February 10, 2020
Bernadette B. Wilson
Office of the Executive Secretariat
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
131 M Street NE,
Washington, DC 20507
Re: Official Time in Federal Sector Cases Before the Commission (RIN 3046-AB00)
Dear Ms. Wilson,
The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank created in 1986 to include the needs of low- and middle-income workers in economic policy discussions. EPI conducts research and analysis on the economic status of working America, proposes public policies that protect and improve the economic conditions of low- and middle-income workers, and assesses policies with respect to how well they further those goals.
EPI strongly opposes the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) proposed rule that prohibits union representatives from using “official time” to represent their co-workers in an equal employment opportunity (EEO) matter. By prohibiting union representatives from using official time during EEO matters, the proposed rule effectively limits the right of federal workers to choose their representative in the EEO complaint process. Federal workers need to be able to file and pursue EEO complaints during regular business hours and thus need a representative who can perform that function at that time. Excluding union representatives from using official time in representing a co-worker in an EEO matter unfairly limits federal employees in their choice of representative.
In addition to limiting federal workers’ choice in representation, the proposed rule would create enormous cost obstacles for federal workers who want to file an EEO complaint. By prohibiting the use of official time in EEO complaints, federal workers are faced with the choice of hiring a private attorney or asking an inexperienced coworker to be their representative. The cost of an attorney will be prohibitive for many vulnerable federal workers and between the choices of hiring an attorney, asking an inexperienced co-worker to be a representative, or not filing at all, many will forgo exercising their rights.
Finally, the proposed rule is contrary to the EEOC’s mission of enforcing laws that prevent discrimination in the workplace. The proposed rule sends a message that the EEOC wants federal employees with EEO complaints to have inferior representation or representation that is cost prohibitive to many. As a result, the rule effectively protects discriminators from accountability. For these reasons, we urge the EEOC to withdraw the proposed rule.
Economic Policy Institute