July 13, 2011
Christina Erling
(202) 639-6491

Union Decries Retaliatory Tactics, Discrimination in Federal Prisons

Washington, DC – The American Federation of Government Employees Council of Prison Locals is calling on Attorney General Eric Holder and the United States Congress to hold BOP leadership accountable for failure to make changes to the climate of retaliation and discrimination that is running rampant in the federal prison system. The damaging EEOC report was released in November 2010 and to date, the agency has yet to enforce numerous remedies brought forth from the investigation.

“Not only do correctional workers face life threatening situations on a daily basis, but they are facing retaliation from managers should they choose to file an EEO complaint in the system.  BOP management has done the bare minimum to address this issue and we’re calling on Congress and Attorney General Holder to hold them accountable for their lack of real action,” explained National Fair Practices Coordinator for the AFGE Council of Prison Locals Michael Castelle, Sr.

The November 2010 EEOC Bureau of Prisons evaluation report stemmed from concerns over the unusually large number of complaints BOP employees filed during fiscal years 2003-2006 in which they alleged retaliation. A class action complaint alleged a pattern and practice of retaliation against employees, which included supporting declarations from current and former BOP employees. This, as well as other anecdotal information, suggested a level of perceived retaliation at BOP higher than in other federal agencies.

The findings of the EEOC report also reveal that employees lack confidence in BOP’s EEO program and employees are unfamiliar with the EEO process and their rights. The EEOC reviewed several facilities, each of which are geographically removed from the others, directly supervised by a different warden, and physically different from the others; however employee perceptions and misperceptions, as well as their lack of knowledge about, and confidence in, BOP’s EEO program, were strikingly similar.

According to the report, the “EEOC believes that the changes required to remedy the issues addressed in our findings – fear of retaliation, lack of confidence in BOP’s EEO program, and lack of familiarity with the EEO process and employee rights – must be implemented in a proactive and measured way that includes established time frames and monitoring.”

The EEOC recommendations include: (1) BOP’s EEO office must be realigned. At the time of the report, the EEO office was out of the Office of General Counsel, however, EEO regulations establish that the EEO director report directly to the agency head. BOP’s organizational structure is in clear violation of this requirement; (2) BOP must increase management support for EEO. EEOC’s investigation found that some management officials expressed a belief that EEO was mostly a forum whereby employees and unions manipulated management. The EEOC recommends remedying revising and reissuing EEO policies, provide mandatory EEO training, holding managers accountable for EEO violations and that each area facility to have an EEO counselor; (3) BOP headquarters EEO office must monitor its field operations; (4) BOP must ensure confidentiality. It must be stressed that all EEO information is confidential; (5) BOP should abolish the vouchering system.

“The EEOC has made some basic recommendations to right the wrongs of agency management. The EEOC laid out a reasonable timeline of quarterly progress reports on BOP’s efforts to implement each of the recommendations as well as detailed action plans to achieve these goals. More than 6 months later, little has been done,” explained Mr. Castelle. “There is no process in place for the agency to effectively monitor the EEO program in the field; and negotiations have not taken place on harassment and the agency’s EEO policies.  The affirmative action program at the agency is still very cosmetic, just as it was prior to the report.”

“Retaliation and harassment toward those who participate in the agency EEO process has not diminished since the issuance of the EEOC report.  Managers that discriminate at the Bureau of Prisons do so with complete impunity.  We are urging Congress and Attorney General Holder to take action and demand accountability of BOP management for their cavalier attitude toward the well-being of their employees,” concluded Mr. Castelle.

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