Welcome - Chair Dominguez
Vice Chair Earp
Question and Answer Session
Question and Answer Session
Reuben Daniels, Jr.
Jeffrey A. Smith
Question and Answer Session
John P. Rowe
Cynthia G. Pierre
Question and Answer Session
During the period November 9, 2002, through September 4, 2003, the Commission acted on 89 items vote by Notation Vote:
Introductory Statements by Chair and Commissioners
Chair Cari M. Dominguez
Vice Chair Naomi C. Earp
Commissioner Paul Steven Miller
Commissioner Leslie E. Silverman
MORNING PANELS - 9:30 A.M.
Panel 1: Experts on Government Reform: Scanning the external factors driving the need for change
Q&As by Commissioners
Panel 2: NAPA & EEOC: EEOC begins process of assessing its organizational structure
Panel 2: NAPA & EEOC: EEOC begins process of assessing its organizational structure
Q&As by Commissioners
Panel 3: EEOC Senior Managers/Headquarters: Current state of the EEOC: New Realities
Q&As by Commissioners
Panel 4: EEOC Field Staff: Perspectives on change
Q&As by Commissioners
Panel 5: Stakeholder Groups: Recommendations to improve efficiency and effectiveness of EEOC delivery of services to the public
Q&As by Commissioners
The meeting will come to order. Good morning. On behalf of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, I join with my fellow Commissioners in welcoming all of you here this morning.
We're very glad you're here and greatly appreciate your taking precious time out of your day to come and participate in this public meeting. Your presence here reflects the importance of the issues that we're going to be discussing today, and our shared commitment to ensuring that the outcome serves the interests of our nation's working men and women.
We have with us senior representatives from the Office of Management and Budget and the Office of Personnel Management, as well as Senate and House Staff. I am very pleased that our union leadership, along with a number of EEOC district directors and regional attorneys, are able to be here with us as well.
We also have a number of officials from the International Association of Official Human Rights Agencies, IAOHRA, many of whom represent the Fair Employment Practices Agencies that are EEOC's partners on state and local levels. IAOHRA has submitted a very thoughtful set of comments which are most welcome and will be made part of the public record.
Special greetings to our EEOC staff nationwide who are listening to these proceedings via telephone hookup in all of our field offices. And of course, I very much want to welcome and thank our panel members this morning. Your presence here today enhances the discourse that we're going to be carrying out, and we could not advance our efforts without your being here.
So thank you very much. I'm going to introduce the members of the panels individually throughout the day.
But before we get started, I am pleased to have this opportunity to introduce our Vice Chair, Naomi Earp, who was sworn in on April 28th of this year, and also our General Counsel, Eric Dreiband, who joined us four weeks ago. So this is their first public meeting, and it has certainly strengthened our forum and our leadership at the Commission.
At this point, let me ask Bernadette Wilson to announce any notation votes that have taken place since our last Commission meeting.
MS. WILSON: Good morning, Madam Chair, and welcome back to EEOC, Madam Vice Chair, and, Commissioners, I'm Bernadette Wilson from the Executive Secretariat.
During the period November 9th, 2002, through September 4th, 2003, the Commission acted on 89 items by notation vote.
VICE Chair EARP: Madam Chair, I move that the list of items approved by notation vote since the last meeting be entered into the record as if read in its entirety.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Is there a second?
COMMISSIONER SILVERMAN: I second.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Any discussion?
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Hearing none, all in favor?
The ayes have it, and the motion is carried.
MS. WILSON: Madam Chair, it's appropriate at this time to have a motion to close a portion of the next Commission meeting.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Do I have a motion?
VICE CHAIR EARP: So moved.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Second?
COMMISSIONER SILVERMAN: I second.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: All in favor?
The ayes have it, and the motion is carried.
It's been nearly 40 years since the Commission was established as part of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. While the world and the workplace have changed dramatically during that time, our service delivery infrastructure has remained virtually unmodified.
The time has come for a good look-see at the Agency. Indeed, we would be remiss in our responsibilities if we failed to examine the trends and issues that are driving the economy and fueling the workplace and how those issues impact the way we carry out our responsibilities at the Commission.
Shifting demographics and an explosion of technological innovations, globalization, and a heightened state of security alert have converged in the workplace to require the Commission to be more flexible and adaptable in its enforcement role.
Our final destination remains the same: to eradicate discrimination and ensure equal employment opportunity; but our manner of traveling to get there must be upgraded if we're not going to be overtaken by leaner, faster carriers.
