Washington, D.C.—The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) says it will fight several proposals which could drastically alter the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC is considering changing how federal sector discrimination complaints are processed as well as closing several EEOC field offices and the elimination of hearing rights for millions of employees.
“We are concerned with the effects of these proposed changes and its impact on the future of federal and private sector employees. Not only would the proposed changes place federal employees at a severe disadvantage with fewer civil rights, but soon thousands of workers, mostly women and minorities, would be without a forum to protect their basic workplace rights,” said Andrea Brooks, AFGE National Vice President of Women’s and Fair Practices.
The union is hosting conferences with workers in various cities to educate local leaders and union activists on the impact of the proposed EEOC changes. Participants will be charged to take the issues back to their co-workers and take action. “AFGE members also plan to target members of Congress, so that they have a better understanding of what is at stake—the rights of working men and women,” said Brooks.
“These changes are supposedly being done in the interest of saving taxpayer money and modernizing the system. However, while there is no guarantee that the proposed changes will save money, we know that these changes will depersonalize the process,” Brooks added.
In addition, other technical changes are also under consideration including: establishment of a national call center staffed by contractors, eliminating the right to a hearing for federal workers, transition to E-filing of claims which shuts out workers, and proposed budgetary de-emphasis on investigation and litigation.
“The enforcement of civil rights is an important government function which requires professionally trained staff. The EEOC is considering changes in the public and private sector workplaces which would limit worker access to the Commission including the potential closure of EEOC field offices, possible privatization of hundreds of federal jobs and elimination of hearing rights,” said Brooks.
On October 27, 2003, EEOC Chair Dominguez launched her “initial restructuring proposal.” This “initial” proposal would, among other things, establish the privatized call-center and close a field office.
“Unfortunately, Chair Dominguez’s restructuring plan sets the wrong example for federal agency compliance with civil rights laws,” said Brooks. “The effects of this reform may ultimately hinder the effectiveness of EEOC to process discrimination complaints by closing local offices and downsizing staff.”
The EEOC enforces Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin; the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, which prohibits discrimination against individuals 40 years of age or older; sections of the Civil Rights Act of 1991; the Equal Pay Act; Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in the private sector and state and local governments; and the Rehabilitation Act's prohibitions against discrimination in the federal government.
The American Federation of Government Employees, AFL –CIO, represents some 600,000 government employees in the United States and oversees. For more information about AFGE, log onto www.afge.org.