Equal Opportunity Employment (EEO) counselors, including those
at Fort McCoy, play an important role in helping to resolve EEO
complaints on an informal basis and supporting the EEO mission, said
Vergott, an EEO specialist with the U.S. Army Reserve EEO
Office at Fort McCoy, said the office has a roster of about 160 EEO
counselors throughout the U.S. Army Reserve. "The EEO counselors are volunteers and serve in a
collateral-duty capacity. They
perform their EEO duties in addition to their primary duties and
counselors are an integral part of the EEO process and critical to our
success." Vergott said.
help make federal work place better for workers
Four Equal Employment
Opportunity (EEO) counselors who work in conjunction with the
U.S. Army Reserve EEO Office at Fort McCoy said they volunteered
for those collateral duties to help their fellow employees and
to help make the federal work force a better place to work.
Bud Ray, an EEO counselor for the 70th Reserve Readiness
Command in Seattle, Wash., said he became a counselor because he
enjoyed the training, people, and a chance to employ creative
techniques in problem solving.
Ray said, "I have faith that if people are given the
chance to do the right thing, the majority of people will act
responsibly and do the right thing."
Peggy Wells of the 143rd Transportation Command in
Orlando, Fla., said one of the most satisfying aspects of being
a counselor is to help resolve conflicts.
"I like being there for them," Wells said,
"helping them look at a situation and discussing their
became a counselor to be a liaison between workers and
management and to maybe help both sides see what they could do
to make a better environment for all of us.
Often clients relate better to someone at their own level
first and will open up more."
Cindy Mussman, an EEO counselor at Fort McCoy said being
a counselor means being impartial and listening and
understanding what the complainant concerns are. After she gathers the information, Mussman said she
could provide the complainant with the information about the
avenues they have to resolve a specific complaint.
Janet Fearce, an EEO counselor for the Human Resource
Command in St. Louis, said she has noticed through her
experience as a counselor that sometimes people just want
someone to listen to them.
"I feel that when I take the time and listen to
someone, I have helped that person," Fearce said.
"I am neutral so I can listen and be honest with
them. I just gather
the facts. I need
everyone's cooperation. I
don't make the decision on who is right or who is wrong."
Ray said the vast majority of federal employees do not
intentionally close their eyes to sexual harassment within their
Ray said he believes the majority of federal personnel do not
intentionally practice discrimination based on color, race, sex,
national origin, age or physical or mental disability, etc.
EEO counselors are an asset available to managers and
commanders to try and make a difference whether an issue is
settled early on in the complaint process, he said.
At each step in the complaint process, the costs of a
"The cost of having a qualified EEO counselor pales
in comparison to what it costs an agency when acts of
discrimination are found to have occurred," he said.
"Legal fees and compensatory damages, absenteeism
and lower (work) productivity, employee turnover and bad
publicity are only the beginning.
Managers who fail to have qualified EEO counselors in
their work groups should understand they do not have the right
to gamble with the well-being of others within the work
Wells, Fearce and Ray said that being geographically
dispersed from Fort McCoy poses challenges and requires people
to be more efficient and effective in the technology involved in
keeping a good line of communication open.
Ray said proper planning allows the counselors to first
concentrate on aspects of the process they can accomplish and
then move on to other aspects as the information or procedures
Employees from both management and the work force also
need to keep themselves informed about the changing roles of
EEO, he said.
"Stay engaged in the process and in the long run you
will be better off because you are above the power curve,"
he said. "Employees
should research issues themselves and not depend upon others to
Supervisors need to remember that one of the biggest
downfalls that happens in the workplace is a lack of
communication and issues involving ethics, he said.
Personnel interested in becoming an EEO counselor should have
good verbal and written communications skills.
Those selected to become counselors must complete 32 hours of
training and testing.
With such a widely dispersed base of counselors, the U.S. Army
Reserve EEO Office relies heavily on technology to keep volunteers
informed and their skills up-to-date, Vergott said.
A Quarterly Counselor Connection Newsletter produced by the
office and sent via e-mail provides information and sustainment
Vergott emphasized that the EEO counselor's program is a
commander's program. The
structure and quality of the program are ultimately the commander's
responsibility. The EEO
staff maintains program viability, manages the counselors in the
program and supports commanders in every way possible.
Civilian employees, former employees, applicants for employment
and some government contract employees who believe they have been
discriminated against can use the process.
Vergott said they must contact the U.S. Army Reserve EEO Office
within 45 days of the alleged discriminatory act.
The EEO complaint process starts when the aggrieved calls the
U.S. Army Reserve EEO Office at Fort McCoy.
During the initial intake interview the EEO specialist explains
how the federal sector complaint process works, to include the role of
the EEO counselor. If
counseling is requested, an EEO counselor is assigned for the
complaint. EEO counseling
must be completed within 30 days of the date the complainant contacts
the U.S. Army Reserve EEO Office at Fort McCoy.
During the first four days of the 30-day period, the U.S. Army
Reserve EEO Office does an initial intake of the complaint.
The complainant has the burden of stating the claim in
reasonably clear terms. "We
require the complainants to be able to tell us why they think they
were discriminated against. The
complainant must articulate the basis for the alleged actions or
inaction of discrimination (race, color, religion, sex, national
origin, age, disability or reprisal)," Vergott said.
The counselor has about 26 days to complete the counseling.
The primary purpose of EEO counseling is to resolve EEO matters
informally to the satisfaction of all parties.
Assignment to an EEO case does not necessarily mean a counselor
will spend the next 26 days dedicated to the EEO complaint and be
unable to accomplish any work related to their primary job, he said.
The more common progression for complaint processing is for an
EEO counselor to spend an hour or two for the next several days
working on the complaint.
Most of the counseling process consists of setting appointments
and conducting interviews with the person filing the complaint and a
limited number of individuals (witnesses) having firsthand knowledge
of the complaint.
Writing a counseling report is required and limited collection
and review of documents also is required.
While each EEO complaint has its own challenges, counselors
spend between 10 and 20 hours on an average complaint.
Since this is an average, some cases would take more and some
less, Vergott said.
The counselor must identify two elements of a complaint: the
issue(s) and basis(es). The
counselor will focus on the aggrieved persons issue(s) when conducting
"The EEO counselors must be impartial and treat all
information as confidential. The
counselor does not determine whether discrimination has or has not
occurred," Vergott said.
If Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) is offered during
counseling and accepted, the U.S. Army Reserve EEO Office has 90 days
to conduct ADR during the precomplaint process. If ADR is offered and declined, counselors have approximately
26 days to conduct traditional counseling.
If the issue is not resolved at the precomplaint stage and a
complainant wants to file a formal complaint, the complainant has 15
days to submit in writing to the U.S. Army Reserve EEO Office a formal
complaint using Department of the Army Form 2590R after the final
interview with the counselor. The
EEO officer then has five days to accept or dismiss the complaint.
U.S. Army Reserve EEO Office generally prepares the letter of
acceptance or dismissal. This
involves articulating what specific claims have been accepted for
investigations or recommended for dismissal, Vergott said.
The regulations governing the processing of discrimination
complaints are contained in Title 29 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR)
and promulgated by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
Provisions of 29 CFR and EEOC Management Directive 110 are
incorporated into Army Regulation 690-600 for the administrative
processing of EEO complaints within the Army.
"Ensuring EEO is practiced allows everyone to have an
environment where all have an equal opportunity to compete for jobs,
and to train and perform their jobs to the best of their