Congress

Maloney, Scott press EEOC to clarify proposed official time policy

US Congress House side Shutterstock photo ID: 156615524 By mdgn editorial use only 

Democratic lawmakers are increasingly worried about a proposed rule from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that would restrict federal workers' ability to choose a union representative to accompany them when pursuing discrimination cases against their agency employers.

On Jan. 23, two members of Congress sent a letter to EEOC Chair Janet Dhillon, asking her to provide documents and information pertaining to the proposed rule that would deny any representative the use of "official time" when advising, accompanying or representing a co-worker in a discrimination case. EEOC first published the proposal on Dec. 11.

"We are extremely concerned about the potential effects of this proposed rule on the enforcement of employment anti-discrimination laws and policies affecting federal employees and the fairness of the federal workplace," Oversight Committee Chairwoman Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) and Education and Labor Committee Chairman  Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) wrote.

Current law gives employees seeking redress for workplace grievances the opportunity to select a union representative to help them draft and file their claim, and allows those representatives to claim official time during such proceedings. The American Federation of Government Employees, the federal government's biggest employee union, said if put into place the rule would have a "chilling effect" on aggrieved workers.

In their letter, Maloney and Scott asked for clarification as to how the new rule would affect practices such as "complainants' rights to a representative of their choosing" during proceedings and appeals processes and how it would financially impact complainants should they have to retain lawyers to represent them where they would otherwise use union officials. 

The lawmakers are seeking any cost-benefits analyses that may have been conducted. They are also requesting copies of communications between the EEOC officials who drafted the rule and any correspondence between federal agencies and EEOC officials concerning complaints dating back to January 2019 as well as their thoughts about the new proposed rule.

The period for public comment on the proposed rule continues until Feb. 10.

About the Author

Lia Russell is a former staff writer and associate editor at FCW.

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