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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Informal Counseling Process
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 Office of Outreach, Diversity, and Equal Opportunity (ODEO)

I. Responding Officials (Managers) will:

  • Represent the Agency's interests not personal interests. Try not to take the informal complaint process personally.

  • Maintain Complainant's confidentiality.

  • Have a full understanding of workplace and Agency priorities.

  • Make the time to participate constructively and timely in the counseling process . Respect the counseling process deadline and the Counselor's requests.

  • Provide the Counselor with relevant information even if it is not specifically requested in order to ensure that all aspects of the complaint and related concerns are considered.

  • Consider Complainant's specific allegations and any other underlying concerns that may also exist. Try to understand the concerns of the Complainant.

  • Consult with superior(s) as necessary to ensure adequate representation of the Agency's interests. If necessary, refer the Counselor to superiors if responding official lacks authority to propose resolutions or, if counseling is successful, to sign a settlement agreement.

  • Participate in the development of constructive resolution options. In most instances, this should mean more than one option. This does not include simply rejecting Complainants' proposals or refusing to provide an Agency-generated option. Officials may generate a legitimate and constructive proposal that does not include all or even part of the Complainant's proposal.

  • Be certain to have a clear and complete understanding of the terms of any agreement before signing it.

II. Complainants will:

  • Contact an EEO Counselor within 45 days of an alleged discriminatory event

  • Decide if they wish to waive their anonymity. (Complainant's confidentiality is always maintained.)

  • Decide if they wish to have a representative assist them during the counseling process.

  • Fully cooperate with the Counselor, i.e., provide responses and information as requested.

  • Decide whether to agree to an extension of 30-day counseling period (if requested by the Counselor)

  • Decide whether to pursue a formal complaint when/if they have received the Notice of Right to File a Formal Complaint form that the Counselor issued.

III. Counselors will:

  • Provide information on rights and responsibilities to both parties.

  • Help Complainants clearly define the issues and bases of their complaints.

  • Conduct an inquiry into the Complainant's allegations and explore the inquiry information with the Complainant and the Responding Officials.

  • Help the parties to "reality test" their legal positions. Counselors are not permitted to indicate to the Complainant if the complaint has merit or attempt to discourage the filing of a formal EEO complaint.

  • Help both parties develop perspectives on their work as well as the priorities for their respective positions and responsibilities.

  • Help both parties generate reasonable, constructive ideas for resolution (brainstorm). Counselors may not demand that any specific proposal(s) be made by either party.

  • Assist with communication, as an intermediary and coordinator as part of an effort to achieve a settlement of the complaint.

  • Draft agreement language for review by the parties and prepare written final agreements.

IV. Both Responding Official and Complainant should (as part of a successful resolution effort):

  • Negotiate fairly and in good faith. Wherever possible, refer to supporting evidence or documentation.

  • Be open-minded about resolution possibilities. Being stuck on the "Principle of the Matter" inhibits the development of potential settlement options.

  • Know what they really want and need to solve problems and concerns.

  • Develop settlement options for both parties to consider.

  • Propose legitimate, reasonable options for settlement of the EEO complaint.

  • Sign a settlement agreement if they wish to do so.

Last Modified: 8/13/2016
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