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Research Questions

  1. What is the history and what are the trends, if any, of EEO complaints by civilian employees in DoD?
  2. What could be causing the lag in complaint processing?
  3. How can DoD improve the timeliness of formal EEO complaint processing?

The Department of Defense (DoD) employs hundreds of thousands of full-time civilian employees, and federal laws and executive orders stipulate that it is illegal to discriminate against these persons on the basis of several protected categories, including race, color, religion, sex, age, national origin, and disability. The Offices of Diversity Management and Equal Opportunity (ODMEO) and Civilian Personnel Policy (CPP) aim to ensure that DoD abides by these laws and orders, thereby allowing DoD civilian employees to work in an environment that is free from discrimination.

If a DoD civilian employee perceives that he or she has been discriminated against, the employee can contact the local Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) office to discuss the discrimination experience(s). If the complaint cannot be immediately resolved, the individual may subsequently file a formal EEO complaint with the local EEO office. Once a person files a formal EEO complaint, federal regulations stipulate that, barring specific circumstances, the complaint should be processed within 180 days. This 180-day time period encompasses the time of formal filing to the time an EEO office mails the report of investigation (ROI) for the complaint to the complainant.Since at least 2005, 38 percent to 53 percent of EEO complaints filed each year in DoD have not been processed within this regulated 180-day time frame. This report aims to provide information that will assist DoD in addressing this lag of formal EEO complaints.

Key Findings

Investigations and Resolutions Division (IRD) struggles with a complaint case backlog.

  • Interviews and discussions with IRD personnel and military service personnel involved with the Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) process revealed concerns that a sharp increase in the number of cases received by IRD was contributing to difficulties in processing EEO complaint cases in a timely manner.

Management may be unwilling to participate in alternative dispute resolution (ADR).

  • Several of our interviewees spoke highly of ADR as a way to resolve complaints in a timely manner. However, they also told us that one obstacle to its increased use is that some complainants and managers within DoD components resist its use.

Incomplete case files and confusion about necessary documentation waste time at intake.

  • It takes time to obtain the needed data and documentation for incomplete EEO complaint cases submitted to IRD with requests for investigation. Interviewees also noted confusion regarding what to submit with a particular case, and our analysis of administrative databases showed that cases spent a lengthy period of time with IRD intake. The IRD provides a list of required and recommended materials on its website, but EEO personnel within the military services access the IRD site and use these document lists with variability.

Inexperienced and/or poorly trained IRD intake personnel slow the process.

  • The personnel in IRD and the military services that we interviewed expressed concerns about the qualifications of IRD intake personnel.


  • Continue to address case backlog through "blitzing." Those involved with concentrated, speedy resolution of clusters of cases at a single installation spoke positively about the efficacy of this approach in clearing the case backlog.
  • Require management participation in alternative dispute resolution.
  • Increase accountability and standardization of data and document submission through use of checklists. To reduce incomplete case submission and document requests for cases that have been submitted complete, increased accountability and standardization of data and document submission is needed.
  • Employ experienced or well-trained personnel for IRD intake.
  • Systematically implement and evaluate the effects of changes to complaint processing procedures. We recommend that a randomized control trial be conducted to assess the effectiveness of checklists in improving accountability and standardization in data and document submission, and thereby reducing complaint processing times.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One


  • Chapter Two

    Equal Employment Opportunity Discrimination Complaint Processing Within the Department of Defense and the Military Services

  • Chapter Three

    Department of Defense's Lean Six Sigma Evaluation of Discrimination Complaint Processing

  • Chapter Four

    Timeliness and Completeness in Department of Defense Complaint Processing

  • Chapter Five

    Perceptions of and Potential Avenues for Improving Timeliness of EEO Complaint Processing in IRD

  • Chapter Six

    Perceptions of and Potential Avenues for Improving Timeliness of EEO Complaint Processing in the Military Services

  • Chapter Seven

    Randomized Control Trial Design to Assess Checklist Implementation

  • Chapter Eight

    Conclusion and Recommendations for Formal EEO Complaint Processing in DoD

The research was sponsored by the Office of Diversity Management and Equal Opportunity in the Office of the Secretary of Defense and conducted within the Forces and Resources Policy Center of the RAND National Defense Research Institute, a federally funded research and development center sponsored by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, the Unified Combatant Commands, the Navy, the Marine Corps, the defense agencies, and the defense Intelligence Community.

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