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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 2/28/21

Elijah E. Cummings Federal Employee Antidiscrimination Act 2020 Passes to Help Combat Federal Workplace Discrimination

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Tanya Ward Jordan, C4C President (left), Paulette Taylor, C4C Civil Rights Chair (right) pose with the late Rep. Elijah Cummings (center) after being recognized for their input on EEO reforms.
Tanya Ward Jordan, C4C President (left), Paulette Taylor, C4C Civil Rights Chair (right) pose with the late Rep. Elijah Cummings (center) after being recognized for their input on EEO reforms.
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To better protect our citizens, we must safeguard federal workers from retaliation. They serve as the nation's first line of defense against domestic terrorism. A federal workplace free of reprisal enables civil servants (such as law enforcement officers, air traffic controllers, food inspectors, fire-fighters, and health practitioners at the Center For Disease Control addressing covid19) to meet America's complex needs.

A sound Federal Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Program, with improved accountability and transparency, strengthens our national security. With this understanding, Tanya Ward Jordan, President of the Coalition For Change, Inc. (C4C), and Paulette Taylor, the C4C's Civil Rights Chair, presented EEO reforms to the late Representative Elijah Cummings. He first introduced the crafted reforms in the House of Representative (H.R.) within H.R. 1557 Federal Employee Antidiscrimination Act of 2015 and later within H.R. 135.

Remarkably, on January 1, 2021, lawmakers included the EEO reforms the C4C presented to the late Congressman in the law aptly called the Elijah Cummings Federal Employee Antidiscrimination Act. The law amends the Notification and Federal Employee Antidiscrimination and Retaliation Act of 2002, signed by George W. Bush. It also strengthens Federal anti-discrimination laws U. S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's (EEOC) enforces and expands accountability within the Federal Government.

Discrimination plagues the federal government. The most recent federal sector report on the EEOC's website captures Fiscal Year 2018 complaint activity totaling 16,565. Presently, the EEOC reports "Retaliation is the most frequently alleged basis of discrimination in the federal sector and the most common discrimination finding in federal sector cases." The reforms, which the C4C recommended and the late Representative Cummings introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives in January 2019, aims to address the pervasive problem.

The reforms can be found under the William M. (Mac) Thornberry National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021. Notably, the Elijah E. Cummings Federal Employee Antidiscrimination Act requires agencies to:

  • Report on disciplinary actions related to findings of discrimination, including retaliation. Agencies are to report on such events via an online posting (within 90 days of such finding) and via a written report to the EEOC (within 120 days of such finding).
  • Establish a model Equal Employment Opportunity Program independent of either their Offices of Human Capital or Office of General Counsel or equivalent.
  • Restrict nondisclosure agreements from prohibiting or restricting personnel from disclosing whistleblower information.

The new law also reinforces the need for the EEOC to comply with its established Memorandum of Understanding(MOU) with the Office of Special Counsel (OSC). The MOU states: "The EEOC shall refer to OSC for potential OSC enforcement action cases in which the EEOC finds that an agency or an officer or employee thereof has discriminated against any employee or applicant for employment in violation of section 717 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (42 U.S.C. ┬ž 2000e-16)."

Like other C4C recommended measures, legislators adopted the EEOC referral to the OSC provision after the C4C alerted lawmakers that the EEOC had failed (over several years) to refer any finding of discrimination cases to the OSC for further action. See reply to the C4C's Freedom of Information Act request.

For more detailed information on the law, see H.R. 6395, Title XI, Subtitle B (Sections 1131-1138) click here.

 

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Tanya Ward Jordan is the author of 17 STEPS: A Federal Employee's Guide For Tackling Workplace Discrimination. She serves as President and Founder of the Coalition For Change, Inc. (C4C). C4C is an proactive non-profit self-help organization (more...)
 

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