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Report and Plan of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission as Required by Executive order 13392: Improving Agency Disclosure of Information

A. Nature of Agency's FOIA Operations

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is a small Executive agency created in 1964 with the mission of eradicating employment discrimination in the workplace. It is charged with administering Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), the Americans with Disabilities Act (the ADA), the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (the ADEA), and the Equal Pay Act (the EPA). EEOC’s duties are carried out by approximately 2,300 employees dispersed among 15 strategically located district offices across the nation and a headquarters office in Washington, DC. The EEOC FOIA program is decentralized and monitored from headquarters.

EEOC receives an atypically large number of FOIA requests for a Federal agency, and particularly for one of its size. In a typical fiscal year, EEOC will receive between 14,000 and 17,000 FOIA requests, over 95% of which are processed by 15 district offices. In fiscal year 2005, as reported in the EEOC Annual FOIA Report, EEOC received a total of 16,282 FOIA requests. More than 15,000 of these requests sought access to employment discrimination investigative charge files (charge files) which are located in the district offices. The remaining FOIA requests and appeals were processed at EEOC headquarters in Washington, DC, by staff in the Office of Legal Counsel. To support this level of FOIA activity, a sizeable portion of EEOC’s budget and staff must be diverted for FOIA duties. For example, according to our cost accounting data for fiscal year 2006 through April 15, approximately $878,280 in salary payments and 25,270 staff hours were dedicated to file disclosure under FOIA and under Section 83 (EEOC’s own disclosure rule). The bulk of this responsibility falls upon staff in the district offices, creating some tension between the EEOC mission and FOIA duties.

The information gathered for review of EEOC’s FOIA Program pursuant to the Executive Order included EEOC’s Annual FOIA report data, data gleaned from EEOC FOIA request and appeal files, records concerning EEOC’s FOIA policies and procedures, informal comments and questions from EEOC staff and the public, and input from other agencies with comparable levels of annual FOIA receipts.

B. Areas Selected for Review

  1. Affirmative Disclosure under Subsection (a)(2)(D) of the FOIA
  2. Proactive Disclosure of Information
  3. Overall FOIA Website Improvement
  4. Improvement of FOIA Reference Guide
  5. E-FOIA Automated Processing
  6. Backlog Reduction

C. Results of Review

EEOC's review disclosed that:

  • Affirmative disclosure of information that is frequently requested should be increased;
  • Provision of charge files pursuant to section 83 of the Commission's Compliance Manual as an alternative to FOIA should be enhanced;
  • The quantity, quality, and user-friendliness of the information on EEOC's FOIA website should be improved;
  • The FOIA Reference Guide needed to be updated and improved;
  • Technology is not sufficiently used in EEOC's FOIA program.
  • There were 1,907 FOIA requests pending at the close of FY 2005.  FOIA backlog is a particular problem in certain district offices.

D. Improvement Areas

  1. Affirmative Disclosure under Subsection (a)(2)(D) of the FOIA
  2. Proactive Disclosure of Information
  3. Overall FOIA Website Improvement
  4. Improvement of FOIA Reference Guide
  5. E-FOIA Automated Processing
  6. Backlog Reduction

E. Description of Plan for Each Improvement Area

  1. Affirmative Disclosure under Subsection (a)(2)(D) of the FOIA
    1. Goal

      To enhance the availability of frequently requested information without the necessity of a FOIA request

    2. Steps to be taken

      Make EEOC purchase cardholder information available on the FOIA website and in the conventional reading room

      Make advisory letters to EEOC stakeholders available on the FOIA website and in the conventional reading room.

      Assess what other types of frequently requested records could be made available to the public without the necessity of a FOIA request

    3. Time milestones

      Purchase cardholder information on website, April 2006

      Advisory letters on website, May 2006

      Initial review of agency FOIA records to ascertain which records are suitable for frequently requested records disclosure, August 2006

      Annual review of agency FOIA records to ascertain records suitable for frequently requested records disclosure, August 2007

    4. Means of measurement

      Increases in the numbers and types of frequently requested records available on the website and conventional reading room

  2. Proactive Disclosure of Information
    1. Goal

      To increase disclosure of charge files under section 83 of the Compliance Manual as a quicker alternative to disclosure under the FOIA. (Over 95% of all FOIA requests to the EEOC are for access to charge files.)

    2. Steps to be taken

      Agreement to revise section 83 of the Compliance Manual to also permit disclosure of records from closed ADEA and EPA charge files to charging parties.

      District Directors to be encouraged to disclose Title VII and ADA charge files pursuant to section 83 of the Compliance Manual instead of treating requests for such files as FOIA requests.

      Revision of Compliance Manual to permit disclosure of ADEA and EPA charge files under section 83.