After a briefing on the financial state of the Commission, my very first act as Chair of the Commission, August 6, 2001, I regret to say, was to authorize an agency wide hiring freeze. That freeze, with a few critical exceptions, remains in effect today. This is not the tone a new leader wants to set beginning an administration, but unfortunately it's the way we had to start, to get our arms around the budget, and get our arms around the constraints that we were facing.
With 81 percent of our budget devoted to fixed expenses, our top priority has been to preserve existing jobs, avoid furloughs, and this leaves little room for discretionary investment in human capital, including the redeployment of resources where needed.
Keeping pace with progress relies upon retaining and attracting dedicated employees. Competition for talent demands that we provide our people the recognition, training and development that they deserve. Attention to these requirements will put us in good stead to ensure a high-performing workforce and a strong leadership for tomorrow.
In the meantime, employer profiles have changed as well. Small and midsize companies have become the fastest-growing respondent segment of our charge activity. These smaller companies tend to shun big cities, preferring to deliver products and services from lower-cost areas. Yet our presence continues to be, for the most part, in downtown areas.
As a public service agency, we have a choice to make. We can disregard these external indicators and keep everything the same, continuing to face budgetary constraints and to forego much needed human capital investment in the process, or we can seize the moment and catch up to the times, which is why we're here today.
In accordance with the President's Management Agenda, the Office of Management and Budget required each federal agency to prepare a five-year restructuring plan aimed at more customer-centric, results-oriented and performance-driven governance.
As a first step EEOC commissioned an independent study by the National Academy of Public Administration, NAPA. NAPA's report is one of the many sources of input that have been considered by the Commission, as we deliberate on this issue. We also established a National Contact Center Work Group to explore the possibility of implementing a cost-effective customer service center. We're going to hear reports today and findings from both of these sources.
We have a comprehensive agenda ahead. Throughout the day, we're going to be hearing from five panels. The first panel will address the many external factors driving the need for change. The second panel will focus on recommendations made by the National Academy for Public Administration. Panel 3, comprised of senior managers from EEOC headquarters, will speak to the current state of the Agency and new realities.
During the afternoon, we are going to begin with a panel representing EEOC's union and field staff.
And Panel 5, representing stakeholder groups, will offer recommendations to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of EEOC's delivery of services to the public.
I look forward to the comments and recommendations of each panel today.
Panel 1 will commence following remarks by my fellow Commissioners.
Madam Vice Chair?
VICE CHAIR EARP:
Thank you. Good morning, everyone.
First of all, I want to thank the Chair for scheduling this meeting. I hope that it will be the first of many opportunities for us to get together, share ideas, but more importantly to think together.
The Commission is clearly facing enormous challenges, and while we do a pretty good job of generating ideas, and we do a good job of sharing those ideas, we don't often have an opportunity to think through those ideas together.
We have to get to a point where we're prepared to move to the next step, which is problem solving, and I hope that today will serve as the first step toward getting real solutions to the challenges that the Commission is facing.
It has been said that human beings are separated from other species by our use of language. I think that probably explains why we are often better speakers than we are listeners. Today, I hope that each of us in this room will take an opportunity to listen.
We often become so enamored with our own position that when we are speaking, we should be listening; when we are questioning, we should be thoughtful. Today, I would encourage each of us to fully embrace, through listening, the different points of view that we're going to hear.
I would dare say that there is no 100-percent accurate path for us to follow. We will probably end up at some point with a blended approach to the issues the Commission is facing.
We will not change just for the sake of change, but we have to adapt to a changing environment, and the Commission is committed to doing that. We all want to hear the business case for the changes that we're facing.
Mark Twain once said, in responding to how people resist new ideas, that sometimes you have to take your brain out and dance on it.
VICE CHAIR EARP: I think, given what we face today, clearly, we need to do some dancing.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Commissioner Miller?
Good morning, Madam Chair; Madam Vice Chair, whom I welcome to your first Commission meeting; and Commissioner Silverman; and General Counsel Dreiband, whom I also welcome to your first Commission meeting; Dick Roscio up here from the Office of Legal Counsel, who is standing in today for my colleague, David Frank; distinguished panelists and my fellow EEOC Employees; and government representatives and members of the public.
I am excited this morning to once again join my fellow Commissioners in considering the actions that may be necessary to ensure that the EEOC continues to fulfill its mission throughout the 21st Century and beyond.
