Discrimination complaints decline

Reprisal and age discrimination were the most frequent reasons employees filed complaints with the EEOC in fiscal 2005.

A new report from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission shows that 16,465 people filed 18,017 complaints against the federal government alleging employment discrimination in fiscal 2005. The number of such complaints declined 5.3 percent compared with the previous year.

“We think the information points toward positive trends,” said James Ryan, an EEOC spokesman.

John Palguta, vice president of policy at the Partnership for Public Service, a nonprofit group that encourages people to seek public service jobs, said the rate of complaints federal employees filed, although still relatively low, is generally higher than in the private sector because the federal government takes discrimination threats seriously and makes it easy for its employees to file complaints. “Every agency has an EEOC counselor available,” he said.

The EEOC’s Annual Report on the Federal Work Force Fiscal Year 2005 shows some progress in eliminating federal workplace discrimination, but it also presents evidence that federal agencies could do more. Here are some statistics from the EEOC report:

  • In fiscal 2005, the federal workforce numbered 2.6 million. Fifty-seven percent were men and 43 percent were women. African-American employees constituted 18.3 percent of the workforce, and Hispanic employees accounted for 7.6 percent. The representation of Hispanics and women was less than their overall availability in the national workforce, according to the report.

  • Women occupied 26.3 percent of senior pay-level positions in the federal government, representing a 6 percent gain in the past decade. The average General Schedule pay grade for women was GS-9.2 in fiscal 2005, nearly one-and-a-half grades below the average grade level for men — GS-10.7 — in the same year.

  • In fiscal 2005, white employees held 88.7 percent of senior pay-level positions. African-Americans filled 6.6 percent of those positions while Hispanics filled 3.5 percent.

  • The number of federal employees with disabilities has steadily declined in the past 10 years. In fiscal 2005, the federal workforce included 25,142 employees with disabilities, or less than 1 percent of the workforce.

  • Agencies involved in discrimination cases paid $51.7 million to resolve cases in fiscal 2005, a 74 percent increase from the $29.7 million paid in discrimination cases the previous year.

  • Fifty-one percent of 43 agencies surveyed did not have a comprehensive anti-harassment policy that covered nonsexual harassment and included investigative procedures to follow when someone files a discrimination complaint. The EEOC recommended language in the Labor Department’s anti-harassment policy as a model for other agencies to follow.

  • The average processing time for a hearing was 249 days, a 29.9 percent reduction from the 355-day average the previous year.

  • The agency with the highest EEOC complaint rate was the Education Department. About 1.7 percent of the agency’s 4,436 employees filed a complaint in fiscal 2005.

  • The top two reasons for discrimination complaints in fiscal 2005 were reprisal, at 7,105 cases, and age discrimination, at 5,088 cases.

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