US anti-bias agency facing complaint for calling staff back to office

The seal of the The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is seen at their headquarters in Washington, DC, US, May 14, 2021. REUTERS / Andrew Kelly

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  • EEOC required return to office without bargaining with union
  • Republicans had criticized agency for prolonged office closures

(Reuters) – A federal labor board has filed a complaint accusing the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission of violating federal law by requiring staff that worked remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic to return to the office without first bargaining with their union.

The complaint filed by the Federal Labor Relations Authority on July 28 was announced by the American Federation of Government Employees, which represents EEOC staffers, on Wednesday.

The EEOC in a statement said it is committed to bargaining in good faith over the implementation of its reentry plans.

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“We view the union as a valuable partner in ensuring a safe and productive return to the agency’s physical workplaces so that we can serve the American people,” the agency said.

The union filed an unfair labor practice charge against the EEOC in May, when chair Charlotte Burrows ordered employees to begin returning to physical offices after more than two years of working remotely.

Some Republican lawmakers had criticized the EEOC for its prolonged office closures, which they said had harmed vulnerable workers.

The FLRA complaint accuses the EEOC of violating the Federal Service Labor-Relations Management Statute by setting the terms of workers’ return without completing an agreement with the AFGE.

Rachel Schonfield, president of the AFGE local that represents employees of EEOC regional offices, said in a statement that positive COVID-19 cases have been reported in many EEOC offices since staffers returned.

“As the agency charged with protecting the rights of all workers across the country, the EEOC should not ignore the collective bargaining rights of its own employees.”

The EEOC has until Aug. 22 to file an answer to the complaint. The FLRA scheduled a hearing in the case for next February.

Read more:

EEOC ongoing office closures harming workers – House Republican

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Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Daniel Wiessner

Thomson Reuters

Dan Wiessner (@danwiessner) reports on labor and employment and immigration law, including litigation and policy making. He can be reached at [email protected]


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