By Meghan Droste, August 15, 2018

A certain coffee and pastry chain that originated in the great Commonwealth of Massachusetts, from which I also hail, advertises that America runs on its products.  While I imagine that a good chunk of the federal workforce is well caffeinated, I think it is safe to say that the federal government runs on forms.  Lots and lots of forms—SF-50s, SF-86s, you name it and OPM probably has a form for it.

A potential client recently provided a copy of her pre-complaint intake form when she contacted my office seeking representation. I will keep the agency’s name confidential to protect the guilty, but I was very concerned to see that the agency had not updated its forms in several years.  How do I know this?  The form states that sexual orientation is not covered by Title VII and therefore the agency will not process discrimination claims based only on sexual orientation under 29 C.F.R. § 1614.

The information contained on this form is incorrect.  Don’t believe me?  Check out what the Commission had to say about this in 2016: “We find that the Commission has jurisdiction over Complainant’s sexual orientation discrimination claims pursuant to our findings in Baldwin v. Department of Transportation, which held that a claim of sexual orientation discrimination is a claim of sex discrimination, and therefore covered under Title VII and properly processed under the 29 C.F.R. Part 1614 process for EEO complaints.”  Ronny S. v. Dep’t of Veterans Affairs, EEOC App. No. 0120132198 (May 17, 2016).

It doesn’t get much more to the point than that. I am willing to give the EEO office at this unnamed agency the benefit of the doubt and assume that the counselors and other staff know that sexual orientation is covered by Title VII. But having the incorrect information on the form could confuse other agency employees or, even worse, discourage them from filing complaints that they are entitled to file.

The tip for this month is very simple — update your forms!  You and your agency should stay on top of developments in EEO law and then update your forms, and all other materials, accordingly.

If you have specific questions or topics you would like to see addressed in a future Tips from the Other Side column, email them to me at [email protected].

Tips from the Other Side, Part 8

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