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The West Virginia Equal Employment Opportunity Office is a state agency which was established by Governor Gaston Caperton by Executive Order in 1990. In that order, Governor Caperton stated that it was the “policy of West Virginia to afford equal opportunity in all aspects of employment regardless of race, color, national origin, political affiliation, handicap, sex or age.” Who is eligible for services from the EEO?
The EEO is set up to deal exclusively with state agencies and with state employees. What does the EEO Office do?
The EEO Office has several goals. First, the EEO acts as an advisor to state agencies and state employees about EEO matters. Second, it is the agency which oversees all other state agencies to ensure that state employees are not being discriminated against in the workplace. Third, the EEO answers questions from agencies and from state employees about EEO topics such as discrimination, harassment and hostile work environment. Fourth, the EEO provides training to every state agency, including all agency EEO coordinators and counselors, on the identification and prevention of discrimination in the workplace. Fifth, the EEO reviews all documents from formal EEO investigations, whether it acted as the investigator for the complaint or whether the agency used its own or other agency investigators. Sixth, the EEO acts as a repository for all EEO files from every formal EEO investigation conducted by every state agency. Seventh, the EEO is the oversight agency for the state’s Affirmative Action reports. What is a “protected class”?
A protected class is a group of persons who, historically, have been discriminated against in the workplace, whether in encountering difficulty being hired, in being treated unfairly while on the job, in being paid lower wages for the same work other employees are doing, or in being fired without just cause. In West Virginia, although our legislature has passed its own laws on protected class, these laws are based upon federal antidiscrimination laws. So what are the protected classes?
Any of the following could be the basis of an EEO investigation in West Virginia: race, color, national origin, sex, age (against employees age 40 and older only), physical or mental disability, pregnancy, genetic background (DNA or genetic testing), military status, and political affiliation. I’m a member of a protected class. Does that mean I get special privileges?
No, it means that you are entitled to be treated the same as any other state employee would be treated in your same situation. However, if your circumstance as a member of a protected class means that you need an accommodation in order to perform your job,that may mean that you are entitled to a reasonable accommodation. If I’m a member of a protected class and I have trouble at work, is that discrimination?
Not necessarily, but it could be. It depends on why you are having the trouble. Being a member of a protected class does not allow an employee to refuse work assignments, or to neglect his/her duties as a diligent member of the state workforce in accordance with the requirements of his/her job. However, if you are having problems at work, or being treated differently because you are a member of a protected class, then it could be discrimination. What is a “hostile work environment?”
A hostile work environment is one in which an employee is intimidated or offended by the unwelcome conduct of another employee or employees. Is a hostile work environment always a sign of discrimination?
Not in the legal sense of the word “discrimination.” Conduct which creates a hostile work environment is illegal only if it is based upon the employee’s protected status as a member of a protected class. In other words, not all harassing behavior breaks the law. It is not discrimination if one employee is rude to another employee just because they have had an argument. However, just because the conduct does not meet the legal definition of harassment or discrimination does not mean that it’s appropriate workplace behavior. West Virginia has rules in place which protect employees from unprofessional and inappropriate conduct, even if that conduct does not constitute discrimination. What does the EEO coordinator or counselor at my agency do?
That is your right. You have several options. You can speak to an EEO coordinator or counselor from another agency, you can speak to a supervisor or manager from another agency, or you can contact the EEO Office directly. What if it’s my boss who is harassing me?
You can contact the EEO coordinator or counselor in your agency or in another agency, or you can contact the EEO Office directly. All such inquiries are held in confidence. What if I laughed at some jokes about religion or sex before, but now I don’t think they are funny and I want them to stop?
If the conduct by your co-worker or boss is unwelcome to you now, then you can file an EEO complaint. However, it is always best to try and handle the situation informally first, if you can. If you can ask the person to stop the behavior, do so. If you feel uncomfortable doing that, perhaps you could ask your EEO coordinator or counselor or your supervisor to ask the person to stop the unwelcome behavior. If that does not work, then you can file an EEO complaint. If I want to file an EEO complaint, what do I do?
You can get forms for filing an EEO complaint from your EEO coordinator or counselor, or from the Forms page on this website. You can also simply write out the facts of the unwelcome conduct on a piece of paper and either fax or mail it to the EEO Office. Forms for filing a complaint are also available for downloading on the EEO website.
What is the procedure for filing an EEO Complaint? When filing an EEO Complaint, you must fall under one of the protected classes. Once you establish you are being discriminated against under one of the protected classes you may start the complaint process.
First, go and speak with the EEO Counselor in your facility, make sure you have documentation of the alleged discrimination on hand at this meeting. She/he will have you fill out a complaint form, and a consultation verification form. The counselor will go over the forms, and explain the process to you. On the consultation verification form you will be asked to initial and sign that you understand the forms. Any questions regarding the complaint process should be asked prior to signing the verification form (DO NOT sign if you don't understand the information you have been given).
The counselor will then take the complaint to the EEO Coordinator to start the investigation process (investigation is confidential) and assign investigators. You will receive a letter stating the investigators will be in contact with you to set up a time to meet and discuss the alleged discrimination. How long does it take to investigate an EEO Complaint? The agency has 45 working days from the date the complaint was filed to speak with the Complainant, Respondent, and all witnesses listed or mentioned in the complaint or during the interview process of the complainant and respondent. The investigators may ask the EEO Office for an extension if applicable for an additional 15 days. Who is the initial contact when filing a Complaint? The initial contact should be the EEO Counselor of the facility. The EEO Counselor will then take the Complaint to the EEO Coordinator of that facility to appoint investigators, and send the letters out informing the Complainant and the Respondent that the investigators will be in contact with them to set up a time to get their statements.