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U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission



Chief FOIA Officer Report for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

I. Steps Taken to Apply the Presumption of Openness

The guiding principle underlying the President's FOIA Memorandum and the Attorney General's FOIA Guidelines is the presumption of openness.

  1. Describe the steps your agency has taken to ensure that the presumption of openness is being applied to all decisions involving the FOIA. To do so, you should answer the questions listed below and then include any additional information you would like to describe how your agency is working to apply the presumption of openness.
    1. Describe how the President’s FOIA Memorandum and the Attorney General’s FOIA Guidelines have been publicized throughout your agency.

      Shortly after the issuance of the President’s FOIA Memorandum in 2009, a copy of it was transmitted electronically to all records disclosure staff and their supervisors. EEOC’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) sent FOIA Update 64, which discusses the presumption of openness and the FOIA Guidelines, to all records disclosure personnel, district and field office directors and all headquarters office directors on February 17, 2011.

    2. What training has been attended and/or conducted on the new FOIA Guidelines?

      All OLC FOIA Programs (FP) staff have attended one or more of the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) training on the presumption of openness, and the President’s and the AG’s Guidelines. Office of Legal Counsel attorneys assigned to process FOIA appeals since the issuance of the Attorney General’s FOIA Guidelines have also received DOJ training on the presumption of disclosure and the FOIA Guidelines.

      FOIA Programs (FP) provided FOIA training to the field offices via imeeting or iclass on the President’s FOIA and the Attorney General’s FOIA Guidelines Memoranda June 2 through 4 and June 9 through 11, 2009. Additionally, on site FOIA training further emphasizing the presumption of openness and the FOIA Guidelines was presented to EEOC’s 16 field offices during August and September of 2010.

    3. How has your agency created or modified your internal guidance to reflect the presumption of openness?

      Written and verbal internal guidance, provided through training and consults to FOIA professionals, stresses that more discretionary disclosures of information are to be made. For example, all records disclosure staff have been directed to disclose the factual parts of a critical document, the Investigative Memorandum, which EEOC’s previous guidance had directed them to withhold entirely. FP has also had many consults with the field offices concerning the disclosure of information concerning federal employees and statistical data. These consults reinforce that the presumption of openness calls for disclosure of information including that which might have been withheld in the past.

    4. To what extent has your agency made discretionary releases of otherwise exempt information?

      The fact that over 95% of EEOC’s FOIA requests are for charge files, which EEOC is prohibited by statute from disclosing to the public, greatly constrains EEOC’s ability to make discretionary disclosures. Nonetheless, EEOC now routinely discloses the factual parts of the Investigator’s Memorandum, a document which EEOC had successfully litigated the right to withhold.

    5. What exemptions would have covered the information that was released as a matter of discretion?

      The second and fifth exemptions would have covered the information that was released as a matter of discretion.

    6. How does your agency review records to determine whether discretionary releases are possible?

      Records, except those such as the Investigator’s Memorandum which EEOC has designated for discretionary disclosure, are reviewed on a case by case basis to make the determination.

    7. Describe any other initiatives undertaken by your agency to ensure that the presumption of openness is being applied.

      EEOC strongly discourages field offices in training, consultations, and on appeal from withholding records which in the past they might have withheld under the second exemption.

  2. Report the extent to which the numbers of requests where records have been released in full and the numbers of requests where records have been released in part has changed from those numbers as reported in your previous year's Annual FOIA Report.

    EEOC’s 2010 Annual FOIA Report shows 908 full grants, an increase of approximately 33% over the number of full grants made in 2009, and shows 10,909 partial grants, a 13% decrease in the number of partial grants made in fiscal year 2009.

II. Steps Taken to Ensure that Your Agency has an Effective System In Place for Responding to Requests

As the Attorney General emphasized in his FOIA Guidelines, "[a]pplication of the proper disclosure standard is only one part of ensuring transparency. Open Government requires not just a presumption of disclosure, but also an effective system for responding to FOIA requests."

