What does the EEO counseling process involve?
Equal Employment Opportunity counseling is conducted pursuant to 29 C.F.R. section 1614.105, which provides that aggrieved persons who believe they have been discriminated against on the bases of race, color, national origin, sex, age, religion, disability, or in retaliation for having participated in activity protected under various civil rights statutes, must consult an EEO Counselor prior to filing a complaint, in order to try to informally resolve the matter.
EEO counseling is an essential part of the federal system for processing and resolving employee and applicant EEO concerns. The opportunity for informal resolution at an early stage is an important feature of the counseling stage. If resolution is not achieved, the counselor plays a vital role in ensuring prompt and efficient processing of the discrimination complaint.
The EEO Counselor serves as a neutral party whose primary function is to mediate and conciliate the issues presented in an informal manner, as quickly as possible and with the minimum possible interference with the operations of the workplace. The Counselor's role does not include a determination of either the existence or non-existence of illegal discrimination nor the making of value judgements.
Steps in the Counseling Process
- The aggrieved individual must contact the EEO counselor with 45 days of the alleged discriminatory event, or effective date of the alleged discriminatory personnel action;
- The EEO Counselor must advise individuals in writing of their rights and responsibilities during the initial counseling session;
- Counseling normally should be completed within 30 days. At the end of the 30 days, the counselor must advise the employee of their right to file a discrimination complaint. This time period for counseling may be extended for an additional 60 days upon the written request of the employee and the agreement of the agency. When the agency has an operative Alternative Dispute Resolution Procedure in which the employee agrees to participate, a 90 day counseling process may be used;
- If attempts to informally resolve the allegation have been unsuccessful, the aggrieved individual will be provided, in writing, a notice that counseling has been completed. The aggrieved individual has 15 days from the date of receipt of the notice to submit the discrimination complaint in writing, by mail or in person, to the Office of Civil Rights (OCR);
- Once a discrimination complaint has been filed, the EEO Counselor must prepare a report on the counseling activities. The report will be included in OCR's discrimination complaint file.