America Before the EEOC Came Along

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) opened its doors 53 years ago on July 2, 1965, exactly one year after the law that created it – the 1964 Civil Rights Act – was enacted.

The EEOC’s mission is simple: eliminate unlawful employment discrimination. Back then, all kinds of discrimination were rampant. Employers openly barred non-whites from applying for a job, for example.  


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. 

But to help fight discrimination, the chronically underfunded EEOC needs to be able to do its job. Not being about to enforce the laws is like not having the laws at all.  

Here are 4 things that Congress and the administration can do to help the EEOC do its job better:  

1. Restore EEOC’s front-line staffing 

EEOC’s front-line staffing is at a historic low. The demand for intake appointments exceeds available EEOC staff. The public can wait an hour for live help from the 1-800 number. Average processing delays are over 10 months.  

Front-line positions that will make a difference include investigators, investigator support assistants (these folks focus on intake so that investigators can have time to process pending cases and provide education outreach), mediators, administrative judges, information intake representatives, and support staff. 

2. Flatten EEOC’s top-heavy 1:5 supervisor-to-employee ratio 

EEOC has too many layers of management removed from helping the public. Hiring front-line, paraprofessional, and clerical staff is more cost effective than hiring GS-15 managers and Senior Executive Service positions. 

3. Invest in technology to make EEOC’s new digital charge and appointment system more user friendly and accessible 

EEOC’s digital systems were built on a 1990s platform that undermines efficiencies. Workarounds make the systems awkward to use and incompatible with smartphones.

4. Treat employees fairly 

EEOC should practice what it preaches. The agency’s reasonable accommodation program is in shambles after duties were routed without notice from the disability program manager to a human resources attorney, whose other responsibilities include disciplining and terminating staff. The Federal Labor Relations Authority has issued three Unfair Labor Practice complaints against EEOC. 

The agency needs to stop its costly turnover as demoralized staff run to the doors and take knowledge and training with them. 

It’s on all of us to help fight discrimination by making the EEOC work!  

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