Describe here the steps your agency has taken to ensure that your system for responding to requests is effective and efficient. This section should include a discussion of how your agency has addressed the key roles played by the broad spectrum of agency personnel who work with FOIA professionals in responding to requests, including, in particular, steps taken to ensure that FOIA professionals have sufficient IT support. To do so, answer the questions below and then include any additional information that you would like to describe how your agency ensures that your FOIA system is efficient and effective.

Do FOIA professionals within your agency have sufficient IT support?

Yes, sufficient IT support is available to FOIA Professionals. Should the FOIA professional’s own office be unable to provide the IT support needed for a particular project, the office may request assistance from the EEOC Nationwide Help Desk. FOIA Professionals may also request assistance from FP staff with respect to use of the FOIA Tracking System and redaction software.

Describe how your agency’s FOIA professionals interact with your Open Government Team.

Since the Open Government Team is located at headquarters and most of the FOIA Professionals are located in our field offices, there are not many opportunities for them to interact with the Open Government Team. However, FOIA Programs responded to the FOIA questions presented in the Director of the Office of Management and Budget’s Memorandum by providing the requested information concerning the EEOC FOIA process, organization chart and backlog.

Describe the steps your agency has taken to assess whether adequate staffing is being devoted to responding to FOIA requests.

EEOC hired 31 dedicated records disclosure staff in 2008 and 2009 to process FOIA requests in our fifteen district offices. EEOC monitors the growth in office workload. When additional staff becomes needed to handle a growing workload, EEOC obtains personnel on a contract or volunteer basis.

Describe any other steps your agency has undertaken to ensure that your FOIA system operates efficiently and effectively.

As stated above, EEOC does training for its staff and has instituted an agency wide FOIA Tracking System (FTS) which permits FOIA Programs to monitor the caseload of all offices. The FTS also permits the public to file requests on the Internet and to monitor the status of their on line requests. The FTS also contains templates of all FOIA letters and exemption pages to facilitate the preparation of notices and responses.

Each FOIA Professional in FP is assigned several offices which she can monitor in the FTS, and provide advice and guidance as needed. Additionally, each field office FOIA Professional is assigned an attorney liaison who can be called upon for FOIA advice and consultations.

The establishment of ongoing dialogs among field and headquarters FOIA Professionals, and between its FOIA Professionals and the public is encouraged.

EEOC encourages each field office to establish and publicize its own FOIA email box to facilitate the requesters’ ability to file requests directly with that office.

As required, EEOC has established at least one FOIA Requester Service Center. When staffing permits, EEOC will establish two more Requester Service Centers.

III. Steps Taken To Increase Proactive Disclosures

Both the President and Attorney General focused on the need for agencies to work proactively to post information online without waiting for individual requests to be received.

Describe here the steps your agency has taken to increase the amount of material that is available on your agency website, including providing examples of proactive disclosures that have been made since issuance of the new FOIA Guidelines. In doing so, answer the questions listed below and describe any additional steps taken by your agency to make proactive disclosures of information.

  1. Has your agency added new material to your agency website since last year?

    Yes, it has.

  2. What types of records have been posted?

    EEOC directives and contracts which have been the subject of a FOIA request.

  3. Give examples of the types of records your agency now posts that used to be available only by making a FOIA request for them.

    Directives not affecting the public, but which may be of interest to the public.

  4. What system do you have in place to routinely identify records that are appropriate for posting?

    We are in the process of developing a formalized system to identify records for posting.

  5. How do you utilize social media in disseminating information?

    At this time, EEOC is in the later stages of preparation for utilizing social media.

  6. Describe any other steps taken to increase proactive disclosures at your agency.

    There have been discussions with, and recommendations made to, various EEOC offices about the types of materials which can be proactively disclosed, and the benefits to the agency of these types of disclosures.

