Marcus Lashley, an EEO professional with the Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA), recently directed my attention to some EEOC statistics involving discrimination charges in the federal sector. In fiscal year 2009, discrimination cases cost the federal government $12 million in legal fees, $10.2 million in compensatory damages, $15.7 million in lump-sum awards and $41.7 million in total benefits.
The good news is that of 16,947 complaints filed, the vast majority were dismissed. As I wrote in a previous blog post, The 97 Percent problem: Why Meritless Claims Matter, almost 97 percent were deemed “meritless.” Or is it good news?
Just because a claim is dismissed doesn’t mean it doesn’t cost time, productivity and money. Every charge filed must be investigated, written up, reviewed, responded to and managed, regardless of whether it is ruled valid or not. And at a time when government agencies are facing profound pressures to reduce spending, this is an expense we can ill afford.
How much time do these invalid complaints consume? Using FY 2009 statistics, input from colleagues in the federal sector and some rough assumptions, I compiled a “back-of-the-envelope” estimate based on 16,947 complaints, each involving:
- 40 hours of professional investigation
- 40 hours of investigative review
- 80 hours to compile responses to information requests
- 8 hours of complainant and witness interviews
- 60 hours of workplace distraction.
When you do the math, it comes to an astonishing 3,863,916 total hours. Assuming an average hourly rate of $30 (including benefits) per employee, the bottom line adds up to $115,917,480, not including damages, back wages, attorneys’ fees, travel costs and other incidentals of lost productivity. Simply by eliminating half of these complaints, the federal government could have saved about $58 million, conservatively speaking.
An ethical, civil workplace can reduce costs
As we look for ways to conserve limited resources and maximize efficiency, values of inclusion, respect and dignity become increasingly important. Not only do we want to reduce costly lawsuits and complaints, but we also want to change the underlying behavior that causes them. Workplace harassment and discrimination training is one way to accomplish this, and the most effective instruction goes beyond teaching the law to give people the skills they need to make a sustained difference in the workplace.
To find out more about preventing harassment and discrimination in your workplace, join us March 17 in Washington, D.C., for a complimentary half-day government training workshop. At this event, ELI (ELI, Inc.), a government workplace training provider and GSA Contract Holder, will outline its award-winning EEO and HR Civil Treatment®for Government, now available to the federal government at preferred pricing.
Next week, we’ll discuss the issues that prompt these claims and how they can be minimized.