US Gov’t “No FEAR Act” complaints increased in first quarter 2017

President Bush, back in 2002, signed into law the “Notification and Federal Employee Anti-Discrimination and Retaliation (No FEAR) Act” which, among other things, requires the all U.S. Government agencies with 20 more employees to publicly post summaries of Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) complaints they received. These complaints may refer to a number of issues—e.g. sexual harassment, evaluation appraisals—and have a number of core concerns as their basis, like race or sex.

Here’s a look at just one government agency’s data

Annual data goes back as far as May, 2002 for some agencies, and the annual summary data is updated—per the requirements mandated in the Act—every quarter.

In this article, I will focus on one of the dozens of agencies required to post data about EEO: The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (USEEOC) itself.

Within the USEEOC, from January 2017 to March 2017, complaints of nearly all varieties have increased dramatically. Since only one quarter of data is available for 2017, I will compare 2017 figures to the quarterly average of previously reported years.

Overall data

Throughout all of 2016, a total of 40 complaints were filed, by 39 individual complainants. Since each complaint can reference more than one basis (and more than one issue), the totals in the charts below will add up to more than 40.

In just the first quarter of 2017, 20 complaints were filed by USEEOC employees. That’s double the quarterly average from the previous year.

Remember: All the data analyzed here is from a single government agency: The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Complaints by Basis

As these are EEO complaints, the law specifies that each complaint have listed one or more basis from the following list.

Color; Religion; Reprisal; Sex; PDA; National Origin; Equal Pay Act; Age; Disability; Genetic Information; Non-EEO basis

I opted to remove some values from the chart, because they are referenced in few or no reports. Specifically, the following issues were not included in my final analysis: Color; PDA; Equal Pay Act; Genetic Information; Non-EEO basis

Let’s see how the first quarter of 2017 looks when compared to the quarterly averages of the previous eight years. Remember, data is only available for the first quarter of 2017, so for 2009–2016, the values are reduced to the quarterly average of the total number for those years.

EEO Complaints by reported complaint basis, quarterly averages shown for previous years

Every complaint basis examined saw an increase compared to the previous year’s quarterly average. Total increases for each complaint basis compared to previous year’s quarterly average:

  • Race: 293%
  • Religion: 800%
  • Reprisal: 212%
  • Sex: 150%
  • National Origin: 171%
  • Age: 233%
  • Disability: 182%

Complaints on the basis of race and religion rose sharply compared to the previous year, but all concerns experienced an uptick in reports compared to the previous eight years’ quarterly averages.

Complaints by Issue

EEO complaints are filed for specific issues experienced by the employee. These complaints may include one or more of the follow issues:

Appointment/Hire; Assignment of Duties; Awards; Conversion to Full-time; Discipline: Demotion; Discipline: Reprimand; Discipline: Removal; Discipline: Suspension; Discipline: Other; Duty Hours; Evaluation Appraisal; Examination/Test; Harassment: Non-Sexual; Harassment: Sexual; Medical Examination; Pay (Including Overtime); Promotion/Non-Selection; Reassignment: Denied; Reassignment: Directed; Reasonable Accommodation; Reinstatement; Retirement; Termination; Terms/Conditions of Employment; Time and Attendance; Training; Other

I opted to remove the following issues due because they are referenced in few or no complaints: Appointment/Hire; Assignment of Duties; Discipline: Reprimand; Duty Hours; Evaluation Appraisal; Harassment: Non-Sexual; Pay (Including Overtime); Promotion/Non-Selection; Reasonable Accommodation; Termination; Terms/Conditions of Employment; Time and Attendance; Training

Since a single complaint can reference more than one issue, the numbers won’t necessarily add up to the total number of complaints filed.

EEO Complaints by reported complaint issue (part 1 of 2), quarterly averages shown for previous years

EEO Complaints by reported complaint issue (part 2 of 2), quarterly averages shown for previous years

As you can see, there is an across-the-board increase for every one of the complaint issues with a statistically significant number of reports referencing them. Compared to the quarterly average of 2016, the first quarter of 2017 saw the following upswings in reported complaint issues:

  • Appointment/Hire: 200%
  • Assignment of Duties: 171%
  • Discipline: Reprimand: 80%
  • Duty Hours: 400%
  • Evaluation Appraisal: 1,200%
  • Harassment: Non-Sexual: 114%
  • Pay (Including Overtime): 80%
  • Promotion/Non-Selection: 200%
  • Reasonable Accommodation: 300%
  • Termination: 171%
  • Terms/Conditions of Employment: 240%
  • Time and Attendance: 400%
  • Training: 1,200%

Based on these numbers, employees of government agencies disagreed the most with their evaluation appraisals and the amount of employer-provided training they receive. Another cohort of employees—those complaining about time and attendance issues—increased by a factor of 4.

Caveats

Since the government agencies reporting this data do not provide week-to-week totals, it is possible that some of the complaints included in 2009's quarterly average of USEEOC’s EEO complaints were reported during George W. Bush’s tenure. Similarly, some of the complaints in the first quarter of 2017 may have been reported while Barack Obama was still in office.

Government employees seem to be growing restless

It’s not just in the USEEOC, either. I examined several government agencies’ No FEAR Act reports, and the trend seen within the USEEOC is also seen in the majority of other agencies who report this data. In future stories, I’ll examine several of those agencies and report on the trends in their data.

While some complaints reported by the USEEOC in the first quarter of 2017 can be attributed to Obama, the overall trend of the numbers from 2013–2016 might be a useful indicator of the overall job satisfaction of government employees under his leadership.

Certainly, some of the metrics were already trending upward from 2013–2016. However, the majority of the metrics analyzed showed a significant increase from previous quarters; in some cases, dramatically higher than any other year’s quarterly average. In any case, it’s statistically unlikely that the first 19 days of 2017 included more than 23% of the total complaints reported in the first quarter.

What conclusion can be drawn from these increases? It would appear that government employees—at least within the USEEOC—are growing restless, or have an increasing dissatisfaction with their role in the Trump administration.

This could be a result of “swamp-draining”, resentment over or friction with new management, or possibly a lack of stable leadership.

Time will tell if the trend continues.

More data to come on other agencies

I’ll examine a few other government agencies in the coming days. The results—at the risk of sounding like a clickbait headline—will shock you.

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