TSA denies workplace discrimination claims

In a letter to House Homeland Security Committee member Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) dated Jan. 25, the equal employment agency said it had previously deferred investigating complaints from 2010 about the TSA to the agency's internal officers.

However, TSA did not move fast enough, the EEOC said in announcing its own review.

"In early 2010, we were made aware of potential hostile work environment issues at several TSA regional offices," EEOC Communications and Legislative Affairs Director Todd Cox wrote to Thompson. "As we progressed in our inquiry, we learned that DHS' Office of Inspector General (OIG) had initiated an investigation of the same matters."

Cox said the EEOC deferred in its investigation because the DHS inspector general's office had "already put together a team and secured the funding and resources necessary to visit several of the regional offices."

However, Cox wrote to Thompson that the EEOC has now decided it was time to act independently.

"In light of the new OIG report and potential issues raised therein, EEOC independently will evaluate TSA's EEO complaint framework and will begin our investigation with a request for information," Cox wrote.

The decision was praised by Thompson.

“[T]hese protections were put in a place for a reason — and we cannot allow discriminatory practices to undermine TSA’s critical mission of securing this nation against the terrorist threat,"  he said in a statement after the EEOC's announcement. 

Among the allegations is TSA allowing employees to play a "Jeopardy-style game" that was reported by an employee to contain offensive categories and harassment. The EEOC did not specify if the alleged harassment was of a sexual nature.

The EEOC said it was checking TSA's handling of the incidents as well as the veracity of the allegations.