When the federal government wrote its rules on handling employee complaints of discrimination, it ordained that they "shall be resolved promptly."

They aren't.

At the ACTION agency, it took 1,145 days to decide a discrimination complaint on its merits, according to Civil Service Commission figures for the fiscal year that ended June 30, 1976.

At the Community Services Administration it took 1,560days: at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, specialists in fighting discrimination, it took 567 days, and, at the Civil Service Commission, which made the rules after Congress enacted the Equal Employment Opportunity Act in 1972, it took 385 days.

"The bulk of our work here," John Schultz, acting chief of the commission's discrimination complaints and enforcement section, said last week, "is harassing the agencies on timeliness. Agencies do not process decisions timely. Of course the commission - 385 days - is no model." [TEXT OMITTED FROM SOURCE] add 2 Complaints - N [TEXT OMITTED FROM SOURCE]

The Civil Service Commission wants complaints of discrimination to be processed within the 180 days set in the law that run until the complaining employee can file suit in federal court.

But the government-wide average for processing 7,018 complaints in fiscal 1976 was 398 calendar days. More distressing to Schultz was the statistic his office found on how long it took an agency, on the average, to reject a discrimination complaint on the ground that it was not filed in timely fashion - 87 days. At the Defense Mapping Agency, it took exactly one year to determine that a complaint had been filed too late.

Some of the processing delays times may be inflated, Schultz said, because they include the period involved in lawsuits where employees have gone to court 181 days after a discrimination complaint is filed and has not been decided on its merits.

But, he said, "that's no excuse for having that kind of processing."

In fiscal 1976, only three agencies on the processing time list fell under the 180-day deadline - the General Accounting Office of Congress, the Interstate Commerce Commission and the Railroad Retirement Board. The three handled 13 discrimination complaints.

The year before six agencies fell under the 180-day provision and the government-wide processing average was 295 days.

Two years ago the Civil Service Commission enforcement section started taking over discrimination cases that were more than 75 days old in an effort to secure faster resolution. Last year, Schultz said, his section took over 454 cases. In addition to that, he said, "we send a lot of very unpleasant letters."

Delays in processing discrimination complaints hurt government employees, Schultz said. "They clearly work to the disadvantage of the complainants," both in emotional toll and in losing opportunities to secure "fresh facts" by holding investigations as close in time to the alleged discriminatory act as possible.

In reporting data compiled from the federal agencies, the Civil Service Commission said that 40,647 employees received equal employment counseling in fiscal 1976 out of which 7,018 formal complaints were filed, both increases from fiscal 1975 when 36,931 were counseled and 5,563 complaints filed.

Of the 7,018 formal complaints, almots 52 per cent were based on allegations of racial prejudice, almost 19 per cent on allegations of prejudice against women, 11 per cent on an age bias, almost 10 per cent on national origin bias, 6 per cent on bias toward men and almost 4 per cent on religious prejudice allegations.

In that year, according to the commission data, agencies disposed of 5,704 complaints.

There were 182 disciplinary actions against government officials for discrimination, including training for 77, warnings for 18, reprimands for 43, suspensions for four and two reassignments. No one was fired for a discriminatory act.

The year before, there were 124 disciplinary actions against discriminating officials - 48 sent to training, 13 warned, 25 reprimanded, three suspended, 19 reassigned and siex were "separated."

Both in fiscal 1975 and 1976 there were more findings by agencies of acts of discrimination against employees than disciplinary actions leveled against discriminating officials. In fiscal 1975 there were 124 disciplinary actions but 299 "findings of discrimination": in fiscal 1976 there were 182 disciplinary actions but 291 "findings of discrimination."

Schultz said that "agencies are very reluctant to take any action against an employee who has been discriminating." He said the difference between the number of disciplinary actions and the higher number of confirmed acts of discrimination "means that although discrimination was found, no individual was found to be culpable."

It's a struggle for Schultz with an enforcement staff of seven persons to get the federal agencies to be more timely in handling discrimination complaints. "We have to sort of kick and scratch" to get action, he said.

One remedy would be putting "more teeth in the regulations,?" he said.