I applaud you, Madam Chair, for taking this step in gathering information, this first step in gathering information in order that the Commission can better understand the challenges in front of us, to ensure that whatever alternatives ultimately come before the Commission, that the enforcement mission of the Agency is strengthened and that employers are better served--employers and employees and workers are better served.
An important goal to that end is to continue the universally applauded movement of attorneys and investigators working more closely together and greater teamwork, both within and without offices, to ensure greater quality in our investigations and more strategic enforcement.
As you know, I am no stranger to this kind of process, having chaired the Task Force on Alternative Dispute Resolution that was the genesis of our current, private and federal sector mediation programs. And having co-chaired with then-Vice Chair, Paul Igasaki, Task Forces on Charge Processing and Litigation that resulted in the first National Enforcement Plan, now known as Strategic Litigation and Enforcement Plan, and fostered unprecedented cooperation between our artificially divided enforcement and litigation operations.
Over the course of this meeting, we will hear in some detail about how the reforms resulting from those earlier efforts have streamlined our processes and led to more efficient and expeditious resolution of the matters entrusted to our care.
Madam Chair, I hope that the insights that my staff and I have gained during those previous endeavors will assist you and my fellow Commissioners, as well as the EEOC's dedicated employees and our stakeholders, and ultimately the American people, as we determine how best to respond to the critical challenges confronting this agency now.
Now, despite the salutary gains of the past decade, I harbor no illusions that there is little room for improvement, and I eagerly anticipate the task of identifying and addressing some of the areas that require our attention. Nevertheless, I approach this endeavor with some homespun caution. Again, I hadn't planned it out with VICE CHAIR EARP. Mine is, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.
Now, please don't misunderstand me. Change is an inevitable part of life. It's an inevitable part of an institution, the necessary, but not sufficient means by which we learn and grow. This axiom is as true in the life of an organization as it is in our individual lives. But we should not be seduced by the facile and uncritical pursuit of change for its own sake.
Now, with that caveat in mind, I have every confidence that the talents and wisdom of the committed employees who will implement our decisions, the experiences, insights and guidance of charging parties, and representatives and advocates whose lives and livelihoods our choices will affect, and in the end, this body's evaluation and approval of the blueprint for our Agency's future direction will place the EEOC on sounder footing to meet the challenges, whether anticipated or unforeseen, that await the Agency in coming years.
Today's meeting and subsequent deliberations will allow the Commission, as a collegial body, to examine the factors and trends affecting the EEOC's work at present and in the future, including the realities of continued fiscal and budgetary constraints.
I hope that this meeting will provide a deeper understanding of and valuable perspectives on the mechanics of the process through which we will address the issues before us, the realities of the budget and its likely impact on our work and organizational structure, and whether and how the recommendations we are considering will affect the Agency's ability to fulfill its charge and mission.
I very much look forward to today's presentations and our conversations together, along with the opportunity that this meeting affords the Commission to undertake the essential dialogue with the Administration, with Congress, with our employees, with advocates for those who seek our assistance as well as representatives of management on how the EEOC can best carry out the mission first entrusted to us nearly 40 years ago in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which is ...to ensure equal employment opportunities... without discrimination.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Thank you, Commissioner Miller.
Good morning, everyone. This is an important meeting of the Commission, and I, too, would like to thank CHAIR DOMINGUEZ for convening it. Our mission here at the EEOC is crystal clear, to eradicate employment discrimination from our workplaces. It is a noble and worthy mission, vigorously pursued by teams of dedicated professionals throughout this country.
In my short time as Commissioner, I have been fortunate enough to visit a number of field offices, and I have seen firsthand some of the important advances that are being made by EEOC employees.
Our mission has always been a challenging one, but as we approach our 40th year, we face new challenges as well: demographic changes, broad economic changes, and the realization that our funding is not limitless.
To confront these emerging challenges, the time has come for the Commission to be introspective. Given the changing world around us, are we best aligned to fulfill our mission of eradicating employment discrimination? Now, it's no secret that over the past couple of years, the Commission has been spending a great deal of energy on this issue of change; namely, whether change is needed, what change is needed and how we should best approach and implement change.
I agree with the vice chair that I do not believe in change for the sake of change. I know that change can be daunting, disruptive, and extremely stressful, but I also recognize that in order to move forward and to continue to pursue our mission in an environment that is far different from when the Agency's foundation was formed, change may be necessary.
I believe that one of our stakeholders succinctly captured it when he said change is inevitable if we are to fill the public expectations of a responsive and efficient government.
