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Being Heard: Preparing for a Perfection Interview

Updated: Nov 4, 2021

You get a response back from the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP), stating that they are interested in pursuing your case further, and that they assigned jurisdiction over your case. This is good news, so far. However, you will now have to prepare for an interview. What exactly does this entail? There will typically be a bunch of specific questions you will have to answer, which we will discuss throughout this blog entry. So without further ado, let's get started.

If you've been following the blog so far, you would have noticed in the last post, that I directed you to a link from the Department of Education's (DOE's) Office of Civil Rights (OCR). In case you missed, it, I will include it again here, but we will also go over these questions step-by-step.

  1. For each allegation of discrimination, please provide who discriminated against you, what occurred, when it occurred, and why you believe it to be discrimination on the basis of [protected status]. This is a popular question and straightforward question that is asked if you claim that you have been mistreated. Identify your aggressors here, and explain what they did to you. Remember a few posts ago, when I told you to write down the Five W's for each log entry you make? This is the time you will be needing this information. If you did this, it should be a simple regurgitation. If not, try not to despair. Recall as much information as you are able to, and hope for the best.

  2. Why do you believe that this is discrimination on the basis of [protected status]? Typically, when dealing with the Office of Civil Rights, you have to make a claim that you were discriminated against, in violation of federal law (the catch-all law is Executive Order 11246, and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act which enforces equal opportunity employment).

  3. Do you wish to submit a waiver for [agency's statute of limitations]? If you can come up with a way to link every incident to the present, the answer should be a resounding "yes" to this question. Use everything you have against your supervisor.

  4. On what grounds are you filing a waiver? This is where you have to establish the rationale. How do the expired cases link back to the present? Make a detailed timeline that shows this connection.

  5. Did you ask for accommodations? If you are making a claim for discrimination on disability, this should be "yes", if you did your due diligence, as discussed earlier in the blog.

  6. Where the accommodations accepted by HR? If any accommodations were rejected by HR, and the reasons HR provides do not seem appropriate, this is useful information for a discrimination case... especially if you know other people that did get similar accommodations concurrently at your institution or workplace.

  7. If no, which accommodation's were rejected? Since HR is required to give you a letter as part of the interactive process, this should be straightforward.

  8. Why were they rejected? Similarly, HR needs to provide their reasons for why accommodations are accepted or rejected.

  9. Do you believe you have been retaliated against? If you experience any adverse action immediately after you request accommodations, or perform any other protected act, this is retaliation. Any reported cases of retaliation by your HR department, student affairs, your program, your department head, or your supervisor can all greatly strengthen your case against your institution. Retaliation is AGAINST THE LAW!

  10. Are you raising discrimination as a student or an employee? If you are filing with the OFCCP or the EEOC, the answer should be "as an employee". If you are filing with the DOE's OCR, then it should be "as a student". Be careful with this question.

  11. Have you filed a complaint with any other agency? One reason you should limit your reporting to the most relevant agencies, is because you're going to have to keep track of every agency you report to. Every agency that interviews you will ask for this information. Make sure you maintain good notes!

  12. When were you hired? This should be a simple question.

  13. What is your position? Another simple question that should be easy to answer. What is your job?

  14. What is your protected status? Are you disabled? A veteran? A man/woman? Black/Latino/Asian/etc.? Make sure you include any and all protected statuses you may have in this answer.

  15. If disabled, how did you self-identify? In order to receive accommodations for your disability, you need to self-identify. This should be easy to answer if you completed the accommodation process.

  16. Are you able to perform all essential functions of your job duties and responsibilities with or without an accommodation? Absolutely yes.

  17. If disabled, what accommodations did you need to perform your essential duties? List whatever you included in your accommodation letter.

  18. Did you participate in any other protected activities? Things such as requesting an accommodation, whistleblowing, and, if you are in a union, striking are all protected acts. If you were discriminated against for doing anything that is protected, it is retaliation.

  19. What remedies are you seeking? Don't be modest here. You can ask for anything, and your agency will then be able to determine whether that is a reasonable remedy. Have you asked for anything in the past? Bring it up again. Got any student loans? Ask for loan discharges, especially if you have federal loans. Want to work in a different lab? Ask for that. Want an apology? You can even ask for that. The sky's the limit. Seriously think about what would make you happy.

  20. Do you know of anyone else that has been mistreated? You don't have to limit this to your lab/workplace. In fact, the more you can show a pattern throughout the institution, the more you can make a case for systemic discrimination, making your case even more powerful and noteworthy. Bring any and all incidents that you know of, past and present!

  21. Has anything else happened since your initial report? Bring up anything new that has happened that is discriminatory, and has happened since you reported. You are also encouraged to continue reporting mistreatment and discrimination throughout the entire investigation process, via e-mail or phone calls.

Answering all of these questions should help you prepare well for your perfection interview. Keep in mind that this list is not exhaustive, and that they will ask questions that are specific to your case. If there are any additional questions you recommend I include, please feel free to let me know. Good luck with your interview --- you got this!

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