The U.S. House recently passed a new bill aimed at responding to discrimination in the federal government workplace. The Federal Employee Antidiscrimination Act of 2017 cleared the lower chamber on a unanimous voice vote.
That unanimity is something of a rarity in Washington these days. The measure is now wending its way through the Senate its fate is thus, yet to be determined. In the meantime, workers in the field might be wondering what changes the bill would make in current handling of employee discrimination claims. Assuming it makes it through Congress and is signed into law, here's what could result.
According to observers, the big thing that this bill would do is broaden the possible consequences for the perpetrators of discriminatory actions.
Under current law, the focus is on providing discrimination victims relief. This might take form in monetary compensation, such as back pay or job reinstatement. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which often handles such matters, can suggest disciplinary action against the person responsible for violating anti-discrimination laws, but the EEOC can't order such action. That's something left to the Office of Special Counsel. Too often, nothing happens.
The new bill would require the EEOC to report findings of discrimination to the OSC within 30 days of a decision. The OSC would then be required to review the matter to decide if disciplinary action against the violator is required. If action results, a record of it goes into the violator's personnel record.
The apparent hope is that, by formalizing processes and creating a paper trail, it will lead to more transparency around holding violators accountable for illegal actions.
That is a laudable goal. It might happen if the bill becomes law. In the meantime, federal workers subjected to discriminatory action and retaliation must work with the system that's in place. Obtaining effective results depends on working with experienced legal counsel.