Talk about irony. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) – an advocate of workplace fairness – has been willfully violating the Fair Labor Standards Act for several years, according to a report in the Washington Post. An arbitrator has decided that the EEOC unfairly and illegally gave compensatory time off instead of overtime pay to its employees throughout the country. The arbitrator said this system amounted to “forced volunteering.”
In his decision, the arbitrator said that the case “demonstrates action that went beyond mere negligence.”
“This overtime ruling against the EEOC is vindication that the ‘model employer’ should not be exploiting the dedication of its hardworking employees,” said Gabrielle Martin, president of the National Council of EEOC Locals.
In the Washington Post report, acting EEOC Chairman, Stuart J. Ishimaru, said that “Going forward, the agency will examine its overtime practices and make any necessary changes.”
“We want to do overtime right,” he added.
The EEOC employees union filed a grievance in 2006, alleging that employees received compensatory time rather than overtime pay. The disputed practice, which stretches back to 2003 and continues to this day, represents a violation of FLSA rules. The situation appeared even uglier when the arbitrator found that employees almost never requested comp time. In effect, all the extra hours employees worked amounted to neither extra time nor extra pay.
“With rare exception in this record, the concept of ‘requesting’ compensatory time was a fiction,” the arbitrator said in his decision.
According to the Washington Post, the EEOC is dealing with an “unprecedented level” of discrimination charges, up 26 percent from 2006. Concurrent with the rise in complaints is a drop in EEOC staff, which has withered 25% in the last 8 years,effectively leaving less people to deal with more work.