Even the feds can’t keep
An arbitrator has ruled that the EEOC—the federal agency charged with enforcing the nation’s workplace discrimination laws—willfully violated the Fair Labor Standards Act ( ) by forcing employees to take comp time instead of overtime pay when they worked more than 40 hours a week.
In a March 23 decision, Arbitrator Steven M. Wolfe wrote that the practice “demonstrates action that went beyond mere negligence.” The EEOC will be liable for back pay, plus liquidated damages that so far haven’t been determined.
According to Gabrielle Martin, president of the National Council of EEOC Locals, which represents EEOC employees, “This overtime ruling against the EEOC is vindication that the ‘model employer’ should not be exploiting the dedication of its hard-working employees.”
Wolfe found the EEOC “ knew employees continued to work beyond their regular hours, but their interest was in making sure production goals were reached.” He concluded that the agency was “inclined, as a matter of policy, to deny” overtime and forced employees to accept comp time instead.
Wolfe cited evidence that EEOC forms used to approve additional hours had been altered so employees could not exercise their right to claim overtime pay. He called the unpaid overtime “forced volunteering.”
Martin maintained the violations are ongoing. “The EEOC should stop balancing its resource constraints on the backs of its employees, but it is the nation’s workers who will continue to suffer until the agency sees increases to its budget and addresses staffing shortfalls,” he said.
The EEOC handled a record number of discrimination cases last year—95,402 complaints, up 26% since 2006. At the same time, the agency has lost more than a quarter of its staff as federal appropriations dwindled.
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