EO complaint process misconceptions clarified

By Tech. Sgt. Melinda Morris: 27th Special Operations Wing Equal Opportunity

The Equal Opportunity complaint process is often misunderstood and confusing. The military complaints process offers assistance to active duty personnel, guard and reserve on Title 10 orders, retirees and dependents.

The EO office does not serve only military members. There is also a civilian EO complaint program that covers all appropriated and non-appropriated fund employees, prior employees, and applicants to Department of Defense services.

Another misconception is that the EO counselor determines whether an allegation is discrimination or sexual harassment. For military complaints, EO can only substantiate or un-substantiate formal cases. In civilian cases, the counselor attempts to resolve complaints neutrally at the lowest possible level. EO officials are not allowed, by regulation, to determine merits of the case. Additionally EO can act as subject matter experts for the informal cases.

Some believe that EO references case law that allows only the strictest confines of political correctness to get people in trouble. The bottom line is that the complaint process is statutorily-based on the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, the Equal Pay Act of 1963, the Genetic Information Act of 2008 and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Those are legal requirements for any agency; EO didn’t make them up.

Others believe EO wants to deter all camaraderie and unit cohesion, which in effect, lowers morale. EO encourages activities that promote a healthy interpersonal climate. EO advises personnel to avoid making employment decisions, jokes, off-handed comments or derogatory terms based on race, color, religion, age (40 years or older), sex (to include sexual harassment), national origin, genetic information or disability.

Military members have 60 days to make contact with an EEO counselor after a discriminating action to be considered timely. Civilian employees have 45 days.

Everyone has the right to be treated with human dignity and respect according to the DoD Human Goals charter. Everyone is promised an environment free of unlawful discrimination and the opportunity to rise to the highest level of responsibility based only on merit, fitness and capability.

The EO office is a helping agency. EO professionals will help individuals through the process, trying to restore healthy, happy and whole working environments so everyone can focus on the mission. For more information about the EO process, please call 784-2471.