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U.S. Department of Commerce
Manual for Processing Discrimination Complaints
Part II,
Section A, Chapter 11

Every ten years, the Census Bureau, a bureau of the Department, conducts the Decennial Census, an enumeration of the entire U.S. population. This is the largest peacetime operation undertaken by the federal government.

The Census Bureau hires several hundred thousand temporary employees to conduct and support Decennial Census operations. For the 1990 and 2000 Decennials, the Department's OCR, in partnership with the Census Bureau EEO Office and Field Division, and the Department's OGC, designed EEO complaint processing programs to meet the unique needs of the Decennial workforce.

The Census Bureau modifies its procedures with each Decennial Census. Therefore, the approach to processing Decennial EEO complaints must be tailored to the specific operations of each Decennial. However, some basic components of prior Decennial programs can be incorporated into future Decennial programs.

Planning for the Decennial Census

Planning for the Decennial Complaint Processing Program should begin at least three fiscal years before the Decennial year e.g., planning for the 2010 Decennial should begin no later than the start of Fiscal Year 2007).

Key participants. The key participants in the Decennial Census Complaint Processing Program are OCR, the Department's OGC, the Census Bureau EEO Office, the Census Bureau Field Division and the Census Bureau Human Resources Division. It is critical that these participants reach consensus on their respective roles and responsibilities early in the process.

The Decennial Program Manager and complaints processing staff. A Decennial Program Manager, reporting to the Director of OCR, should be appointed to provide leadership and to serve as a central point of contact for the key participants. The Decennial Program Manager and his/her staff serve on temporary appointments. The Decennial Program Manager and staff have traditionally been stationed at Census Bureau Headquarters for the duration of the Decennial operation.

Initial planning meetings. Initial planning meetings should include:

  • a briefing on the nature of Decennial operations;

  • a briefing on the structure of the prior Decennial Complaint Processing Program;

  • an analysis by key participants on the strengths and weaknesses of the previous program;

  • recommendations for improvement;

  • an analysis of the impact of any changes in law, regulation or policy; and

  • an analysis of the impact of any changes to the manner in which the Decennial Census will be conducted.

Follow-up meetings. At follow-up meetings, participants should define their roles and responsibilities, review the schedule of census operations, and establish projected staffing and funding levels. Once the basic infrastructure of the program is established, the parties can begin developing specific program initiatives.

Record-keeping. At the conclusion of each Decennial, all planning materials and administrative records should be archived to serve as source materials for planning the next Decennial.

Processing Decennial Complaints

Duration of program. The Decennial Complaint Processing Program typically runs for four fiscal years, e.g., 2007 to 2011. The Decennial Complaint Processing Program should be in place and ready to process complaints before the Census Bureau launches its Dress Rehearsal Operation. Dress Rehearsal and other early operations are prime opportunities to test procedures and make adjustments to the program.

When the workload no longer justifies the need for the program, the Decennial Complaint Processing Program Office will be closed, temporary staff will be released, and all records will be turned over to OCR. OCR will complete the processing of the remaining Decennial complaints.

Expedited processing. Due to the fast pace and temporary nature of Decennial operations, witnesses and documents are often dispersed by the time a complaint reaches hearing. The dialogue with the EEOC should be opened as soon as the Decennial Program Manager is on board. Historically, so few Decennial employees have come within the jurisdiction of the MSPB that a similar discussion with the MSPB has not been necessary. However, planners should consider the types of appointments the Census Bureau will use and any other proposed personnel procedures that might create a significant number of mixed case complaints and/or MSPB appeals.

Employees and applicants who can use the Decennial complaint process. The Decennial Complaint Processing Program should be limited to temporary employees hired for Decennial operations and applicants who apply for these positions. EEO complaints filed by permanent Census Bureau employees should be processed through OCR's regular complaint process.

Minimal disruptions to Census operations. To be successful, a Decennial Complaint Processing Program must minimize disruptions to Census operations. It is strongly recommended that the Decennial Complaint Processing Program provide a mechanism for customer feedback, especially from the Census Bureau's Field Division and its Regional Directors.

Streamlined process. Because of the temporary nature of the operation, the entire Decennial EEO complaint process should be streamlined so that the key participants should complete each step of the complaint process in less time than permitted by the EEOC regulations. Compressing the processing time increases the likelihood that witnesses and documents will be available at the time of investigation.

Other features of the program. Other features of the Decennial Complaint Processing Program may include:

  • Placement of EEO Specialists in each Regional Census Center to conduct investigations and, possibly, counseling. Regional EEO Specialists should report to the Decennial Program Manager.

  • Additional staffing in OCR and Census EEO Office, dedicated to the Decennial Complaints Program.

  • Standard operating procedures to make EEO investigations quicker and ensure that all relevant evidence is gathered.

  • Structured resolution authority, so that Regional Directors can resolve low-cost cases without approval from Headquarters.

  • Use of templates and standard form documents.

  • Specialized complaint tracking and record keeping procedures to obtain accurate measures of Decennial complaint activity levels and program effectiveness.
Some Special Considerations for Processing Decennial Complaints
  • Impracticality of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). Traditional ADR techniques, such as mediation, are not practical in the Decennial because of its decentralized structure. For example, an enumerator who works from home may be hundreds of miles of away from the Regional Census Center, where management officials with authority to sign a resolution agreement are located.

  • Unique features of the work environment. A thorough understanding of the work environment is critical in establishing procedures, especially for investigations. Many of the facilities established for Decennial operations (e.g., Regional Census Centers and local or district offices) do not have the amenities found in permanent government offices. For example:

    • Although most offices will have fax machines, some may not have electronic mail, voice mail or conference calling capability.

    • The majority of Decennial employees work from their homes.

    • Many Decennial employees work outside traditional business hours.

    • Decennial employees often work in the field, making it difficult to locate them.

    • Those who do work in offices are often in large, open rooms, which makes private telephone conversations difficult.

Because of the unique features of the work environment:

  • Decennial investigations will rely more heavily on the use of the telephone, U.S. mail and overnight delivery services than non-Decennial investigations.

  • Regional Specialists or other investigators may be responsible for investigating complaints in several states simultaneously.

  • In all but the most serious cases, constraints on time and funds will preclude the face-to-face interviews generally required in EEO investigations.

  • Document storage. As the local or district census offices and Regional Census Centers begin to close, the Decennial Program Manager should note where the documents from each office will be stored.

This list is by no means exhaustive, but it includes areas most often overlooked in approaching Decennial Census complaints processing.

For more information

For more information on complaints processing procedures for a particular Decennial Census, contact OCR, the Census Bureau's EEO Office or the Decennial Complaints Manager.

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