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EEO complaint process explained

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- The Equal Employment Opportunity complaint process is fraught with misunderstanding and, as a result, many myths have arisen that further fuel confusion regarding what EEO is about.

The most egregious myth is that the EEO system only applies to women and minorities. In reality, the EEO complaint program covers all appropriated and non-appropriated fund employees - supervisory and non-supervisory, male and female, minority and non-minority.

Another myth is that the EEO counselor determines whether a contested action constitutes discrimination. The truth is the EEO counselor's role is to attempt to resolve complaints on a "win-win" basis at the lowest possible level. In fact, EEOC case law specifically prohibits the counselor from determining the merits of complaints.

In addition to these and many other misconceptions, there is also a general lack of understanding as to what EEO is really about. Let's "set the record straight" here:

The EEO complaint process is statutorily based by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, and the Equal Pay Act of 1963.

These laws prohibit employers from making employment decisions based on stereotypical ideas of race, color, religion, age (40 years or older), gender, national origin or disability. These laws also require that sincerely held religious beliefs, as well as disabling conditions of employees be reasonably accommodated. These laws further prohibit reprisal or retaliation against employees who have participated in the EEO process, or those who may oppose any unlawful employment practice covered by them. EEO is the law. Therefore, discrimination on any or a combination of these bases is illegal.

Employees who feel they have been discriminated on any of the above bases have a statutory right to file a complaint without fear of reprisal, retaliation, interference, coercion, harassment or other negative consequences. Such employees must make contact with an EEO counselor within 45 days of the discriminating action. At the pre-complaint (informal) stage of the EEO process, every attempt is made to resolve the complaint at the lowest level. Alternative dispute resolution is highly recommended by the Air Force because it has been found to be a very successful means of resolving a wide range of conflicts.

The formal complaint process can be time-consuming, morale-eroding, and quite costly to everyone involved. Therefore, it bears noting that resolving complaints as early as possible is in everyone's best interest. However, if complaints are not resolved, complainants have the right to file a formal complaint. This involves an investigation by the Investigation and Resolution Division, a Department of Defense agency. Complainants also have several appellate steps as the process progresses.

For more information about the EEO process, call 556-7693.

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