The Governor's Office of Equal Opportunity (GOEO) accepts employment discrimination complaints from current and former state employees. State employees are required to submit their complaints in writing and may submit intake questionnaires in-person, via fax, via e-mail or online.
On occasion, employees have questions and may ask for one-on-one counseling to determine if their situation warrants additional fact-finding. Appointments are made to review these concerns in detail. If a determination is made that there may have been a violation of employment law, the employee is advised to submit a formal complaint in writing for processing by the GOEO.
Once a complaint has been received, the GOEO writes a cover letter on behalf of the employee to the Agency Director. This cover letter summarizes the complaint and possible violation(s) of equal opportunity law. A copy of the formal complaint is included. The agency then determines a course of action and informs the GOEO on the progress and/or results. Once an agency response has been received, the GOEO considers the information provided to determine if the agency has followed policy and procedure and is in compliance with state equal opportunity guidelines.
However, there are two situations when complaints may not be accepted for further processing:
- Each complaint is carefully reviewed and a phone interview is conducted to determine whether a basis for discrimination exists. In some cases, adverse situations are misinterpreted as discriminatory. In these situations, efforts are made to counsel the employee and offer alternatives on how their conflict may be resolved. There are instances when an employee insists that the event was discriminatory. The GOEO then accepts the complaint form, but holds processing until additional documentation is provided to support the complaint. If the additional documentation is not received, the complaint is closed.
- If an employee chooses to file a complaint but has not spoken to the agency EEO Liaison, they are encouraged (but not required) to utilize the internal grievance process prior to filing a formal complaint with the GOEO.
As stated previously, the GOEO only accept complaints from current or former state employees. While we are not able to formally process employment discrimination complaints received from employees of private organizations, tribal governments or entities governed by a corporate board of directors, we will provide counseling and referrals for such requests.
Generally, these customers are seeking guidance on how to begin the complaint process and what can be expected. As with any other complaint, we provide the customer an opportunity to describe their concerns and provide referrals to Federal, State and local resources as appropriate.
During the complaint process, each state agency has an opportunity to take advantage of mediation services offered by the GOEO and its state agency mediator network.
Why do we offer mediations?
- The process avoids costly expenses related to attorney fees and court costs, when in fact the events may not require legal proceedings;
- The process includes an agreement, which has been written, created and will be enforced by the participants. These agreements are proven to be 85%-95% effective;
- The sessions are conducted by two facilitators in a neutral setting to ensure that the process is impartial.
State agencies may request a facilitative mediation to resolve internal grievances or discrimination complaints received by this office. Once a request is initiated, the GOEO will make arrangements with all parties to meet in a neutral location.
Each party is encouraged to bring a person of support (co-worker, spouse, or friend). The attendees selected by the state agency should have the authority to implement any changes/recommendations identified during the session.
What happens during the mediation?
- The process itself is confidential. Any information that is shared, both written and verbal, remains exclusive to the people in the room. Any notes taken during the session are destroyed. The written mediation agreement is the only piece of information that may be shared once the mediation has concluded. Each attendee is required to sign a confidentiality agreement as well to ensure this process.
- As each party has the opportunity to voice his/her/agency concerns to reach a mutual agreement. Occasionally the conversation will reach a situation where no further progress is made (impasse). In which case, the co-mediators will call a caucus.
- During the caucus, one party will be asked to briefly leave the room while the other party remains to discuss what can be done to remove barriers. The other party will be given equal time to conduct a similar conversation. When both parties have completed caucus, the mediation will resume and the co-mediators will re-present the information shared during caucus. The information shared is limited to what each party is willing to disclose.
- Throughout the mediation, each participant is encouraged to ask questions.
Each participant is expected to follow the ground rules set at the beginning of each session which include:
- Respect other parties
- Speak at one time
- Uphold a safe environment
- Call for breaks when needed
- Listen actively to others
- Call for caucus when needed
- Understand and agree to confidentiality
- Focus on the future
The process itself requires that the co-mediators ask probing questions. These questions are intended to identify any underlying issues and to gain a better understanding. As a neutral process, each participant is encouraged to point out any situations where they feel the co-mediators are being biased.