THE INFORMAL COMPLAINT PROCESS


Are you reluctant to come to OCR about a civil rights complaint because you do not want to "rock the boat" or be considered a "troublemaker?" Perhaps you fear that the complaint process will be overwhelming and lengthy. Or, you are not sure whether or not your complaint is a legitimate EEO one. If you are in doubt, come to the OCR and talk to a Counselor.

When a person walks into our office with a complaint, our immediate goal is to seek early resolution of the problem by INFORMAL means within 30 days. We are proud of our success in resolving problems BEFORE they ever reach the formal complaint stage.

As reported in the first issue of this publication, in FY-96, out of 260 informal complaint contacts, only 37 resulted in formal complaints. Thus, 86% of the complaints were resolved in the informal phase of the complaint process. In FY-97, out of 320 complaint contacts, OCR was able to resolve 270 at the informal stage. We look forward to even greater achievement at early resolution of complaints now that we have successfully recruited 35 new Collateral Counselors from the Civil and Foreign Service at the GS-12 or equivalent level or above.

OCR wishes to emphasize that when anyone presents a discrimination complaint, the Counselor is required to be a NEUTRAL observer. He or she will listen attentively to the complainant and then adopt a plan to try to RESOLVE the issue, involving only the appropriate parties. If the Complainant so desires, he or she has the right to remain ANONYMOUS.

During this informal time-frame, we frequently find solutions that satisfy the complainant and all other parties who may be included in a situation. Sometimes, the problem is not EEO in nature and, once we are able to get people talking to one another, amicable solutions are found. On occasions, the complainant is surprised to learn that he or she is the source of the problem and that discrimination is NOT a factor. Sometimes managers learn that they have ignored a simmering problem that has finally boiled over into a full-blown conflict. Regardless of the situation, we search for a resolution of the problem. In some instances, this may involve referring the complainant to the Merit Systems Protection Board or another more appropriate office. Thus, even if you are reluctant to file a complaint, you may talk to one of our Counselors without being obligated to proceed with the formal complaint phase.

We would like to encourage managers to come to us when they see potential problems brewing. The Director and Deputy Director of OCR invite managers and supervisors who have questions about EEO regulations to come and discuss them with us. We welcome management participation in helping to address EEO problems, questions or concerns. Our door is always open!


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