Unpacking the mystery that is an EO complaint
It is time you know EO, the Army's Equal Opportunity program. With service members hailing from every state, the Army proudly represents the diverse makeup that is America. The EO program was born out of a need to help create better and more equal opportunities as well as representation since the 1970s..
Today, the program offers two main pathways for soldiers to file reports. The program is considered to be a commander's program as ultimately, the responsibility to cultivate a positive culture within the unit falls on them. Reporting, consequences, and outcomes ultimately depend on the severity of the offense, findings of the investigation, and decisions made by command.
According to Army Regulation 690-12, the focus of the EO Program is, "…to prohibit discrimination in employment because of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, reprisal, disability, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, status as a parent, or other impermissible bases, and to promote the full realization of EO through a continuing diversity and inclusion program." Equality, fairness, and justice are the flagship standards of the program with the goal that no soldier should be treated unjustly based on their race, color, creed, sexual orientation, and gender.
The EO program offers two different forms to report a complaint- formal and informal. Both processes strive to resolve the issue in a better than satisfactory manner no matter which route a soldier decides to file. As the names allude to, the degree of the complaint can be handled in an informal (less severe) or formal (more severe) manner. Ultimately, the decision of which type of complaint to file is up to the soldier filing the complaint.
This compliant process requires no paperwork and can generally, be categorized as the process for "minor" infractions which can be quickly resolved through immediate action at the company level. The company Equal Opportunity Leader (EOL) or Equal Opportunity Advisor (EOA), soldiers holding the certification from the Army's Equal Opportunity course, will investigate the complaint to the fullest degree. This process would typically include- receiving the complaint from both parties (the accuser and the accused) as well as following up with any parties who may have been witness to the act(s) to provide insight.
Every attempt will be made to ensure that the soldier making the report is satisfied with the outcome and that the accused soldier receives just and fair punishment. The EOL will both ask and suggest a fair and swift course of action to ensure the issue is resolved and will not happen again.
If the accused soldier continues the behavior which prompted the informal complaint or the soldier making the report feels the incident is serious enough to warrant an investigation with documentation, this may begin the process of filing a formal complaint.
Master Sgt. Kenneethia Kennard, 455th Air Expeditionary Wing equal opportunity director, briefs Master Sgt. Eric Stuhan, 438 AEW first sergeant, and Master Sgt. Christine David-Wood, 504th Expeditionary Air Support Operations Group, first sergeant, during a site visit to Kabul, Afghanistan. U.S. Army photo
As the name implies, a formal complaint is not able to be handled at the lowest level and may involve Military Police, JAG, command leadership and other agencies ensuring the safety and wellbeing of soldiers.
While an informal complaint is handled verbally, a formal complaint must be documented and involves interviews of all Soldiers involved in the incident. A formal complaint must also follow a strict timeline. Soldiers have 60 days from the date of the incident to file a complaint and all soldiers involved in the reporting and decision-making process are also held to strict timelines that vary from as short as 3 days to as long as 45. Attempts made to file a formal complaint after 60 days will only be pursued if authorized by the commander. Investigations will result in either a founded or unfounded outcome which will then prompt further action.
The responsibility to protect the integrity of the force ultimately rests on each individual soldier. While issues of discrimination still exist, the organization continues to make strides to promote and encourage diversity and to empower leaders to combat inequality which has no place within the military.