Inside Seven
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District Director Doug Failing (far right) helps welcome employees to the EEO Open House on January 17.

EEO OFFICE HAS A NEW FACE AND NEW PLANS
by  Judy Gish
Issue Date: 02/2009

EEO hosts an Open House to introduce new chief and raise their profile.

She may be new to District 7, but Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Manager Gwiin Correa is anything but new to the EEO field, having been an EEO Specialist, Civil Rights Investigator and EEO Training Officer in Headquarters, a Regional EEO Training Officer in District 6, an EEO Officer in District 10 and Acting EEO Manager in District 4.

In order to introduce herself to District 7, Correa and her staff, James Crouse, Sylvia Delgado and James Deno, opened their offices to all District 7 employees on January 14. “I was hired at the end of October and not many people knew I was here,” Correa says. “I wanted to make people aware of who we are and what we do.” If all goes according to plan, we’ll be seeing a lot more of them in the future.

“I want to be proactive in heightening awareness,” Correa says. Her plan is to introduce a new Diversity Awareness training to District 7 that was rolled out in Headquarters last year. “For managers and supervisors, it’s a tool to help manage a diverse workforce,” she adds. “For rank and file employees, it’s a tool to meet on common ground.”

In fact, just the word meet is meaningful. Correa uses it as a teaching device: M--Make time to discuss; E—Explore differences; E—Encourage respect; T—Take responsibility. “It opens communication and provides a guide to enhance understanding,” she says.

The training will include real world vignettes and role playing to look at what could be done differently as well as how to set aside biases.

There are also plans for a Title VI training to be offered on-line and in a classroom setting. Title VI is a provision of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, age or disability by programs or activities receiving Federal financial assistance. An Executive Order signed in 1994 further provides that “Each Federal agency shall make achieving environmental justice part of its mission by identifying and addressing as appropriate disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects of its programs, policies and activities on minority populations and low-income populations.”

The training will particularly benefit employees in Construction, Planning/Local Assistance and Right-of-Way who deal with Title VI issues regularly. A link will be posted on the EEO website sometime this month. Additionally, it soon will be possible to take the Sexual Harassment training on-line as well, although “I’m still going to advocate for taking the class because you get more out of it,” Correa says.

The new EEO efforts are coming just at the right time to help employees deal with current challenges. “They provide the guidance and tools employees need to resolve issues at the lowest level possible before they blow up into full-fledged investigations,” she says. “We have enough challenges facing us without misunderstandings escalating into EEO issues.”

Some other possible EEO activities on the horizon include quarterly lunchtime presentations by the various groups that participate in Diversity Day and District 7’s participation in the nationwide “Are We Related?” project. Promoted by Harvard professor Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr. on the PBS television series “Wonders of the African World,” the project involves collecting DNA samples from volunteers to determine ancestry.

“What we do goes beyond discrimination issues, complaints and events,” Correa says.

Doug Failing (center) stands with the EEO team:(L to R)James Deno, Office Chief Gwiin Correa, Sylvia Delgado and James Crouse. The cake says it all. A group of District 7 employees waits for a turn at the table. Worth the wait!