Guidelines for Use of Official Time and Agency Resources – Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Complaints

To: DSS Employees

By regulation, complainants and their representatives have the right to a reasonable amount of duty time to prepare and pursue an EEO complaint.

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) regulations require managers and supervisors to allow complainants who are employees "a reasonable amount of official time, when in official duty status, to prepare their EEO complaint and to respond to agency and EEOC requests for information". EEOC Management Directive (MD)-110, defines "reasonable" as "whatever is appropriate under the circumstances of the complaint". For example, an employee may need additional time to meet with his/her representative, participate in settlement negotiations, meet with an EEO Investigator, etc. Although the actual number of hours approved will vary according to the circumstances of the case, managers and supervisors must consider the need for employees to be available to perform work on a regular basis. In this regard, it is important that the employee and the supervisor arrive at a mutual understanding as to the amount of official time to be used prior to the employee's use of such time. The following guidance is provided to all managers and supervisors.

  1. Informal and Formal EEO Complaint Preparation and Presentation

    A reasonable amount of official time, measured in terms of hours vs. days or weeks, will be allowed for an employee to make contact, discuss, and meet to attempt resolution of pre-complaint issues with EEO Counselors and/or Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mediators. A reasonable amount of time may be granted for an employee to prepare for an initial pre-complaint contact, including time to discuss issues with the employee's representative. Official time for such purposes will typically include time to assemble documents to be submitted in conjunction with the complaint; time at the employee's official duty station to meet in person or by phone the employee's representative; and, time to write the complaint.

    At the formal complaint stage, official time will be granted to employees to prepare responses to questions or information requests from government officials responsible for processing and/or attempting to resolve EEO complaints (e.g. EEO Counselors, EEO complaint investigators, ADR mediators and other agency officials etc.).

    Overtime, including administratively uncontrollable overtime is not authorized for either complainants or their employee representatives to prepare or present complaints.

  2. Meetings and Hearings

    Official time will be permitted for employees to travel and attend meetings initiated by EEO Counselors, EEO complaints investigators, ADR mediators and other agency officials authorized to discuss and/or attempt complaint resolution. A reasonable amount of official time may be afforded for employees to prepare for such meetings with or without a designated representative. Although individual circumstances will vary, the need for large amounts of time to prepare for meetings and hearings is expected to be rare, being defined in terms of hours (versus days or weeks). Official time is also permitted for employees to attend agency or EEOC initiated meetings or hearings which may last an entire day.

  3. Official Time Authorization

    Since all duty hours reported on time and attendance records must be certified by the employee's supervisor as being hours worked or leave used, employees and their employee representatives seeking to use official time in conjunction with preparing an EEO complaint must obtain prior approval from their supervisors to ensure such requests are consistent with agency policy. The employee will be expected to provide the supervisor with sufficient information to determine if the amount of time being requested is reasonable. Requests must be made and approved in writing but need not reveal confidential case information. Employees and their representatives must request this time in advance from their supervisors. Key words here: request, and in advance.

    Supervisors may legitimately exercise control over when the time may be used. If necessary, additional time can be negotiated verbally by the supervisor and the employee. The supervisor must document the approval of additional time in writing and provide a copy to the employee Supervisors are encouraged to consult with Employee Relations with any questions pertaining to setting limits on the amount of time, especially if such requests exceed 8 hours. In obtaining information to establish a reasonable amount of time, the employee will not be required to reveal confidential case information.

    If any official time is denied, a written statement will be required from the supervisor containing the reason for the denial. A copy will be provided to the complainant and to the Office of EEO for inclusion in the complaint case file.

  4. Miscellaneous

    Use of official time is not authorized for employees, whether acting on their own behalf or as a member of an outside organization/employee group, to publicize or solicit contacts from employees who may be seeking representation. Official time will not be authorized for employees or their employee representatives to prepare, present, or travel in conjunction with civil actions filed in Federal District Court.

    Official time is not authorized for employees to represent external applicants in conjunction with complaints against DSS, or preparing and presenting a class complaint that arose in another agency.

  5. Agency Provided Resources and Travel

    EEOC Management Directive (MD)-110 outlines the following general rule regarding a complainant's use of government property in pursuing discrimination complaint: "The complainant's or complainant's non-attorney representative's use of government property (copiers, telephones, word processors) must be authorized by the agency and must not cause any undue disruption or agency operations." (Chapter 6, Section VIII (E)).

  6. Relationship to Other Dispute Resolution Forums

    The policy contained in this letter pertains only to complaints filed under the EEOC regulations contained in 29 C.F.R. 1614. It does not change agency policy regarding official time and use of agency resources in conjunction with other dispute forums (e.g. negotiated grievance procedures, hotline complaints, etc.) which are similar to, but controlled by other regulations.

    Additional information regarding the use of official time to prepare and pursue an EEO complaint can be obtained by contacting the Office of EEO at 571-305-6725.