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Metro EEO Compliance Review

Location: Houston, TX 
Date of Final Report: November, 2008

Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County (Metro)  Transmittal Letter

December 4, 2008

Mr. Frank J. Wilson
President & Chief Executive Officer
Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County
1900 Main Street
Houston, Texas 02116

Dear Mr. Wilson:

Thank you for your response to the Federal Transit Administration's (FTA) letter and preliminary report of findings of the Equal Employment Opportunity Program (EEO) compliance review conducted at the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County (METRO) in November 2007. Enclosed is the final report that incorporates METRO’s official response. As of the date of this letter the final report became a public document and is subject to dissemination under the Freedom of Information Act of 1974.

We have also enclosed a progress table listing FTA’s understanding of the corrective actions either planned or taken by METRO in response to the preliminary findings contained in the draft report. If you feel that our summarization of corrective actions is inconsistent with your response, please inform us in writing as soon as possible.

Please use the enclosed table as the format to report progress to FTA on the corrective actions METRO has completed or intends to implement as a result of our findings. Please identify each response by item number. The requested documentation, along with updates on the status of implementation of proposed corrective actions, should be provided in quarterly reports to FTA. Each report should include the planned and actual completion date of the corrective action; the current status and contact person information for each corrective action; and specific reporting requests cited in this letter and on the enclosed table. The first report will be due on March 1, 2009, and should include data for the months of December 2008, January and February 2009, and any actions completed prior to that date that have not already been addressed. Additional reports will be due on June 1, 2009; September 1, 2009; December 1, 2009, and each calendar quarter thereafter until FTA releases METRO from this reporting requirement.

We request that your first progress report more fully respond to the following findings, which are also addressed in the progress table.

Compliance Findings: METRO’S Equal Employment Opportunity Program

Item 3. Dissemination (Advisory Comment):

Requirement: Formal communication mechanisms should be established to publicize and disseminate the recipient’s EEO policy, as well as appropriate elements of the program, to its employees, applicants and the general public.

Advisory Comment: While METRO provides some external dissemination, METRO needs to enhance the communication of its EEO Policy/Program, as described in FTA C. 4704.1, Chapter, 2b (2), by including the statement in its collective bargaining agreement, and by distributing the policy to local minority and women’s organizations, community agencies, community leaders, secondary schools and colleges, verbally and in writing. 

METRO accepts this advisory comments and intends to disseminate the policy externally as described in FTA C. 4704.1 

Item 4: Designation of Personnel Responsibility: 

Requirement - The importance of an EEO program is indicated by the individual the agency has named to manage the program and the authority this individual possesses. An executive should be appointed as Manager/Director of EEO who reports and is directly responsible to the agency’s CEO. 

Finding –METRO’s Vice President of Human Resources and Diversity (VP of HRD) was designated as the METRO EEO Officer and reports directly to the President and CEO regarding EEO matters. This reporting relationship satisfied part of the Circular requirement for this section. However, the VP of HRD was also the Human Resources Director and responsible for all personnel and labor relations activities. The EEO responsibility was a collateral duty assignment and there would be potential conflicts of interest. METRO had no comprehensive written process for addressing collateral duty conflicts of the EEO Officer.

FTA Guidance for Urbanized Area Transit recipients, in the 2008 Triennial Review Guide states:

The EEO Officer should be an executive and should report directly to the CEO. Care should be taken to avoid conflicts when assigning responsibility for administering the EEO program as a collateral duty assignment, e.g., a personnel officer may have a conflict of interest.

Corrective Action: Within 120 days, METRO must submit to the FTA Office of Civil Rights its designation of personnel responsibility that conforms completely to the requirements of Circular 4704.1, Chapter III, 2c.

METRO Comment: Following a review of the Draft Report, METRO submitted a document to FTA describing a Collateral Duty Process for EEO Complaints. This process stated that the legal department with the involvement of internal or external legal counsel would handle complaints involving HRD staff, members of the Executive Management Team and/or the President and CEO.

