Budget Cuts At The EEOC.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission will have to face the harsh reality of constrained resources this year, with a $7 million budget cut in Fiscal Year 2012, but that isn’t expected to hamper the agency’s work.
Chairwoman Jacqueline Berrien told members of the Council of Federal EEO and Civil Rights Executives on Jan. 25 that she hopes to build on recent progress to reduce the backlog of both private and federal sector complaints and to implement efficiencies.
Berrien stressed the Commission will continue to focus on resolving the oldest complaints — those pending for 500 days or more — first. In fact, she said, roughly 30 percent of those cases were resolved in FY 2011.
“We still have unfinished business,” Berrien said, “but we have made progress.”
She also said she considers the Commission’s federal sector work “centrally important” and not “ancillary” to its private-sector responsibilities.
The EEOC is also looking at innovative ways to conduct hearings in a timely manner, including:
* Moving cases between field offices to even out caseloads.
* Using details to increase the number of administrative judges.
* Implementing technological improvements.
Berrien said “unfinished” regulations to reform the federal-sector complaints process are with the Commission, but would not elaborate because they were not yet finalized.
“I see this as part one of what I think is a broad opportunity to improve the federal-sector process,” she said.
Berrien also discussed the agency’s draft strategic plan for the next four years, which includes proposed improvements in the handling of federal-sector EEO cases. The draft plan includes the following recommendations: “Developing and implementing a Strategic Enforcement Plan that will integrate the EEOC’s work in the federal sector and its work in education, outreach, and research.” “Using technology to fully implement charge- and complaint-handling procedures, as well as to streamline, standardize and expedite the charge process across its field offices — from pre-charge intake to the start of the litigation process.” Establishing a Priority Charge Handling Procedures system, similar to the one used by the EEOC to categorize and expedite private- sector charges, for the federal sector.Engaging in EEOC workforce development and planning, including training to promote skills development and promoting a diverse workforce.
The goal is to have a new case-management system implemented by the end of FY 2016 “to ensure the appropriate and timely resolution of federal-sector hearings and appeals.”
The draft plan is part of an overall strategic enforcement plan that must be approved by the end of FY 2012. The plan may include a call for a separate federal0sector enforcement plan. If so, that would be issued by March 31, 2013.
The EEOC also included a number of technological improvements in its draft strategic plan for 2012-16.
“It does us no good to have technology people do not use,” Berrien said during the Council meeting.
Here are some of the recommendations:
* By the end of FY 2016, the EEOC wants to create an integrated data system to identify discriminatory policies or practices in federal agencies.
“The EEOC currently collects data regarding appeals and compliance with appellate orders, aggregate data about EEO complaints from federal agencies, and information about agency diversity efforts,” according to the draft plan. “An integrated data system … will allow the agency to collect, store, and link data that previously has been maintained in separate systems. This will permit staff to perform more meaningful and comparative analyses of federal agencies’ equal employment opportunity and affirmative action programs.”
* Use technology to “streamline, standardize and expedite the charge process across its field offices — from the pre-charge intake to the start of the litigation process.” The EEOC also wants the technology to be used to keep parties informed about the progress of a charge throughout the enforcement process.
* Making the current EEOC website more user-friendly and creating a social media strategy.
“Despite efforts to modernize, the EEOC is not fully leveraging the Internet to directly reach its customers — employees; job seekers; private, state, local and federal employers; unions; employment agencies; attorneys; issue advocates; and policymakers,” the EEOC said in the draft plan.
“In addition, the EEOC has not yet used social media to conduct education and outreach activities and to encourage greater use of its website.
“Changes in technology will impact how EEOC interacts with its customers,” according to the EEOC.
When its previous Strategic Plan was drafted, Facebook was not as pervasive as it is today, Twitter had only been in existence a few months, and hand-held tablets did not exist. Each of these technologies is now commonplace and much of the public expects the EEOC to utilize them in its enforcement and education and outreach activities.” Source: Human Resource Executive Online.