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The Early Resolution of EEO Complaints Program -- An Overview

A program for alternative dispute resolution of EEO complaints at the U.S. Department of Labor

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In October 1996, we will make available in all DOL regions a program which has permitted early resolution of many Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) complaints in its national and regional office pilots. This Early Resolution of EEO Complaints Program (EREC) uses mediation as an alternative to litigation and holds promise for providing prompt but lasting resolutions that satisfy both parties. Such alternatives in dispute resolution have potential to open communications and improve working relationships while they save time and expense.

What is "early resolution"?

In the Department of Labor (DOL), the Early Resolution of EEO Complaints (EREC) Program offers mediation as an alternative to resolve some EEO complaints before parties get involved in the formal complaint process.

Mediation is the intervention of a neutral and impartial third party in a dispute to help the parties to clarify issues, identify underlying causes, and arrive at appropriate remedies to resolve the dispute. The mediator cannot impose a resolution on the parties. He or she will protect the confidentiality of the process.

Why an early resolution program?

The Early Resolution of EEO Complaints Program:

Who may participate?

Complainant: Anyone who applies for DOL employment or is a current or former DOL employee and who initiates a timely complaint on matters relating to his or her DOL employment may participate in the early resolution process. Participation is voluntary.

Who else is involved in the process?

Mediator: A neutral and impartial third party, skilled in conflict resolution techniques, who has been approved to participate in the EREC Program.

Settlement official: The DOL executive staff member (or his or her designee) authorized to discuss and execute settlement agreements on an agency's behalf.

Generally, only the mediator, the complainant, and the settlement official (and their respective representatives, if desired) are present in the room where mediation takes place. Behind the scenes, a small team of people is aware of the presenting issues and provides support to the resolution effort, though they are not privy to the confidential mediation discussion. This EREC Team consists of Directorate of Civil Rights (DCR) staff, the assigned EEO counselor, and the appropriate agency EEO manager.

When does it begin?

The early resolution process is initiated during the "informal complaint" period in the EEO complaint process. The EEO counselor begins the counseling inquiry as usual under EEO procedures, providing the complainant with information on the early resolution program along with the "rights and responsibilities" letter.

Should the complainant choose to participate in the early resolution program, he or she must tell the EEO counselor during the initial counseling session. If the complainant does not elect the early resolution program, the counselor proceeds with the standard EEO counseling process, issuing the "final interview" letter by the 30th day.

How does it work?

When the complainant opts for the early resolution process, DCR is authorized to extend the precomplaint period for up to an additional 60 calendar days to accomplish the mediation.

DCR then assigns a counselor to complete limited factfinding within 7 days. When a preliminary Conselor's Summary Report is ready, DCR selects a mediator, who schedules the mediation, explains the process to the parties, and conducts the mediation. Once initiated, the mediation should be completed within 1–2 days.

A dispute may be resolved by the parties agreeing on a resolution or by the complainant's voluntary withdrawal of the allegations. If the involved parties are able to reach agreement on a resolution, the mediator has the resulting settlement agreement typed and coordinates its signing by both parties.

If any issues remain unresolved, the mediator will issue a final interview letter and the formal EEO complaint process will proceed to investigate the unresolved issues.

Early Resolution Program Timetable

Day Event
1 Complainant seeks EEO counseling. EEO counselor offers EREC in lieu of counseling and provides EREC brochure. If complainant elects mediation, counselor obtains complainant's written approval to extend counseling for mediation; if not, counselor begins standard counseling
7-9EEO counselor submits preliminary Counselor's Summary Report to Coordinator of Counselors (COC).
8-14 EREC Team teleconferences to review issues. DCR assigns a mediator.
14-46Mediator sets mediation date not later than 30 days from mediator selection date. If parties resolve the issues by mediation, mediator prepares written settlement agreement. If they do not, mediator issues final interview letter.
30EEO counselor issues final interview letter if EREC is not initiated.

For further information

For further information about the EREC program, contact your Regional Civil Rights Officer or Lynne Pratico, Directorate of Civil Rights, headquarters.

(Click here to e-mail Ms. Pratico.)

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