Employee Wins at EEOC after Decade-Long Fight
In Adkins v. Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, EEOC Appeal No. 0720080052 (Jan. 13, 2012), the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) held that an administrative judge (AJ) did not abuse his discretion in issuing a decision fully in favor of a federal employee as a sanction for the agency’s 862-day delay in completing the investigation of the employee’s complaint. The EEOC also held that the AJ’s order that the agency pay the employee’s attorney fees was proper. The result is that the employee was reinstated to his former position with approximately 10 years of back pay and benefits, with interest.
Alan B. Adkins worked as a CG-14 senior attorney at the agency’s Northeast Service Center in Hartford, Conn. Faced with the closing of this facility, Adkins applied for agency positions at other locations, but was not selected for any of them. Adkins filed an EEO complaint alleging that he was discriminated against on the bases of his race, sex, and age when he was not selected for the various agency positions.
The agency was required by the EEOC’s regulations to mail Adkins his Report of Investigation (ROI) on December 20, 2000-360 days after Adkins filed his formal amended complaint. The agency did not receive the finalized ROI from its contract investigator until January 2001. About a month later, the agency ignored a request by Adkins to have a copy of the ROI sent to him. Two years passed before the agency finally mailed the ROI to Adkins on April 22, 2003.
The EEOC noted that “protecting the integrity of the EEO process is of paramount importance. This is particularly critical when agencies fail to live up to their obligations to promptly complete fair and impartial investigations of complaints.” Due to the seriousness of the agency’s non-compliance, the EEOC upheld the AJ’s sanction against the agency of ruling fully in favor of Adkins.
For relief, the EEOC upheld the AJ’s order that the agency grant Adkins a permanent position as a senior attorney in the New York Regional Office that he had applied for, but was not selected. The AJ found that Adkins’ record contained sufficient evidence to establish a prima facie case of age discrimination, as he was more than 40 years old at the time of the selection for the New York position, was found to be highly qualified for the position, and was one of three finalists to be interviewed, but was not selected for the position. The EEOC also upheld the AJ’s order that the agency pay Adkins’ attorney fees.
This case demonstrates that the EEOC will not tolerate an agency’s failure to abide by basic elements of the Commission’s regulations at the cost of forcing an employee to wait years for the completion of his EEO investigation, thereby risking the public’s confidence in the integrity of the EEO process.