EEOC Issues Default Judgment
An agency’s failure to respond to the EEOC’s repeated requests for a complaint file, the report of investigation, the hearing record and the hearing transcripts over a two-year period resulted in a default judgment in favor of the complainant as a sanction. Smith v. Social Security Administration, EEOC Appeal No. 0120092646 (April 11, 2012). The case involved Betty Smith, an employee of the Social Security Administration, who alleged that the agency subjected her to discrimination based on her disabilities and reprisal when her request for administrative leave due to inclement weather was denied. Upon receipt of Smith’s appeal, the EEOC sent a request to the agency asking it to provide the complete record pertaining to the complaint within 30 calendar days.
The agency did not comply with this request. 165 days after the requested the complete record, SSA sent what it purported to be a complete complaint file, but the documents were from another EEO matter. The agency failed to respond to repeated requests for the file over the next two years. After the EEOC issued a notice to show why sanctions should not be imposed, SSA sent a copy of the complaint file to the EEOC. However, the complaint file lacked a copy of the hearing record and hearing transcripts as requested by the EEOC, and did not provide an explanation for the omission.
The EEOC held that the agency’s failure to submit a complete complaint record, including the hearing record, rendered it impossible to assess the findings and credibility determinations made by the administrative judge. The EEOC determined that Smith was entitled to relief since she had previously made a prima facie case of discrimination sufficient to create an inference of discrimination based on disability and reprisal in EEOC Appeal No. 0120054332. The most appropriate sanction was a default judgment in favor of Smith, according to the EEOC.
The agency was ordered to restore Smith’s leave and reimburse her for lost pay on the days she was denied administrative leave. The EEOC also ordered SSA to give her notice of her right to submit evidence in support of a claim for compensatory damages. This case shows the heavy price an agency must pay for failing to adhere to the most basic requirements of the EEO process.