EEOC Approves Default Judgment
The EEOC recently approved a default judgment against the Department of Interior for failure to comply with its case processing regulations. Talahongva-Adams v. Department of the Interior, Appeal No. 0120081694 (5/28/10). The complainant had alleged that she was discriminated against when her review appraiser position was classified at the GS-12, not the GS-13, level and when two former regional supervisory appraisers were reassigned to newly created GS-13/14 senior review appraiser positions. The administrative judge issued a default judgment when the agency failed to submit the EEO report of investigation, ordered the agency to classify the complainant as a GS-13 review appraiser, with back pay and benefits, and awarded $17,000 in compensatory damages.
While the agency did not appeal the AJ’s decision, it also failed to implement any of the AJ’s remedies. On appeal by the complainant, the Commission noted that the agency is bound by the AJ’s decision as it failed to issue a final order within 40 days of receipt and also failed to respond to the complainant’s appeal. The EEOC upheld the issuance of the default judgment and ordered the agency to comply with the AJ’s decision, including the requirement to post a notice of discrimination at the complainant’s place of work.
The Commission severely admonished the agency and noted that its “repeated and continued failure to comply with the entirety of the 29 C.F.R. Part 1614 regulations is inexplicable and inexcusable.” Citing Royal v. Department of Veterans Affairs, EEOC Request No. 0520080052 (9/25/09), it stated that: “We further noted that when weighing the factors pertinent to tailoring an appropriate sanction, the effect on the integrity of the EEO process, and protecting that process, is of ‘paramount’ importance to the ‘Commission’s ability to carry out its charge of eradicating discrimination in the federal sector.’ The agency should consider itself on notice that future noncompliance with our regulations could subject it to the imposition of more stringent sanctions.”