Similar to having a toolbox fully stocked with a variety of tools to complete any project, diversity in the workforce better enables the Army to accomplish its missions, according to Angela P. Morton, Huntsville Center’s Equal Employment Opportunity chief.
“There is a distinct advantage in having diversity in our organization; not only is it the right thing to do, but it also enriches our capabilities to get our job done,” she said.
Diversity was one of several topics Morton and EEO Specialist Stephanie Caldwell shared with employees this week during its new hire training sessions. Other areas covered included affirmative employment, employees with disabilities and the reasonable accommodation program, the Center’s special emphasis program, and employee discrimination, harassment and reprisal.
The goal is for employees to understand the EEO programs and services available to them in the event they are needed. “We want employees to know and understand their rights, and always know we are available to assist them,” Morton said.
Morton emphasized that Huntsville Center Commander Col. Robert J. Ruch has a zero tolerance policy for workplace harassment and discrimination, and is committed to “creating a positive work environment, maintaining a workplace free from discriminatory practices or policies, and attempting resolution of workplace disputes at the lowest level.”
Caldwell, the Center’s complaint resolution manager, explained the Army’s EEO complaint adjudication and resolution process, to include who can file a complaint and how. She said that any employee or former employee can file a complaint; step one is to come see her in the EEO office to discuss the circumstances.
“We don’t take sides,” Caldwell said, emphasizing that EEO professionals are governed by laws and regulations that guide the process, protect employees and hold organizations accountable to do the right thing. “We ensure that if the requirements for a valid complaint are met, the Center takes appropriate action to resolve the complaint.”
Employees may file an EEO complaint if they believe they have been discriminated against based on their race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age, disability (mental or physical), reprisal, genetic information, parental/family status or political affiliation. The circumstances must concern a term or condition of employment and the complaint must be filed within 45 calendar days of the alleged action or discrimination or the employee becoming aware of the alleged discriminatory incident.
Caldwell said she will assist an employee through the entire process.
Morton encouraged that before employees even begin the process with an EEO counselor, however, they first talk to their supervisor.
“Oftentimes it’s just a communication issue, so talk to them about what’s going on first,” Morton said. “It behooves us to resolve every issue at the lowest level and, more importantly, proactively address issues and educate our workforce to create a positive climate and prevent issues to the greatest extent possible.”