[ The Real McCoy Online Home ]                                                                                                                         June 13, 2008

EEOC program manager addresses 
federal discrimination processes

    Everyone should know the basics of what constitutes discrimination and what steps can be taken to prevent it, such as identifying, reporting and correcting any concerns, said Maria Flores.

Photo: Maria Flores, the U.S. EEOC program manager for the Milwaukee District Office, speaks at a workshop at Fort McCoy. (Photo by Val Hyde)
Maria Flores, the U.S. EEOC program manager for the Milwaukee District Office, speaks at a workshop at Fort McCoy. (Photo by Val Hyde)

      Flores, the program manager for the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) at the Milwaukee District Office, spoke to Fort McCoy personnel June 5 about the unique aspects of discrimination in the federal work force.

      "The basics of discrimination in the private and federal work forces are the same," Flores said. "(One of the differences) is that federal employees must go through the federal (EEO) process."

      Maj. Gen. James R. Sholar, the Fort McCoy Senior Mission Commander, addressed the audience about the importance of not discriminating in the federal work force and the EEO process.

      "Sometimes people don't do the right things, that's why we have an EEO program," Sholar said. "I wholeheartedly support the EEO process to ensure we don't have discrimination in the Fort McCoy work force."

      Promoting an atmosphere where people have the right to work and to advance on the basis of their ability is a key goal in the federal work force, he said. "We all have to be committed to that."

      Lt. Gen. Jack C. Stultz, the Army Reserve Chief of Staff and commander of the U.S. Army Reserve Command, supports the concept of EEO, as well, Sholar said.

      "The big thing is to treat people as you would want to be treated," Sholar said.

      Flores said everyone should know the ABC's of discrimination to help prevent it from occurring. The ABC's are:

      1) Acknowledge that it is possible for discrimination to occur.

      2) Be proactive and ensure managers, supervisors, and employees are aware of their rights and responsibilities.

      3) Create an environment in which employees know that acts of discrimination and harassment will not be tolerated.

      "It's in the best interests of employers to know about discrimination and correct it as soon as they can," Flores said. "That limits their liability."

      Flores reviewed the broad categories that may trigger a discrimination complaint, such as using race, gender, sex, religion, age, etc., as a basis for making employment decisions or enacting or enforcing workplace rules. Personnel who think they are being discriminated against are encouraged to create or obtain supporting documentation and/or names of witnesses, phone numbers, and other contact information.

      In the case of accommodating personnel with disabilities under the American Disability Act or other personnel who need special accommodations, Flores said employers should make efforts to do so.

      Employers are not required to do this if they can demonstrate such actions would cause undue financial hardships.

      Employers must be careful in setting conditions or requirements for hiring personnel to do a job, she said. The requirements must relate to the work.

      Flores related one episode where an employer in Southeastern Wisconsin required applicants to have a high school diploma to be considered for a job and refused to consider those with a general equivalency diploma (GED).

      This discriminated against many of the people who applied for the job because it was common in that community for them to have a GED instead of a high school diploma.

      Flores said an investigation into the situation revealed applicants with a GED were qualified to do the job so the high school diploma requirement was changed.

      All discrimination concerns should first be taken to the organizational EEO or human resources personnel, she said. This gives employers and employees a chance to interact and resolve problems internally and helps develop a good working relationship before bringing in an outside agency.

      Sue Bickford, EEO director for the Army Reserve, said the Fort McCoy senior leadership and Command Group always have been very supportive of EEO in the Fort McCoy work force.

      For more information about the Army Reserve EEO program, call (608) 388-3106.

      A number of Web sites with good information about EEOC and EEO exist. One is the EEOC Web site at http://www.eeoc.gov. The EEOC can be reached at the toll-free numbers (800) 669-4000 or TTY (800) 669-6820 or by e-mail at info@ask.eeoc.gov.


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