    3. Time milestones

      Meeting to discuss revision of section 83 of the Compliance Manual, March 2006

      District Directors to be encouraged to disclose Title VII and ADA charge files under section 83 of the Compliance Manual, July 2006

      Revision of section 83 of the Compliance Manual to permit disclosure of ADEA and EPA charge files to be drafted and circulated to the Commission for approval, December 2006.

    4. Means of measurement

      Reduction in the number of FOIA requests for charge files.

  3. Overall FOIA Website Improvement
    1. Goal

      To provide user-friendly FAQs on topics including: how to make a FOIA request; disclosure of charge files; and the types of records not disclosed under FOIA.

    2. Steps to be taken

      Assign FAQs to staff to write

      Place FAQs on EEOC FOIA website

      Revise and update FAQs on an as needed basis to keep information current

    3. Time milestones

      FAQs placed on line: July 2006 and September 2006

      FAQs updated on an as needed basis

    4. Means of measurement

      User-friendly FAQs available on line - number of hits will be tracked

  4. Improvement of FOIA Reference Guide
    1. Goal

      To update and revise the FOIA Reference Guide

    2. Steps to be taken

      Assign an OLC attorney to revise and update the Guide to make it more user-friendly, with links to agency FOIA Officer addresses, telephone and fax numbers and short explanations of how the nine exemptions and three exclusions are applied to EEOC records.

    3. Time milestones

      FOIA Reference Guide assigned to OLC attorney for redrafting, March 2006

      Revised and updated FOIA Reference Guide on EEOC website, May 12, 2006

    4. Means of measurement

      FOIA Reference Guide on website - number of hits will be tracked

  5. E-FOIA Automated Processing
    1. Goal

      To increase automated processing of FOIA requests

    2. Steps to be taken

      Encourage all Field offices to process FOIA requests electronically. (EEOC headquarters already receives and responds to FOIAs electronically.)

      Meet with other agencies with similar FOIA volumes to discuss and examine methods being used to manage their FOIA work

      Conduct A-76 competition to take advantage of best available technology for FOIA file disclosure function

    3. Time milestones

      Encourage all Field offices to process FOIA requests electronically, July 2006.

      Meet with other agencies with similar FOIA volumes to discuss and examine methods being used to manage their FOIA work, September 2006.

      A-76 process completed, September 2007.

    4. Means of measurement

      FOIA file disclosure function is performed using best available technology.

  6. Backlog Reduction
    1. Goal

      To reduce any existing backlog of pending FOIA requests by 5% by 09-30-07 and by 5% by 09-30-08.

    2. Steps to be taken

      Determine the size and scope of the existing backlog -- number of FOIAs that took more than 20 business days to process (excluding timely extensions memorialized in writing) and which were still open at the end of FY 2006. (This step is necessary because the FY 2005 data are unreliable and incomplete.)

      Communicate backlog reduction goals to EEOC’s 15 Regional Attorneys.

      Work closely with Regional Attorneys who have the greatest backlogs to improve efficiency of their FOIA processing.

      Monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of the preceding goals and strategies and amend if necessary.

    3. Time milestones

      Determine the size and scope of the backlog by December 15, 2006. 

      Communicate backlog reduction goals to Regional Attorneys by December 30, 2006.

      Work with Regional Attorneys on an ongoing basis to help reduce  their backlogs.

    4. Means of measurement

      Backlog at the end of FY 2007 is reduced by 5%.

      Backlog at the end of FY 2008 is reduced by 5%.

F. Time Period for Improvements

  1. Areas anticipated to be completed by December 31, 2006
    • Purchase cardholder information on website
    • Advisory letters on website
    • Review of FOIA records for other records suitable for frequently requested records status on website
    • Revision of section 83 of the Compliance Manual drafted and circulated to Commission for approval
    • FAQs on line
    • Revised and updated FOIA Reference Guide on line
    • Regional Attorneys encouraged to electronically process FOIA requests
    • District Directors encouraged to disclose Title VII and ADA charges under section 83
    • Meet with other agencies to discuss methods being used to manage FOIA work.
    • Size and scope of existing FOIA backlog ascertained.
    • Backlog reduction goals communicated to Regional Attorneys.
  2. Areas anticipated to be completed by December 31, 2007
    • Annual review of agency FOIA records to ascertain records suitable for frequently requested records disclosure
    • A-76 process completed and source selected to handle FOIA file disclosure using best available technology.
    • Five percent reduction in backlog.
  3. Areas anticipated to be completed after December 31, 2007
    • Proactive disclosure of agency records, ongoing
    • Affirmative disclosure of agency records, ongoing
    • Five percent reduction in backlog

Revised October 26, 2006

June 7, 2006