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New EEO process optimizes complaint resolution

By Staff Sgt. C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (Nov. 29, 2004) -- Air Force officials recently implemented a more streamlined process to help civilians resolve discrimination issues in their workplace.

The new process, called the “compressed orderly rapid equitable” process, became available to civilians Oct. 1. The process is expected to greatly expedite resolution of workplace discrimination complaints, said Rita Looney, director of the Air Force civilian appellate review office.

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"This process will benefit the Air Force by taking less time to come to closure on complaints, allowing the employee, the management officials and the Air Force overall to get back to its mission," she said.

The pilot program combines two steps of the original equal employment opportunity process into one shorter step, Ms. Looney said. The current federal complaint process involves both an investigation and hearing. Together, those could take as many as 360 days. Under the new process, the two are tied together and shortened to as few as 127 days. Successful alternative dispute resolution attempts offered in the program’s first phase can further cut complaint resolution time.

When a civilian wants to file a discrimination complaint, he or she may choose either the new process or the established one, Ms. Looney said. Additionally, at any point in the new process, civilians may opt out and return to a comparable point in the traditional process.

The Air Force is one of three military agencies authorized by Congress and the Department of Defense to develop and test alternate EEO complaint processes. The other agencies are the Defense Logistics Agency and the Defense Commissary Agency. All three agencies were granted permission to develop pilot programs under guidelines set in the fiscal 2001 National Defense Authorization Act.

After the programs are tested, they will be evaluated for their effectiveness.

"The effectiveness of the (new) process and pilot programs developed by other agencies will be evaluated by the DOD, the Government Accountability Office and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission," Ms. Looney said. "Ultimately, our study could reflect positively on the whole federal government."

The new process will be limited to 31 bases for the first six months. It will be tested for two years, with an option to extend for an additional year.

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