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News | May 24, 2022

EEO managers discuss leadership strategies during virtual summit

By Nancy Benecki

The Defense Logistics Agency’s Equal Employment Opportunity Office held its virtual leadership summit May 17-19 with the theme “Next Level Leadership/Strategies for Success.”

The summit was the first for some of the agency’s newest equal employment managers and practitioners, EEO Director Janice Samuel said during the kickoff.

The event is a chance for them to examine how they execute their roles, how the office ties into the agency’s strategic mission and what progress is needed, said Eric Smith, DLA’s chief of staff.

“You, as leaders in EEO, play a vital role in the success and execution of the agency’s mission,” Smith said.

Employees who feel they’re not being treated fairly may not work to their full capacity or may leave for another employer, Smith said. While it’s inevitable that employees leave for new jobs, that reason shouldn’t be because they had a negative experience, he said.

“What you do is crucial to having the agency attract and retain talented employees,” Smith added. “It’s crucial that you help manage our employees and address and resolve these workplace issues at the lowest level possible.”

The summit brought the equal employment managers together with offices throughout DLA, as well as representatives from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Secretary of Defense Office of Personnel and Readiness.

According to a study by the leadership development company Fierce, 86% of executives and employees say a lack of collaboration and effective communication cause workplace failures, said Tia Miller, chief counsel for the DLA Office of General Counsel’s Labor and Employment Division.

“Workplace failures have real-life implications,” Miller said. This includes reasonable accommodation requests that are denied, EEO complaints, reports of hostile work environments, and reports of sexual harassment.

“No matter what the issues are, they are going to EEO first. For us in DG, that makes you invaluable,” Miller said.

The average EEO complaint takes two years or more to resolve, she said. Once a complaint goes to litigation, an attorney can interact with the case three to four times a day. It takes far less time to advise management in a mediation before something becomes a formal EEO complaint, she said.

“I implore you to reach out to your legal partners early and often, regardless of where you are in the process,” Miller said. “Even if it’s [only for] a simple question, we would rather you come to us and ask up front than to have major problems down the line.”

The summit is usually held in person every six months, but this was the first in several years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Samuel said. Six equal employment managers from DLA’s major subordinate commands attended along with EEO headquarters staff.