded, are between $100,000 and $130,000, based on partial data. Although the cost of processing EEO complaints was lower than alleged, the detrimental effect of spurious or petty claims could be serious. Commitment to the EEO complaint program could decline if it is misused to harass or intimidate supervisors. Processing of whimsical or malicious claim can also delay consideration of authentic grievances and hamper affirmative action efforts. A small number of Fort Worth postal employees were apparently abusing the process for purposes of harassment or to avoid being fired, but most complaints which appeared trivial or malicious were disposed of quickly and informally. Others were settled through non-EEO grievance procedures. It appeared that the problem of complaint system abuse was being managed satisfactorily at the local level. In a recent 7-month period, 48 EEO complaints were formally filed with the Fort Worth Post Office. Analysis showed that they were generated by a small number of employees, a large proportion of the complaints were in response to legitimate disciplinary or regulatory actions by management, and grievances and EEO complaints were often filed simultaneously over the same issue. Based on the Fort Worth investigation, GAO believed that duplicate filing of contract grievances and EEO complaints on the same matter may occur elsewhere as well, resulting in unnecessary expenditures for handling two cases under separate systems.

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