Monday, July 21, 2008

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

Becca Richardson is spending her summer working for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission:

Maybe I was just over-inundated during training, but it’s hard for me to explain my place in the EEOC without explaining a bit about the structure of the EEO process. As a caveat, I work in the Office of Federal Operations, which means I deal only with discrimination alleged against the federal government. The EEOC also deals with discrimination claims made against private entities, but I’m assuming that process works differently.

There are several statutes that prohibit employment discrimination: Title VII, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, sex, national origin, color, religion or pregnancy; the Equal Pay Act, which prohibits pay discrimination on the basis of sex; the Americans with Disabilities Act (or the Rehab Act when charging the Federal Government with discrimination) which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability; and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, which, you guessed it, prohibits discrimination on the basis of age (as long as the discriminated person is 40 or over). If a person thinks she has been discriminated against, she may contact an EEO Counselor. The Counselor takes a report and may suggest some form of ADR, and then advises the individual of her right to file an official complaint. If she files a complaint, the complaint is investigated. If either the agency or the individual requests a hearing, the case may go before an EEOC Administrative Judge. The judge makes a finding and issues a decision. The agency then issues a final decision either implementing or appealing the judge’s decision. The individual who alleged discrimination can then appeal the agency’s final decision.

As a member of the Office of Federal Operation’s Appellate Review Program, I handle appeals from both agencies and individuals. Our office gets roughly a bajillion appeals every year*, and so our superiors put us to work right away on writing appeals. I was a little overwhelmed by my responsibility to begin with. However, we each work very closely with an experienced mentor attorney, and they are always there to step in when we confuse the applicable standard of review, or misapply a statute, or make other rookie mistakes. They are also excellent sounding boards, and my mentor attorney has been very helpful in helping me through every step of a more difficult decision I was assigned.

Overall, I have really enjoyed my summer with the EEOC. Everyone is very helpful and kind. The attorneys here are infinite sources of knowledge, and are very friendly - the entire office took my fellow interns and me out to a happy hour our first week here. I’ve had the opportunity to complete substantive work and have received a lot of feedback, which is (hopefully) enabling me to become a better writer and lawyer in general.

* I am clearly making this number up but just be informed that the number of appeals we receive is overwhelming. If that doesn’t satisfy you, I’m sure the EEOC website has some sort of information for you.

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Equal Justice Foundation

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