WASHINGTON A House Financial Services subcommittee will hold a hearing Thursday on employee allegations of discrimination and retaliation at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
The subcommittee on oversight and investigations has not yet named witnesses for the hearing but the announcement on the committee's website said two "whistleblowers" are slated to testify.
Last week, American Banker reported that the CFPB had the highest amount of equal employment opportunity complaints including from minorities and women filed against any of the four bank regulators for the first half of fiscal year 2015. The CFPB reported 15 formal EEO complaints so far this year. The 24 complaints filed during fiscal year 2014 was nearly three times the amount filed in the previous year.
"Recent news reports show Equal Employment Opportunity complaints have surged at the CFPB and more whistleblowers have come forward with allegations that the CFPB discriminates and retaliates against its workers who speak out," said the media advisory issued by Financial Services Committee Chairman Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas. "The Subcommittee began its investigation in April 2014. Several CFPB employees have come forward to the Subcommittee with allegations of discrimination and retaliation."
The subcommittee has already held several hearings related to CFPB employee allegations of discrimination and retaliation by agency management. An internal CFPB report last year showed disparities in the performance review ratings of white employees versus minorities, who in many cases were rated lower. The ratings often affected levels of compensation. The agency ultimately scrapped the rating system and many of the employees that had received lower ratings were paid more, among other steps.
However, some employees argued in the most recent American Banker article that retaliation against employees who have spoken up about the alleged bias has persisted, as reflected by the increase in EEO complaints.
"I don't think the CFPB is scared of Congress. They weathered the storm and feel more empowered," said Robert Cauldwell, president of the CFPB's local union chapter and an examiner. The CFPB denied Cauldwell's claim of discrimination based on his sexual orientation and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission upheld the decision.
A CFPB spokesman told American Banker in the most recent article that "there are a number of factors that may have contributed to the increase in complaints filed between FY2013 and FY2014."
"Over that time period, the number of CFPB employees grew from roughly 1,000 to 1,400. Many of the EEO complaints filed in FY2014 were related to performance evaluation issues from FY2013, which the CFPB remediated," the spokesman, Sam Gilford, said in an emailed response. "The bureau respects and protects the right of any person to raise an EEO claim and to file an EEO complaint. Through the second quarter of FY15, concerns were raised regarding harassment, pay, and promotion, among other items. These formal complaints are being processed neutrally by the [CFPB's] Office of Civil Rights in line with EEOC regulations that apply in federal sector cases."