United States Department of the Interior

Office of the Secretary

Washington, D.C. 20240

July 18, 2002


To: Bureau Equal Opportunity Officers

From: E. Melodee Stith, Director, Office for Equal Opportunity

Subject: Policy for Expanded ADR in Formal Complaints Processing

This Directive is provided to ensure that all complaints are given consideration for Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). Departmental policy and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) regulations emphasize the importance of utilizing ADR at all levels to reach accords in employment disputes involving allegations of discrimination. Each Bureau is required to have internal procedures applying ADR at any stage of the process.

In a letter to the Secretary Gale Norton, dated May 7, 2002, Chair Cari Dominguez, among other things, brought to our attention the length of time it takes the Department to achieve resolution of formal complaints. Chair Dominguez asked that we give our attention to the settlement rate of formal complaints.

We have reviewed our complaint data on settlements of formal complaints and determined that approximately 83 percent of the formal complaints resolved are those complaints that are subject to the pre-settlement conference prior to a hearing. This suggests that complaints that are not at the hearing stage get little attention for resolution. For this reason, I am asking you to ensure that every complaint has an opportunity for resolution. You may do this by offering ADR to the parties involved prior to the issuance of the final agency decision. Further, ADR should be offered particularly when ADR was not pursued in the informal process.

You will find that ADR at the formal stage of processing is an essential collaboration tool that facilitates the resolution of complaints while curtailing expenditures of time, money, and human capital. Your expanded application of ADR methodologies will be critical.

You are urged to make the policy for the expanded use of ADR known to all EEO Counselors, managers, and employees. The Department's policy requiring the mandatory participation of management when an employee desires ADR is applicable to this Directive.

We will continue to monitor the processing of complaints and particularly the resolution of complaints through the Monthly Status Reports and data submitted on the EEOC 462 Report. We are available to assist you, upon request, when necessary.