If anyone mentioned to you that you could work from your home, create your own hours, mentioned the harder you work the more money you can make, and could travel and still handle your duties remotely: would you be interested? In the past, I used to see job postings that promised these favorable working conditions and freedom, however, I either thought the proposition was a scam, a one out of a million chance someone would be chosen, or required unique special skills. These types of position perks could be an ideal situation or dream job for someone who has commuted for many years, receives no promotion/raises, is subjected to bad management, and/or has to deal with office politics. For those that are self-motivated, have common sense, and acquire certain skill sets, being an EEO Investigator can be that rewarding experience you have been missing while endlessly watching the clock in your cubicle career.
How to become an EEO investigator:
EEO Investigators are required to have 32 hours of initial training, thereafter, they are required to have 8 hours of refresher training each year. There are different companies that provide such training including the EEOC. Classes can be taken online at your own pace and some private companies provide onsite options for the 32-hour course. The EEOC outlines the scope of an EEO Investigator under MD-110, Section 6:
Sourcing for work:
There are multiple Vendors that are awarded EEO service contracts and then subcontract those EEO services to qualified EEO professionals. Investigators looking for opportunities by contacting Vendors to provide their information (certificate/resume), play a numbers game in reference to receiving a response. A better alternative to locating Vendors with work to subcontract is to find a net-work of other certified EEO investigators who could recommend Vendors that they have subcontracted with, and most importantly, those Vendors are currently accepting additional Investigators. There are some Vendors that require a minimum of 5 years of experience investigating EEO cases. If you are just getting started and have no experience in handling EEO investigations, you will need to find one of the few Vendors that is willing to mentor new Investigators, which may result in lower fees until you are able to investigate without much assistance. Finding a competent mentor or going through a Vendor’s probationary period may be the only option to get your “foot in the door”, so you can start gaining experience which could possibly lead to a career.
Do you desire to work full-time, part-time, or just temporarily based on other commitments in your schedule? An EEO Investigator has the flexibility to take on a determined amount of cases to either supplement current income from another job, pension, or to be a sole source of income.
Full-time: There is the opportunity of investigating cases on a full-time basis as a primary source of income; however, this is only recommended after an Investigator becomes seasoned and proven his/her ability to investigate without much assistance from the Vendor’s Case Managers. There is a limited amount of full-time EEO Investigators because this career path can be demanding at times and is not suited for everyone long-term.
Part-time: Majority of the EEO Investigators work part-time for many reasons. It may prove difficult to earn a desired income for factors such as hands on experience, case load management, region of the country they live, or the case allocation of Vendors they subcontract with. Many investigators start off part-time until they grasp the industry and determine if the work is a good fit for them.
Retired: I am starting to see an increase in retirees handling EEO Investigations for multiple reasons: Supplement Income, passion, keeping the mind sharp, mobility restraints, and the subject material. Being an EEO Investigator can be a fulfilling venture, hobby, career, or source of income after one has retired and a way to be professionally involved in a serious matter such as civil rights.
What you must do:
EEO Investigators are self-employed and should be organized similar to a small business. It is necessary to wear multiple hats or take on various roles such as: Skilled Investigator; Marketing/Sales; Help Desk; Admin/Secretary; and Proof reader. It is imperative to have time management skills to meet deadlines, be self-motivated to obtain/complete a desired case load and have strong investigative and writing skills to provide a quality work product. If there is any industry secret, it should be: Your most recent work product determines your ability to receive future case assignments.
EEO investigators receive 1099s unless they are a Government or Vendor employee. There are no benefits, paid lunches, free coffee, PTO (Paid Time Off), or guarantees to receive paid work. When being self-employed, you need to be properly set up with a reliable computer, fast internet, scanner, software, phone, and budget your operating expenses. If your computer crashes during the day, you cannot simply dial the help desk as you can in the corporate setting to get you back up and running. Marketing and networking your skilled services is necessary to diversify, as in any industry. EEO Investigators need to learn how to investigate for multiple Vendors which equates to different templates, protocols, procedures, and organizational structures.
The truth that no one tells you:
Payment: There are times when work is slow, and a self-employed individual does not receive payment for simply showing up to work.
Inconsistency in compensation is the primary reason there are more part-time Investigators than full-timers, because Investigators must budget their money to not only pay personal bills, but to have adequate funds to keep their small business funded. Ask yourself these questions: If you were not paid for one month, would you be able to make ends meet without any type of disruption until the next month? If you received a payment large enough to purchase a car in cash, could you effectively budget that money to account for taxes, reinvestment, personal expenses, operating expenses, and savings? Investigators can make good money, but they have to at minimum execute what was stated in the section above “What you must do” to make a living being a full-time investigator.
Competition: There is no documented number pertaining to how many subcontractors there are handling EEO Services, nor any compiled statistics illustrating the amount of potential work available in the industry for Vendors/Subcontractors. Having Investigative experience does not guarantee an adequate case load because some Vendors already have enough subcontractors, while other Vendors are overly cautious in looking for competent professionals (Investigators, Mediators, FAD writers, Counselors) to replace those that perform poorly or are unreliable. Vendors are not all the same, multiple Investigators will flock towards those that pay higher case fees, distribute cases consistently, and hold contracts with desirable agencies; some agencies are difficult to work with or require additional services for the same pay.
Interactions: Work environment: You will be dealing with disgruntled, emotional, and rude people at times. Investigators will encounter similar reactions that a police officer may experience. Some people being interviewed are happy to hear from the Investigator and welcome their questions while others are reluctant to speak to the Investigator without a lawyer. Some respondents will say they were not involved, even when multiple witnesses say otherwise, and the Investigator has evidence showing their involvement. There are times when the Investigator is perceived as the “bad guy” and no one seems to want to speak with them, nor are their calls or request welcomed. If you do not learn to remain neutral and develop “tough skin”, you career will be very short or even stressful.
Learning Curve: Actual experience in investigating EEO cases holds more weight than having an advanced degree such as being a lawyer. I have supervised EEO Investigators that had degrees in law while others had background experience in blue-collar industries; experience and recent activity (case load) set apart the competent from those that needed improvement. Facilitating EEO Investigations is not for everyone, and not everyone can effectively conduct a quality investigation. The learning curve is steep, many do not make it past their first few investigations for multiple reasons: Choosing the wrong Vendors to work with, no mentor to assist, poor time management, financial issues, cannot multi-task, incompetence, poor etiquette, lack of training, limited practice to improve, failed sales/marketing attempts, short tempers, not following instructions, no common sense, repeating previous mistakes, only available during odd hours, etc. These are all attributes/reasons why individuals struggle in almost any job; however, the Investigator is not an employee and must make the necessary adjustments immediately or they will stop receiving work from Vendors.
Sustainability: Burn-out in the industry is experienced by full-time investigators, but Investigators are only as good as their last investigation, and each investigation is just as important as the next. Therefore, Investigators must always be sharp and provide quality work, and “going through the motions” will result in errors and potentially damage the Investigator’s reputation and work experience, which is vital to obtain additional subcontracting opportunities.
Handling EEO investigations and working on civil rights related matters is rewarding to the right person, and this is a great industry, but these services should be reserved for the serious professionals that are dedicated to the cause, efficient, highly skilled and hold no eternal biases.
As always, AES welcomes and appreciates any relevant comments, discussions, or additional input that can assist an individual that is interested in being a successful EEO Investigator.