Indeed, the Commission has proved that statement to be true. The 1995 changes to our charge processing procedures were initially greeted by many inside and outside the agency with skepticism. They turned out, however, to be an incredibly positive move for the Commission because they helped us to prioritize our workload and dramatically improved our ability to efficiently process charges of discrimination.
And the introduction of mediation as a voluntary option to resolve disputes is another example of how our agency was able to implement a significant change to claim resolution in response to a burgeoning caseload. And anyone who has heard me speak knows what a huge fan I am of the mediation program. Its success has been outstanding.
Now, this time around, we are considering more global changes. In assessing whether doing things differently would enable us to do a better job and make better use of our limited resources, we have sought input from a wide array of individuals and organizations. We have the benefit of studies conducted by NAPA and the Commission's Inspector General, and we have sought the views of EEOC staff, including those working on the front line in the field, and the views of our outside stakeholders.
Now, today's meeting is critical to this process. We will hear from government reform experts, those who have studied our agency, and all of you who have watched the EEOC grow and develop from both inside and outside the Agency.
There is no doubt in my mind that your thoughts, observations and perspectives will help inform the decisions that the Commission must make as we move the Agency forward.
Some creative ideas have already begun to emerge. For example, a national contact center staffed by individuals trained to respond to public inquiries has the potential for ensuring that members of the public will always be able to speak to a live body when they call the EEOC. Unfortunately, as I know from firsthand experience, this is not always the case today.
A national contact center could allow us to improve customer service, while at the same time freeing up valuable field resources for other critical work. But it is imperative that the creation of the center be done the right way. It must involve proper training, oversight, and quality control. And it must be staffed with the right people. Compassionate people, who possess the necessary skills. Individuals committed to EEOC's vital mission.
We are also considering whether realignment of our staff, both at headquarters and the field, could improve our efficiency and better utilize our limited resources. But any realignment must ensure that we maintain an effective presence throughout the country and that the close interaction between investigators and attorneys, which is critical to a successful enforcement and litigation program, is preserved.
I'd like to add my welcome to today's speakers. Thank you all for coming. You certainly got wonderful weather, those of you who have traveled from out of town, probably the only good weather we've had all year.
I'm eager to hear your thoughts for moving the Agency forward, and I also look forward to the days, weeks and months ahead, as we work together to chart the Commission's course for the future.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Thank you, Commissioner Silverman.
At this time, I'd like to invite our Panel 1 guests to please come up, take your seats.
One little housekeeping matter. This gadget here is our timer. We have such a compressed schedule that, just for your reference, when the yellow light goes on, there are two minutes left for the comments.
I am just delighted to have such a distinguished panel here to kick off this day, and I am pleased to introduce, first, Clay Johnson, Deputy Director of the Office of Management and Budget; Max Stier, President and CEO of the Partnership for Public Service; and Marta Perez, who is the Associate Director of Human Capital Leadership and Merit Systems Accountability at the Office of Personnel Management.
Welcome, again, Mr. Johnson.
MR. JOHNSON: One, I understand, when I was communicating with you Friday, that I was going to make a statement, and make myself available to questions and then have to leave. Is that still okay with you?
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Yes. Yes, that's fine. Yes. Thank you.
MR. JOHNSON: CHAIR DOMINGUEZ, VICE CHAIR EARP, Commissioners, I am honored to be invited to come here today and make a statement and observations about your efforts to become more results oriented. I applaud your efforts to become more results oriented and to improve your focus on your citizen customers.
The entire federal government, each agency, is currently in the process of more clearly defining its goals, determining how best to measure success, which is extremely important. How do you know if something is "broke" or "unbroke," unless you define clearly what success means, how to measure success. Each agency is determining if some aspect of their agency does not work, what are they doing, what can they do to address that opportunity, not taking the status quo as a given fact.
And as a part of all of this, what investments might be necessary, investments in people, investments in technology, investments in reorganization. These changes, these investments, are good for agencies, they're good for the citizens, they're good for employees.
Every employee wants to be a part of a successful organization. And if it is not successful or as successful as it can be, it wants to work with management--this is my experience, an experience we are seeing in federal agencies today--work with management to make their beloved agency or commission be more successful, if that is an opportunity.
This kind of change, this focus on results, this focus on the citizens, on our customers, is necessary, I believe. It's necessary because, one, the citizens, our customers, have higher expectations of the federal government than ever before. In the private sector, they get information, they get answers, they get goods and services delivered to them at incredible speeds, with incredible accuracy, and they get it in a fashion that was inconceivable five, ten, fifteen years ago.
