Age Discrimination and Other Equal Employment Opportunity Issues in the Federal Work Force

FPCD-82-6: Published: Nov 20, 1981. Publicly Released: Dec 7, 1981.

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GAO was asked to determine whether Federal employees were being treated in a manner free of age discrimination. In its review, GAO concentrated on four issues: (1) the system for processing discrimination complaints; (2) how age complaints are processed in relation to complaints dealing with race, sex, national origin, or other discrimination issues; (3) the severity of age discrimination in the Federal workforce; and (4) occupational exemptions from the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.

GAO found that Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) processing delays continue to be a significant problem which affects age as well as other categories of discrimination complaints. EEOC does not have enough staff to process increasing appeals. In several instances, allegations of age discrimination were rejected because complainants did not file on time or failed to proceed with the case. At the same time, agencies were allowed to exceed the approved time standard for processing cases by a wide margin. EEOC has no procedure to independently determine whether actions were taken on its decisions. Agencies are not meeting the requirements for an EEOC compliance report. Recommendations have been made to address these compliance problems, but EEOC has not taken action on them. Thus, it still has no way of verifying how many agencies actually comply with its decisions. Age cases appear to receive the same priority as other discrimination complaints at both the agency and EEOC levels. Union representatives whom GAO interviewed believed that age discrimination is a growing problem in the Federal Government. However, agency and EEOC officials interviewed did not believe that age discrimination was a serious problem. Certain occupations are exempt from the provisions of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. Recently, an exemption from the Act was challenged by court action. The Bureau of Prisons' refusal to hire elderly applicants for clerical positions was upheld on the basis that all prison employees are law enforcement officers.

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