By Kenneth FidlerMay 8, 2008
YONGSAN GARRISON, Republic of Korea - Wattanaporn "Ana" Videtto is the U.S. Army Garrison-Yongsan Equal Employment Opportunity program manager. She arrived in September to build a garrison program designed to provide an environment free of unlawful employment discrimination for all U.S. civilian employees. Her program is based on federal laws and includes the EEO complaint program, affirmative employment program and special emphasis programs. The latter advocates changes to overcome barriers that restrict equal employment opportunities for women, minorities and individuals with disabilities.
What is the most important aspect of the program'
To me, for the EEO program to be meaningful, we need to do more prevention work. When people come to file a complaint, usually the damage is already done. The more people involved in the program, we will be able to educate the workforce. Not just because the law requires it, but because every single one of us ... we are all responsible for how we conduct ourselves, how we do our jobs, how we interact with everyone and contribute to a positive working environment. Everyone needs to have a commitment to make this program the program that we want - to treat everybody equally and look at our people based on their merits. Everybody must be involved to make our working environment better.
How long have you been involved in this business'
When I was active-duty Army, I served as a military equal opportunity advisor twice. I was sent to Aberdeen Proving Ground (Md.) after the sexual harassment allegations case in 1996. I stayed there for two years. Later, from 2003-2005 at Fort Hood, I worked in the EO office. I retired in 2005 and stayed at Fort Hood as a civilian in the EEO office.
Why do you like EEO so much'
I was brought up in the Army to work by the rules. Though my MOS was administrative specialist, I worked in areas such as inspector general and military intelligence and was used to following a strict set of rules. When I moved into this work, I have seen the other side that is totally different. We have to deal with a lot of emotions and feelings. I started looking at things from a different perspective, started looking at what impact certain actions and situations have. So, I have a better understanding of even the smallest perception of discrimination or unfair treatment, what impact it has on other people. I try to look at EEO as something we must do as a proactive measure to prevent discrimination before it happens. Because once the damage is done, it's very difficult to go back and rectify the issue.
How does the system generally work'
Someone comes in with a complaint. In order for people to file an EEO complaint, two things must occur. First, the action that happened must be related to their jobs, their benefits for the job, or terms and conditions of their jobs. Then, that action needs to be on the basis of EEO law, such as discrimination on the basis of race, color, gender, sex, national origin, religion, or EEO reprisal. So those two things need to occur. When they come in, we try to get people to feel comfortable to talk about the situation. We explain their rights and responsibilities. We spend time explaining the process. We also try to resolve it. Sometimes we can resolve it through communication. Sometimes, employees don't feel like they can talk to their supervisors on certain issues, and we try to resolve it through mediation or EEO counseling. If that doesn't work, we issue a notice - right to file - to the employee that they have 15 calendar days to file a formal complaint if they choose to. At any time, we can always settle the complaint. If not, then it goes to an investigation process.
It can seem daunting.
It's the law. No one wants an uncomfortable working environment. That's why it's so important for people to get involved and be proactive to create and maintain healthy working environments. Yongsan is a unique place where people are more close-knit.
What would you like to add'
To me, to be able to make an impact on the people and the environment, that's a perk to the job. Even though I had to start everything from the ground up, I feel that every day I come to work, I'm doing something that is worthwhile.