Therefore, what they expect from government has to have increased. They expect, from the government, what they are getting from the private sector, in terms of accuracy and speed of information, and if goods and services need to be delivered, that as well.
I believe this focus on results, and this focus on the citizen, is also necessary because we can do this. This is imminently, completely possible. We have communication technologies available to us today that were unthought of five/ten years ago. We have the ability to communicate from afar ways that did not exist only a handful of years ago.
This is also possible because we have shown, in the last several years, that anything, everything is possible in the management arena if four things exist. Every quarter I sit in on management reviews of the 26 CFO agencies, and we review the President's Management Agenda. There are five initiatives. So 5 times 26. There are 130 management discussions.
And every time these four things exist, there is progress, significant progress, on the management area, with those four things there can be significant change in management if the top person in the organization or, in this case, the Commission, is totally dedicated to that change.
Change is also highly possible, when 100-percent certainty will occur, if, in addition to that, there is a very clear definition of what change is desired, what change is called for to be successful, if there is a very clear definition of what success is, a very clear definition of what has to happen to achieve that level of success, a very detailed action plan.
The third thing that is important, and must exist if success is to occur, is that the action plan must be clear who is accountable for making the overall action plan, not what group of people, not what group of consultants, but what one employee is responsible for the accomplishment of that management objective, and then what person is responsible for each of the component parts of that action plan.
And, oh, by the way, what's their phone number.
MR. JOHNSON: You need to know who that one person is, and then who the individual people are responsible for the component parts, and you need to have their phone numbers, mailing addresses and e-mail addresses right next to their names just in case you have a question or two.
And the fourth thing that, if it exists, will guarantee success 100-percent of the time, is that the plan must be aggressive and it must be nonconditional. It can't be, well, as soon as the war in Iraq is over, we'll get back to our management objectives or as soon as we deal with the power outage in the Northeast or as soon as the floods and whatever subside, we'll be glad to--the focus on management has to be unconditional. It has to be without regard to what else is going on in the environment or with the Agency.
If those four things exist, commitment at the top, clear, detailed action plan, accountability, and an aggressive, unconditional plan, there is management success 100 percent of the time. When those four things exist, agencies that are in the GAO's high-risk list become low-risk projects. Agencies that are at red on some of the management agenda items go to green. Agencies like Social Security and EPA get to green on financial management. Agencies like the Ag Department get an unqualified audit opinion.
Nobody thought that was ever, ever going to happen, but there was commitment at the top with Ann Veneman. There was a very, very detailed action plan. Ted McPherson was in charge of making that happen, and he made sure there were individuals responsible for each of the component parts, and they had a plan to make it happen in one year.
People thought it was never, ever going to happen. Their plan was to do it in a year. One year later, they had an unqualified audit opinion. They still have lots of issues to deal with, but they accomplish the impossible or what people thought was the impossible.
We need better government. We need to govern better. We can govern better. There's a lot of talk these days about good governance in our financial markets, in our corporate enterprises. I believe that what good governance is also what good government is.
We need to serve our citizens, just as corporations need to serve their owners, their shareholders, their customers. We need to produce results for our citizens. We need to show respect for our customers. We need to be held accountable by our citizens, and we need to live up to the trust our citizens, our customers, have in us.
I applaud your efforts for focusing on these matters. This is possible. This is, I believe, the time is right for this focus. The technologies to commitment, the opportunities exist, and I applaud your efforts to focus on this as a Commission because I know you have plenty of other things to pay attention to.
I'd be glad to entertain any questions you have before I duck out.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Thank you very much, Mr. Johnson, and you've certainly given us a lot of high standards here to follow on these four items, and I very much appreciate your support.
Just a question with respect to, clearly, commissions are a little different from federal agencies. It's more consensus building. It's almost a little bit like Congress; you know, you have different views and perspectives. From your perspective, what is the one thing that we should be focusing on first and foremost?
MR. JOHNSON: I think the main thing--the initial thing--is to focus on paint a picture for yourself, I don't know whether it's a year or two years out, about what you want the EEOC to look like, to feel like, and operate like and move toward that picture. Don't think about, well, what can I do next month to move in that direction, and the month after that? Forget the realities of getting there.
Leap ahead, define the best Commission you can, and then look back towards what you would have to do to get there. I agree you should not fix something if it "ain't" broke, but I think you need to be very clear about what the definition of "fixed" and "broke" is.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Thank you.
