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GPO Touts 'Historic Low' of Discrimination Complaints

(Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The Government Publishing Office is on track to report the lowest number of workplace discrimination complaints in nearly 20 years, the agency announced Monday.  

The GPO, which is responsible for printing, publishing and preserving the federal government's documents, said in a statement it is set to report a "historic low" eight formal equal employment opportunity complaints in 2015. That is a more than 50 percent decrease from 2014 and more than an 80 percent decrease from 2013.  

“We think the decline is attributed to the fact that we’ve put a lot of emphasis on educating our employees, the whole workforce really,” Juanita Flores, who manages the GPO's Office of Equal Employment Opportunity, said in a phone interview. Flores said proactive programs and support for the legislative branch agency's director, Davita Vance-Cooks, accounted for the decrease. In 2015, Vance-Cooks mandated all employees, managers and supervisors attend a session discussing how to prevent sexual and discriminatory harassment.  

The EEO office also held hour-long briefings for employees called "The ABC's of EEO," which focused on what constitutes an EEO complaint. The briefing explained that some job-related complaints, such as being given an assignment or using certain equipment, may not be discriminatory.  

"I think, for many employees, that was an eye opener,” said Flores, who noted the office typically sees more complaints regarding "terms and conditions of employment" rather than sexual harassment. She said her office emphasizes open lines of communication with managers and works to resolve complaints early on in the process, before they result in a formal complaint.  

The legislative branch agency, which has been working to adapt to new technology, has also seen a drop in its workforce. In addition to changing its name from the Government Printing Office to the Government Publishing Office, the agency reported in February that it reached its lowest staffing levels in 100 years , employing nearly 1,700 workers.  

But Flores was hesitant to say that the decline in workers also contributed to the decline in the overall number of workplace complaints, noting the shift was more attributable to an increase in training.  

Flores said the most significant change she has witnessed in her 15 years at the agency has been increased support from the director, and involving the EEO office in decision-making. In a statement, the director also emphasized the effectiveness of the new programs.  

“These results show programs and plans in place by GPO’s EEO office are translating into positive achievements for our employees.” Vance-Cooks said. “I am proud of the policies and training the agency has implemented throughout the year, which creates an environment where employees look forward to coming to work each day.”

 
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