The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

Meeting of September 17, 2004 to Vote on Authorization of Funds for Pilot National Contact Center

Remarks of Chair Naomi C. Earp

Welcome. Thank you all for attending. I appreciate your interest in the Commission's work.

I look forward to the dialogue the Commission will have today about the proposed national call center pilot program. In my view, the importance of this dialogue spans far broader than just the call center. It is the beginning of a discussion about how the Commission will respond to the challenges and opportunities presented by the 21st century workplace.

We are at a crossroads, and we must make a choice about how we will proceed. We can either continue to do business the same way we always have, or we can look for ways to improve on our past successes. We can hide behind the mantra that we never tried that before, or we can take advantage of technological progress. We can continue to study the issue, or we can act.

Progress often involves change. In some cases, the change may be small, such as a move to newer, faster computers so we can do our work more efficiently. In other instances, the change is larger, such as the proposed national call center pilot program.

Organizational changes like these are always difficult. They are particularly difficult in organizations like ours where employees are passionate about the work they do. Understandably, there are concerns that change might make us weaker, not stronger, or that change may move us further away from, and not closer to, our goal of eradicating workplace discrimination.

However, the alternatives to piloting a national call center also present challenges. Our field offices are already overworked and overburdened at a time when the 21st century has presented new challenges that we must address.

For example, we are one of the few government agencies that does not have an e-mail address that the public can use to obtain answers to basic questions about our laws or the agency. I have been told that the reason is a lack of resources who has the time to answer the thousands of e-mails we may get? In 2004, however, not having a general email address is like not having a main telephone number.

Charles F. Kettering, the famous American inventor responsible for introducing the world to the battery-powered electric starter, which replaced cranking the automobile, may have put it best. He said, "The world hates change, yet it is the only thing that has brought progress."

I am supportive of the Chair's efforts to look at fresh and innovative ways for the Commission to accomplish its mission of eradicating discrimination in today's workplaces. I am supportive of efforts to make the jobs of our field office staff easier. And I am supportive of cost-efficient measures that will improve the Commission's customer service.

Regarding the question before us, I want to emphasize that what we are voting on today is the approval of a two-year pilot program. A pilot by definition is a tentative model for future experiment or development. Pilots are often changed once developers see what works and what does not work. The call center pilot is no different than any other pilot. In fact, the proposal calls for an extensive technical evaluation of the success of the pilot before the Commission moves forward. That information will have to be shared with the Commission and each Commissioner will have an opportunity to evaluate it before we vote on whether to discontinue the pilot program or make it permanent.

I encourage each of you who are interested in this issue to share your feedback on the pilot program if it is approved today. Working together and not against each other will allow us to fairly evaluate the success of the pilot. That same spirit of cooperation and communication will also permit us to continue today's dialogue about how to strengthen the Commission's progress towards its goal of eradicating discrimination in today's workplaces.

Thank you again for your interest in this issue. I look forward to hearing the comments of my fellow Commissioners.

This page was last modified on September 17, 2004.

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