Federal Antidiscrimination Bill Passes
Recently, the U.S. House of Representatives passed by unanimous vote the Federal Employee Antidiscrimination Act of 2015. The bill aims to enhance existing antidiscrimination laws, and is focused on potential discrimination in the workplace. In particular, the bill focuses on the accountability of supervisors in cases in which it is determined that discrimination took place against federal employees.
The bill involves some major changes to federal agency Equal Employment Opportunity programs. If the bill is signed into law, every federal agency will need to restructure its administrative law proceedings and protocols to ensure that Equal Employment Opportunity program heads report directly to federal agency heads. Agencies would also be required to place notices on their own websites for at least a year if it’s found that the agency engaged in discrimination, stating as such. Currently, some agencies are required to make disclosures, however, this bill will dramatically expand federal agencies’ responsibilities to actively notify current and potential employees.
Purpose of the Bill
The idea behind the bill’s new requirements is to address what is seen as a disconnect between findings of discrimination and discipline of responsible employees. When findings of discrimination have been made in federal agencies, it does not generally result in disciplinary action against the supervisor responsible for the discrimination. This occurs for a variety of reasons, including a lengthy time span between the complainant’s first allegation and the determination of the claim, movement between jobs, or an agency’s desire not to hold individual supervisors responsible. The new bill’s requirements are intended to encourage agencies to take disciplinary action directly against supervisors.
The bill also contains another provision likely to ruffle the feathers of administrative agencies. In general, federal agencies settling claims of Equal Employment Opportunity-related issues or discrimination suits insist on including in the settlement agreement a provision requiring nondisclosure to other federal bodies. That is, the settlement agreement requires nondisclosure of the terms of the agreement to Congress, the Office of the Inspector General, or the U.S. Office of Special Counsel. The new bill prohibits this practice, and is likely to make waves with federal agencies that consider these types of nondisclosure agreements to be routine inclusions that protect their reputations and standing.
Considering that the act passed in the House of Representatives unanimously, it is likely to pass the Senate as well. The Senate received it on July 22, 2015, and the bill has been referred to the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.
Could You Be Affected?
Workplace discrimination is more common than some people think, and legislation surrounding its litigation and regulation is continuing to change. Workplace discrimination within a government agency, in particular, continues to be thorny at best. If you’ve suffered discrimination in the workplace, in a federal agency or another location, consulting legal counsel may be your first step in recovering and in changing your situation. At Barbas, Nunez, Sanders, Butler & Hovsepian in Tampa, we have experience in negotiating workplace discrimination cases in a variety of environments. Call toll-free at 1 (800) 227-2275 for a consultation today.