The Trump administration is attacking federal employees who are victims of workplace discrimination by making it harder for them to report and win their cases.
Under a 1972 law, a federal employee who believes he or she has been discriminated against on the job has the right to select a coworker to serve as his or her representative during the complaint process, and both the employee and representative are allowed some hours known as “official time” during the workday to address the complaint.
However, a draft proposal by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission would seek to overturn this long-established precedent and exclude union reps from receiving official time to help their coworkers with their EEO complaints. This means more victims of discrimination will likely lose their cases as they won’t have access to the help they need. This administration is eroding the gains made by victims of discrimination.
Rachel Shonfield, president of AFGE Council 216, which represents EEOC employees nationwide, said when employees are confronted with these sensitive issues at work, they must continue to have the unimpeded right to be accompanied and advised by a person they are comfortable with, which is the representative of their choice.
“Denying employees the ability to get representation from their union representative – a person they are aware is knowledgeable on representation and the process – sends exactly the wrong message,” she said.
“The EEOC’s sudden move to strip representatives of this long-held right simply because they serve in the union is disgraceful and, if allowed to take effect, will have a chilling effect on the ability of workers to successfully challenge workplace discrimination,” AFGE National Vice President for Women and Fair Practices Jeremy Lannan said.
The EEOC’s plan to restrict the use of official time for discrimination complaints follows a larger assault by the Trump administration on federal employees’ workplace rights and the rights to union representation.
President Trump issued three executive orders in May 2018 that, among other things, instruct agencies to severely restrict the use of official time by union reps and deny any time for handling employee grievances or representing coworkers in arbitration.
“The Trump administration is doing everything it can to strip federal employees of their rights and protections and to eradicate labor unions from the federal workplace,” AFGE National Secretary-Treasurer Everett Kelley said. “The American people should be appalled by this administration’s willingness to ignore the will of Congress and violate the law to trample on workers’ rights.”