IV. Steps Taken To Greater Utilize Technology

A key component of the President's FOIA Memorandum was the direction to "use modern technology to inform citizens about what is known and done by their Government." In addition to using the internet to make proactive disclosures, agencies should also be exploring ways to utilize technology in responding to requests. In 2010 agencies reported widespread use of technology in handling FOIA requests. For this section of your Chief FOIA Officer Report for 2011, please answer the following more targeted questions:

Electronic receipt of FOIA requests:

What proportion of the components within your agency which receive FOIA requests have the capability to receive such requests electronically?

All components, 100%, have the capability to receive requests electronically by fax or email. One component has the capability to receive requests by fax, email, or the Internet. At present, three components have dedicated FOIA email boxes. All components are encouraged to maximize the public’s ability to file requests electronically by ensuring that the public has notice of their fax number and email address, and by establishing dedicated FOIA email boxes.

To what extent have you increased the number of components doing so since the filing of your last Chief FOIA Officer Report?

As stated above all components have the capability of receiving requests by fax or email. However, since the filing of the last Chief FOIA Officer Report, one additional office has established a dedicated FOIA email box.

What methods does your agency use to receive requests electronically?

EEOC uses fax, email, and the Internet to receive requests electronically.

Electronic tracking of FOIA requests:

What proportion of components within your agency which receive FOIA requests have the capability to track such requests electronically?

All FOIA components have the capability to track their requests electronically.

To what extent have you increased the number of components doing so since the filing of your last Chief FOIA Officer Report?

See answer immediately above.

What methods does your agency use to track requests electronically?

EEOC uses a unified FOIA Tracking System which permits all components to enter, transfer, and close FOIA data.

Electronic processing of FOIA requests:

What proportion of components within your agency which receive FOIA requests have the capability to process such requests electronically?

All of EEOC FOIA components have the capability to process requests electronically.

To what extent have you increased the number of components doing so since the filing of your last Chief FOIA Officer Report?

The number has not increased since all components have had the capability of processing requests electronically since at least 2009.

What methods does your agency use to process requests electronically?

EEOC uses a FOIA-specific processing system to process requests electronically.

Electronic preparation of your Annual FOIA Report:

What type of technology does your agency use to prepare your agency Annual FOIA Report, i.e., specify whether the technology is FOIA-specific or a generic data-processing system.

EEOC uses a FOIA-specific data processing system.

If you are not satisfied with your existing system to prepare your Annual FOIA Report, describe the steps you have taken to increase your use of technology for next year.

EEOC is not yet satisfied with the existing system to prepare the Annual FOIA report. Thus far, we have met with our IT office to discuss and prioritized specific upgrades to the FTS.

V. Steps Taken to Reduce Backlogs and Improve Timeliness in Responding to Requests

Improvements to timeliness in responding to pending FOIA requests and reductions in backlogs are both ongoing agency efforts. The President and the Attorney General have emphasized the importance of improving timeliness in responding to requests. Section XII of your Annual FOIA Report includes figures that show your agency's backlog of pending requests and administrative appeals for the past two fiscal years. You should refer to those numbers when completing this section of your Chief FOIA Officer Report. In this section you should address the following elements.

  1. If your agency has a backlog, report here whether that backlog is decreasing. That reduction should be measured in two ways. First, report whether the number of backlogged requests and backlogged administrative appeals that remain pending at the end of the fiscal year decreased or increased, and by how many, when compared with last fiscal year. Second, report whether your agency closed in Fiscal Year 2010 the ten oldest of those pending requests and appeals from Fiscal Year 2009, and if not, report how many of them your agency did close.

    The number of requests pending at the end of fiscal year 2010, 87, decreased substantially as compared to the number pending, 136, at the end of fiscal year 2009. The number of backlogged appeals rose from one in fiscal year 2009 to eight in fiscal year 2010. Prior to the end of fiscal year 2010, EEOC closed its ten oldest pending perfected requests and its ten oldest pending administrative appeals from fiscal year 2009.

