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Being Heard: Alternative Agencies

Today, we will discuss agencies that are you can also report to in addition to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP). The reason why these agencies are included as alternative and/or secondary is because they will typically defer to either the EEOC or the OFCCP anyway, especially if you simultaneously reported your case to either agency. I would recommend you read this article, because there are some agencies/offices I would recommend you report to, and others I wouldn't, even though it's your right to do so, and you can. As you may imagine, the United States government is a complex, convoluted network of glorious bureaucracy. There are so many agencies, offices, and bureaus to sift through, it practically takes a political science degree just to be familiar with all of them, let alone know what they do.

In any case, you may be familiar with the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This groundbreaking law essentially established the groundwork that would further advance several related Civil Rights Laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act. Besides paving the way for these additional laws, it also helped push the creation of various Civil Rights Offices, which become subdivisions within the main federal branches, including (but not limited to) The Department of Health and Human Services (which also includes the National Institute of Health [NIH]), the Department of Education, and the Department of Justice. Because the Americans with Disabilities Act is considered a Civil Rights law, you can also submit a formal complaint to these Civil Rights Offices (CROs). However, as mentioned before, you will likely get better results just sticking to the OFCCP or EEOC anyway.

In addition to the CROs, there are the whistleblower channels that you can report to, specifically if you have complaints about a grant awardee (i.e. your supervisor/principal investigator). I have had the most experience with the NIH's sub-branches, however, it is likely, depending on what type of grants your PI has, that there are others, such as under the Department of Defense for example. I will update this post later if I find out this is the case.

In any case, you have the option of reporting your case to the NIH's Office of Extramural Research (OER), if your PI is funded partially or entirely by NIH grants and is mistreating you. If you can provide evidence that your PI is manipulating data, or doing other dishonest things with their research, you can also report them to the NIH Office of Research Integrity (ORI). I would highly recommend at least reporting your PI to the NIH OER because it will begin to put a spotlight on your PI from the NIH. If the NIH loses confidence in your PI, it will become much more difficult for them to receive funding in the future from that agency, which could effectively end their career, if they are highly dependent on NIH funding. In more serious cases, it can result in disbarment (immediate cessation of current and future funding), which can only be reversed upon a successful appeal. I do not have much experience with other sources of federal grant funding, so I would recommend if you haven't done so already, try to find out what grants your PI has, and where they come from. You can then look up those agencies, and find out if there is a way to report mistreatment or intellectual dishonesty, which will really "hit them where it hurts". You know what they say, "money talks".

If you take away your PI's grant money, you take away their power, and likely, their livelihood.

Aside from that, there is not really much else you can do. I've also tried reporting to state OCRs, and they basically deferred my case to the EEOC. Therefore, if you've already reported either to the OFCCP or the EEOC, the only other agenc(ies), I would highly recommend reporting to are your PI's sources of federal funding. If he or she also receives grants from other non-government organizations (NGOs) (for example, the American Heart Association [AHA]), I would completely ignore reporting to them; generally, NGOs will try not to get involved if at all possible (which is more likely than not the case).

Thank you very much for reading my article today, and I hope this was helpful to anyone who is going through this process right now. If anything, I want to make sure you focus your efforts on the most important aspects of the grievance process, if you're getting to that point. In our next post, we will discuss the internal grievance process, and when you should/shouldn't report your case to them. Stay tuned, and stay strong!

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