The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) was created 54 years ago with a simple mission: Eliminate unlawful employment discrimination. Back then, all kinds of discrimination were rampant. Employers, for example, openly barred non-whites from applying for many jobs.
The laws that the EEOC enforces prohibit discrimination against a job applicant or an employee based on race, color, religion, sex (including sexual orientation and pregnancy), national origin, age, disability or genetic information.
Also prohibited is retaliation against a person who complained about discrimination or filed a charge of discrimination. The laws apply to all types of work situations, such as hiring, firing, promotions, training, wages, and benefits.
We have made progress since these laws took effect, but we still have a long way to go. Thanks to the #MeToo movement, the agency’s important work is highlighted, and people are flocking to its door. AFGE is proud to represent EEOC employees who work every day to eliminate employment discrimination.
Despite its important mission, President Trump has proposed to slash the EEOC’s historically low budget by $23.7 million in 2020, even while the agency is facing rising workloads.
Sexual harassment claims were up 13.6% in 2018, sparked by the #MeToo movement, while EEOC’s workforce dropped below 2,000 employees for the first time since before 1980. The president’s budget plan would slash another 180 positions, including mediators, judges, intake representatives, and 50 investigators.
Now that the Senate has voted to confirm Janet Dhillon as chair of the EEOC, and she has sworn in, our union’s Council 216 representing EEOC employees has issued a list of Top 10 priorities facing the new EEOC chair:
- Hire front-line field staff. Dhillon should use EEOC’s limited hiring authority to add staff to handle the huge annual workload of 200,000 inquiries, 76,418 charges, 40,000 interviews, and 105,600 calls.
- Provide real help to victims of discrimination. EEOC is pushing staff to swiftly close cases by dismissing the charges and informing claimants that they can file lawsuits instead. When workers courageously come to EEOC, Dhillon should ensure that their concerns are addressed – not send them away to find help on their own.
- Reverse harmful changes to EEOC’s popular private-sector mediation program. Mediation allows parties to resolve disputes more quickly, but EEOC is making fewer cases eligible for mediation. Dhillon should make access to this win-win program a priority.
- Protect federal employee EEO rights. For the first time, EEOC is pressuring administrative judges to close cases quickly to meet quotas. Dhillon should preserve judicial independence and fair hearings by ending closure quotas.
- Improve digital charge and appointment system. Dhillon should add staff to make more appointments available, cut down on months-long wait times, and maintain access for walk-in appointments. Also, Dhillon should update these digital systems, which were built on a decades-old platform that is not user-friendly or efficient.
- Reduce costly turnover. Dhillon should improve worker morale and efficiency by addressing poor Federal Employee Viewpoint Scores on issues including fear of reprisal, lack of resources, and work-life balance; expanding access to flexible work hours; and adding an ombudsman who would report employee concerns to Dhillon.
- Become a model employer. Dhillon must make EEOC practice what it preaches: address harassment and retaliation, provide timely accommodations and FMLA leave, comply with federal workplace rules, and not implement a new policy that allows for disparate discipline.
- Reduce management layers. Dhillon can make EEOC work smarter by flattening the agency’s top-heavy 1:5 supervisor to employee ratio.
- Equip workers to succeed. Dhillon should make sure employees have the tools to do their jobs, including working phones, copiers, scanners, and IT support.
- Reject workforce cuts. To preserve the EEOC, Dhillon must push back on the administration’s proposal to slash staff, which would hurt victims of discrimination and employees.
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