METRO’s proposed corrective action has not been accepted for the following reasons:

The Office of General Counsel is responsible for defending METRO against legal action. It would be a conflict for this office to represent complainants or litigants against METRO. The same holds true for an external legal counselor hired by METRO.

  • The proposed process for making a case-by-case determination on who will investigate the complaint could appear to be arbitrary.
  • All EEO complaints that challenge the hiring, promotion, salary/pay equity, termination, and/or discipline decisions of METRO involve the HRD staff, since this staff must approve and/or process the actions of the hiring manager or supervisor involved. Therefore, virtually all EEO complaints would have to be handled through this alternative process, which appears to be time consuming and costly. 

For these reasons, and given the size and complexity of the METRO organization, METRO is strongly encouraged to separate the EEO and HR functions and establish another independent direct reporting relationship to the CEO/General Manager on EEO matters.

Metro must report on its progress in this area on the first quarterly progress report and thereafter until FTA closes the deficiency.

Item 5: Utilization Analysis:

Requirement: The purpose of the utilization analysis is to identify those job categories where there is an underutilization and/or concentration of minorities and women in relation to their availability in the relevant labor market.

Finding: METRO developed a workforce utilization analysis using an “80 Percent” factor” for determining whether a particular job category was underutilized.

Corrective Action: Within 120 days, METRO must submit to the FTA Office of Civil Rights a workforce utilization analysis without applying the “80 Percent” factor, and in accordance with FTA Circular 4704.1, Chapter III 2.d.

METRO Response: This corrective action and the agreed upon schedule to satisfy this deficiency has been accepted by Metro.

Metro must report on its progress in this area on the first quarterly progress report and thereafter until FTA closes the deficiency.

Item 6. Goals and Timetables:

Requirement: Specific and detailed percentage and numerical goals with timetables must be set to correct any underutilization of specific affected classes of persons identified in the utilization analysis.

Finding: METRO developed a workforce utilization analysis using an “80 Percent” factor” for determining whether a particular job category was underutilized.

METRO Response: This corrective action and the agreed upon schedule to satisfy this deficiency has been accepted by Metro.

METRO must report on its progress in this area on the first quarterly progress report and thereafter until FTA closes the deficiency.

Item 8: Monitoring and Reporting System:

Requirement: The reporting system should provide documentation to support actions that affect minority and women job applicants or employees. Management should be kept informed of program effectiveness.

Finding: METRO did not monitor its outside contractors for compliance with EEO requirements.

METRO Response: This corrective action and the agreed upon schedule to satisfy this deficiency has been accepted by Metro.

Metro must report on its progress in this area on the first quarterly progress report and thereafter until FTA closes the deficiency.

We recognize the efforts METRO has already made to correct the deficiencies identified in the draft report, and we anticipate its continued endeavors to take further corrective actions as noted in this letter. We appreciate the cooperation and assistance that you and your staff have provided us during this review. If you have any questions about this matter, please contact Anita Heard at (202) 493-0318 or William Jones, Regional Civil Rights Officer, at (817) 978-0558 or at the following address:

Anita Heard 
FTA Office of Civil Rights
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE 
E54-427 
Washington, DC, 20590 
anita.heard@dot.gov 

William Jones
FTA Civil Rights Officer
819 Taylor Street
Room 8A36
Fort Worth, TX 76102
william.jones@dot.gov

Thank you for your assistance and cooperation as we undertake this process together. We look forward to a meaningful and successful completion of this compliance review.


Sincerely,

Cheryl L. Hershey
Director, Office of Civil Rights

Enclosures

cc: Robert C. Patrick, FTA Region VI Administrator
William Jones, FTA Region VI Civil Rights Officer
Maxine Marshall, The DMP Group
Gail Lyssy, FTA Region VI Director of Oversight & Program Management

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