AFGE’s Council 216 representing employees at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) praised the 2018 budget increase that will provide a much-needed funding boost to the chronically underfunded agency.
The EEOC, which adjudicates workplace-discrimination claims in the government and at private companies, will receive a $15 million funding increase through the rest of the fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30.
The agency received about 84,000 workplace discrimination charges last year, including nearly 7,000 sexual harassment cases. It secured $398 million for victims of discrimination.
But years of underfunding and understaffing have resulted in a huge backlog of complaints with long wait time of service. The public can wait an hour for live help from the 1-800 number. Average processing delays are over 10 months. Sexual harassment charges are expected to surge as more women feel empowered to report inappropriate behaviors.
“The #MeToo movement highlights EEOC’s important work and leads people to our door,” Council 216 Chair Gabrielle Martin said. “Congress has shown its commitment to civil rights with this budget. Now EEOC must show that it is up to the task of deterring discrimination that robs workers of the American dream. EEOC must not squander this budget and must ensure desperately needed front-line assistance for the public.”
In light of the White House’s recent attempt to roll back budget increases at various agencies, however, Martin cautioned that if the EEOC budget increase is reduced, it would hurt those seeking justice.
The council has identified a list of budget and management priorities for the agency that will translate into real help to the public:
- Restore EEOC front-line staffing: Front-line positions that will make a difference include investigator support assistants (ISAs) (the union promotes a plan to utilize ISAs to focus on intake so that investigators can have time to process pending cases and provide education outreach), investigators, mediators, administrative judges, information intake representatives, and support staff.
- 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 (SES) positions.
- 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.
- Stop EEOC’s costly turnover as demoralized staff run to the doors and take knowledge and training with them: 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 agency’s OEO department is unresponsive and has made zero findings of discrimination. FLRA has issued three Unfair Labor Practice complaints against EEOC, one escalating to a summary judgment order.
“The union is sharing this wish list because we are on the front lines and know what would make a difference in more efficient service and help for those experiencing discrimination, including sexual harassment, and to prevent it in the first place,” Martin said. “EEOC must use the funding to help workers, rather than squander funding on case closure schemes that focus on quotas or inefficient micromanagement.”