Right to Official Time
In the case of Wallace Dillard v. Department of Defense (Defense Commissary Agency), Agency Appeal No. 0120113984 (February 28, 2012), the EEOC Office of Federal Operations ruled that the Department of Defense violated EEOC rules and regulations by denying Dillard’s request for official time to work on his EEO complaint. The commission also held that a complainant does not have to prove discrimination in order to pursue a claim that his rights were violated when an agency denied him official time without a written statement noting the reasons for denial. In fact, even while upholding Dillard’s claim regarding official time, the commission denied Dillard’s other five claims of discrimination.
Dillard, a meat cutter at the commissary at Langley Air Force Base, had requested official time to pursue his EEO claims. His supervisor denied his request, allegedly because the supervisor needed Dillard to complete certain job duties that day, including restocking the meat case. The EEOC rejected the excuse, noting that the supervisor’s contemporaneous written note and subsequent affidavits failed to explain why Dillard could not have been granted official time after he finished filling the meat case, even “perhaps on a different date.”
The EEOC therefore ordered the supervisors to “read and reaffirm that they understand the process for requesting official time, as explained in [the] EEO Management Directive . . .” and to restore any leave Dillard may have been forced to take to have time to work on his EEO complaint. The EEOC also ordered the agency to submit a report of compliance verifying that the corrective action was taken.
This decision underscores the EEOC’s determination to enforce vigorously its procedural rules and regulations so that federal employees may fully exercise their right to participate in the EEO process. The decision also reaffirms that the process must be fully and fairly available to all complainants, irrespective of whether they can ultimately prove their claims of discrimination.