Equal Employment Opportunity:

Information on Personnel Actions, Employee Concerns, and Oversight at Six DOE Laboratories

GAO-05-190: Published: Feb 18, 2005. Publicly Released: Mar 23, 2005.

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In April 2002, GAO identified the need to strengthen equal employment opportunity (EEO) oversight at three Department of Energy (DOE) national weapons laboratories and recommended that DOE and the Department of Labor's (DOL) Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) collaborate to ensure the laboratories complied with EEO requirements. GAO was subsequently asked to examine six other DOE laboratories and determine (1) whether differences exist for managerial and professional women and minorities compared with men and Whites in salaries, merit pay increases, separation patterns, and promotion rates; (2) what EEO concerns laboratory women and minorities have raised; and (3) what DOE and OFCCP have done to implement GAO's earlier recommendation.

For fiscal years 2001 through mid-2004, GAO found some statistically significant differences in salaries, merit pay increases, and separation patterns for managerial and professional women and minorities when compared with men and Whites, and differences in promotion rates when compared with White men. These differences remained despite holding constant factors such as age, education, and occupational category. Women were paid 2 to 4 percent less than men at five of the six laboratories, while minorities were paid about 2 percent less than Whites at one laboratory. Merit pay increases were comparable for all groups at three of the six laboratories. At the other three laboratories, merit pay increases were higher for women and minorities at one, higher for women at another, and lower for minorities at the third. Separation patterns for women and minorities were generally comparable to men and Whites. However, at one laboratory, women were more likely to leave than men, and at another laboratory, minorities were more likely to leave than Whites. At one laboratory, selected minority groups were promoted at a rate less than 80 percent of the rate for White men (a "rule of thumb" used by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and OFCCP). Statistically significant differences do not prove or disprove discrimination; rather, they provide information at an aggregate level and may indicate a need for further investigation into their practical significance. Concerns of women and minority staff at the laboratories focused primarily on underrepresentation, the lack of career development opportunities, and the need for an improved laboratory work environment. Complaints investigated or resolved within the laboratories varied among the laboratories and included issues such as sexual harassment and a hostile work environment. Complaints filed with outside agencies such as EEOC most often cited concerns with pay and terminations. The highest number of external complaints filed dealt with sex or race matters. As a result of GAO's April 2002 recommendation, OFCCP and DOE staff met to discuss the possible creation of a more formal relationship through a memorandum of understanding. While reviewing OFCCP's draft memorandum, the Department of Labor raised questions about DOE's authority and responsibility for EEO matters at the laboratories, and as a result, OFCCP has not sent the draft memorandum to DOE for coordination. OFCCP maintains that Executive Order 11246, as amended, made DOL solely responsible for enforcing federal contractors' compliance with EEO requirements, and this authority has been delegated to OFCCP by DOL. DOE officials agree, but maintain that DOE's requirement for its contractors to promote diversity through diversity plans is independent from OFCCP's jurisdiction. Accordingly, GAO believes that the departments of Labor and of Energy need to clarify and reach agreement about DOE's role concerning its contractors' diversity activities.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Acting on the recommendation in our reports, the Congress included specific provisions in the Energy Policy Act of 2005, enacted in August 2005, to increase DOE's oversight of the laboratories' EEO compliance and collaboration between DOE and OFCCP. Section 992 of the act requires DOE to submit a report to the Congress by August 2006, and biennially thereafter, that includes a(1) thorough review of each national laboratory's EEO policies, (2) statistical report on complaints and their disposition, (3) description of how EEO practices at the national labs are treated in the contract, (4) summary of disciplinary actions and their disposition, (5) summary of outreach efforts to attract women and minorities to the laboratories, (6) summary of efforts to retain women and minorities, and (7) summary of collaboration efforts with OFCCP. DOE submitted its first report on EEO practices at the DOE national laboratories in August 2007. This report establishes baselines for the laboratories and will enable DOE to perform a more analytical review of the laboratories' EEO practices in the future.

    Recommendation: To understand the implications of the statistical difference we found and evaluate their practical significance, the Secretary of Labor should direct OFCCP to work with the laboratories to determine their causes and take the necessary corrective steps, if appropriate, to address any EEO problems identified.

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Acting on the recommendation in our reports, the Congress included specific provisions in the Energy Policy Act of 2005, enacted in August 2005, to increase DOE's oversight of the laboratories' EEO compliance and collaboration between DOE and OFCCP. Section 992 of the act requires DOE to submit a report to the Congress by August 2006, and biennially thereafter, that includes a(1) thorough review of each national laboratory's EEO policies, (2) statistical report on complaints and their disposition, (3) description of how EEO practices at the national labs are treated in the contract, (4) summary of disciplinary actions and their disposition, (5) summary of outreach efforts to attract women and minorities to the laboratories, (6) summary of efforts to retain women and minorities, and (7) summary of collaboration efforts with OFCCP. DOE submitted its first report on EEO practices at the DOE national laboratories in August 2007. This report establishes baselines for the laboratories and will enable DOE to perform a more analytical review of the laboratories' EEO practices in the future.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Labor and of Energy should work together to define the scope of DOE's contract administration oversight responsibility for diversity.

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Acting on the recommendation in our reports, the Congress included specific provisions in the Energy Policy Act of 2005, enacted in August 2005, to increase DOE's oversight of the laboratories' EEO compliance and collaboration between DOE and OFCCP. Section 992 of the act requires DOE to submit a report to the Congress by August 2006, and biennially thereafter, that includes a(1) thorough review of each national laboratory's EEO policies, (2) statistical report on complaints and their disposition, (3) description of how EEO practices at the national labs are treated in the contract, (4) summary of disciplinary actions and their disposition, (5) summary of outreach efforts to attract women and minorities to the laboratories, (6) summary of efforts to retain women and minorities, and (7) summary of collaboration efforts with OFCCP. DOE submitted its first report on EEO practices at the DOE national laboratories in August 2007. This report establishes baselines for the laboratories and will enable DOE to perform a more analytical review of the laboratories' EEO practices in the future.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Labor and of Energy should work together to define the scope of DOE's contract administration oversight responsibility for diversity.

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor

 

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