  2. If there has not been a reduction in the backlog as measured by either of these metrics, describe why that has occurred. In doing so, answer the following questions and then include any other additional explanation:

    Overall, EEOC had a reduction in its FOIA backlog.

    Is the backlog increase a result of an increase in the number of incoming requests or appeals? The increase in the number of backlogged FOIA appeals did not result from an increase in the number of incoming appeals.

    Is the backlog increase caused by a loss of staff?

    Nor did the increase in the number of backlogged FOIA appeals result from a loss of staff.

    Is the backlog increase caused by an increase in the complexity of the requests received?

    The increase in backlogged FOIA appeals did not result from an increase in the complexity of the requests received.

    What other causes, if any, contributed to the increase in backlog?

    The increase in the number of backlogged FOIA appeals was due to oversight and a mistaken interpretation of the status of pending appeals in the processor’s FOIA Tracking System cue. This issue has been resolved, and will not recur.

  3. Describe the steps your agency is taking to reduce any backlogs and to improve timeliness in responding to requests and administrative appeals. In doing so answer the following questions and then also include any other steps being taken to improve timeliness.

    Does your agency routinely set goals and monitor the progress of your FOIA caseload?

For fiscal years 2008, 2009 and 2010, EEOC’s backlog reduction goals were established in its EEOC Improvement Plan. For fiscal year 2011 and forward, EEOC will routinely establish annual agency wide backlog reduction goals.

The FOIA Tracking System (FTS) permits the Office of Legal Counsel/FOIA Programs (FP) to monitor the FOIA caseload of each office. Each member of the FP staff is assigned two to three offices to monitor in the FTS to make certain that data is being entered timely and correctly, to recommend that pending FOIAs be closed out, to discuss any pending or growing backlog, and to offer assistance.

FP arranges for several offices with backlogged FOIA requests to send the requests to headquarters for processing. This helps to reduce the agency overall backlog while allowing the individual field office to move forward with its current requests.

Several field offices have retained contract employees and the services of retirees from AARP to timely manage their FOIA case load.

Has your agency increased its FOIA staffing?

Yes. In 2009 EEOC added two additional Information Specialists and three appeal attorneys at its headquarters offices, bringing its dedicated FOIA Professional staff to 33 people agency wide.

Has your agency made IT improvements to increase timeliness?

Yes. In August 2009, EEOC inaugurated its first agency wide electronic FOIA Tracking System which has an interactive component which permits the public to file FOIA requests via the internet. EEOC has also obtained Adobe Pro redacting software for all records disclosure staff.

Has your agency Chief FOIA Officer been involved in overseeing your agency’s capacity to process requests?

Yes, the Chief FOIA Officer has assigned three attorneys to assist with FOIA appeals, and was closely involved in developing the on site training for the field offices and in supervising audit reports delineating the strengths and areas of improvement for each office that was trained.

Spotlight on Success

Out of all the activities undertaken by your agency in this last year to increase transparency, describe here one success story that you would like to highlight as emblematic of your efforts.

On Site Training

For the first time, EEOC provided on site training tailored to the specific needs of each field office. EEOC funded the travel of nine Office of Legal Counsel staff members to provide training at its Washington Field and 16 District Offices. The program included instruction on the FOIA, the President’s and Attorney G’eneral’s memoranda, processing FOIA requests, the interplay between the FOIA and EEOC’s statutes, and hands on training on the EEOC FOIA Tracking System and the recently obtained Adobe Pro redaction software. A sampling of the FOIA requests processed by each office was audited to ensure that FOIA and EEOC regulations, policies, and procedures were being followed. Each office received an audit report highlighting the areas in which it was excelling and those where there was still room for improvement.

Aside from the formal training aspects of the visit, it was an opportunity for the EEOC’s FOIA professionals to meet and get to know one another and to exchange ideas. Most importantly, it was also an opportunity for headquarters to show its field FOIA staff which processes over 90% of the agency’s 16,000 FOIAs that the agency supports them and values the important work that they are doing.