July 02, 2013
Gabrielle Martin

EEOC Faces Full Court Press as It Weighs Extending Employee Furloughs

DENVER – Starting yesterday, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission began a reassessment period to decide whether to go forward with a plan to order employees home for a second round of unpaid furlough days. EEOC has already required employees to take five unpaid furlough days to absorb sequestration budget cuts. The union that represents employees at the EEOC is urging the civil rights agency to stop action on plans for an additional three days of furloughs.

“EEOC is facing a full court press as it deliberates more furloughs,” said Gabrielle Martin, president of the American Federation of Government Employees’ National Council of EEOC Locals, No. 216. “Nobody but EEOC thinks furloughs are a good idea. Workers facing discrimination on the job want EEOC frontline staff at their desks to help. EEOC’s own employees are suffering from the lost pay and shortened time to do the same work. Congress says furloughs should be a last resort.”

EEOC’s employees, friends, and supporters are relying on a full range of media to communicate to the civil rights agency that furloughs are not the way to go. Employees are sending emails, friends are tweeting the agency, and supporters are changing their Facebook profile photos to a picture of a stop sign that says, “Stop EEOC furloughs.” AFGE also is helping to support the effort with action e-mails to Congress.

EEOC employees have taken part in a letter writing campaign to EEOC Chair Jacqueline Berrien to share their personal stories of the harmful effects of furloughs on their work and finances.

“Many employees have copied me on these moving letters to the chair,” Martin said. “Employees are struggling to make mortgage payments, keep up with car payments, and even pay for prescription medications. Meanwhile, the agency unrealistically expects the same work to be churned out despite the loss of the furlough days.”

Martin added, “EEOC’s backlog was over 70,000 cases before this year’s employee furloughs. Average discrimination charge processing time was over nine months before furloughs. Unless Congress undoes sequestration, it is here to stay for 10 years. EEOC must find a better way to manage than furloughing its entire workforce. Furloughs harm EEOC’s mission and its workers.”

In a June 24 letter to Chair Berrien, Martin cited to cost-savings measures that should be employed instead of furloughs, such as reducing wasteful management travel, reducing district budgets 5% commiserate with the sequestration reduction, discontinuing the service contracts that allow contract support staff, paralegals and mediators to work and get paid for work EEOC employees perform, and canceling EEOC’s August EXCEL and FEPA conferences.

“Sometimes it takes friends to point out how you can do things better. We are urging EEOC’s friends to participate in an intervention with EEOC. Call, e-mail or tweet and tell EEOC to stop furloughs,” Martin said. “Discrimination doesn’t go on furlough and neither should EEOC.”

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