Madam Vice Chair?
VICE CHAIR EARP: No, nothing.
COMMISSIONER MILLER: Just a couple of things. I thought that your four criteria were really excellent and a very thoughtful way for approaching the challenge ahead of us. One of the things, and maybe I can put this out as a placeholder for some of the other panelists, one of the things that I think is a challenge, has been a challenge for this agency, over the past decade that I've been here, is how do we measure success?
I think measuring success is important. The question is how do we do it in the context of an enforcement agency? Do we do it by expectations of number of lawsuits we file? Do we do it by case closures? How do we count the widgets or what are the widgets that are here at the Agency in an enforcement context, when it is so amorphous and difficult to really discern whether discrimination is decreasing and how we are having an impact on employment discrimination in the workplace.
The second piece that I just want to emphasize, which I believe wholeheartedly, and I think I get it, but maybe if you can talk about two of these things, I assume that you believe that piecemeal change is not sort of the appropriate effect. You believe that it is best to lay out a broad picture of what change should be, what it should look like, I think, as you said, and then figure out the steps over time of how to get there, and that incremental, this is easy, so we should do this, and then we'll figure out what happens next, that that would not be the approach that sort of mandates success.
MR. JOHNSON: I agree with that because, one, I believe that you can rally your several thousand employees around the vision of what their EEOC can become, and it becomes the focal point, and it becomes a rallying point for everybody's activities.
COMMISSIONER MILLER: Thank you. Very thoughtful.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Commissioner Silverman?
COMMISSIONER SILVERMAN: No questions.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Well, thank you very, very much.
MR. JOHNSON: Thank you for having me.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Mr. Stier, welcome.
MR. STIER: Thank you very much. Thank you, Madam Chair, and thank you very much, Commissioners, for inviting me to testify today.
My organization, the Partnership for Public Service, is a relatively new nonprofit that has a twofold mission: the first is to work on transforming the way government works in order to make it attractive to talent; and the second is to inspire a new generation into service, into government service, because of some of the challenges that I'm going to talk about shortly here.
Clearly, I think that all of you are to be commended for holding this hearing and even beyond, obviously, this hearing for engaging in what is a difficult task, as Mr. Johnson suggested, in the midst of having your hands full and doing your day-to-day work. These kinds of strategic efforts are difficult. It may not be the war in Iraq, but you have many other things that you are having to address, and engaging in thoughtful ways of improving your long-term capacity is hugely important. And it is from our perspective at the Partnership particularly important to be focusing on the people element of the equation, and that's what I want to talk to you about today.
I have provided some written testimony. I am not going to, obviously--I am going to just try to hit the very top points of that testimony. And, again, the primary line here is to really focus on the fact that good government requires good people. And that is the essential element that I want to talk about and that I think would be useful for the Commission to be focusing on.
All of the research that has been done on human capital management shows that it drives organizational success. And, again, I cite a number of studies that have been done in the private sector that shows dramatic changes in performance in organizations where there has been effective human capital management.
It is also true that--I commend the Chair in particular for her support for the Partnership, but also making, creating a world-class model workplace, one of the elements of your plan, your vision of what you want to see for EEOC.
It is critically important to realize that EEOC is not alone. The kinds of issues that you are facing and addressing here are the same issues that are being addressed by agencies government wide. And Mr. Johnson talked about measurement. Obviously, one of the factors that has been important here is the President's Management Agenda, focusing on human capital issues, and in the scorecard that was created in conjunction with OPM. It's worth noting that there is not a single agency that is yet at green in human capital management. There is progress being made, but they have not achieved--no agency has achieved green. And that, again, gives an important context.
The General Accounting Office has placed the issue of human capital across government as a high-risk element. It's one of only two government wide high-risk elements. And then, when you start digging in more deeply, we can see that the contours of the problems are really quite substantial. And, again, the Office of Personnel Management did a very important employee survey last year. Over 200,000 employees were surveyed, and that work found some very troubling information.
For example, only 43 percent of those employees surveyed held their leadership, their managers, in high esteem. Over half believed that doing better at work would not result in better compensation or better rewards.
Those are very troubling numbers. Those numbers are government wide and it gives, I think, a context for the sorts of issues that you are having to deal with here at EEOC.
Not only are you not alone with problems, you are also not alone with solutions. There is a lot of work that's being done across the government that is worth taking a look at, starting with the fact that the President, again, has placed human capital on the top of his management agenda. There has been important cross-agency collaboration, OPM working with OMB and GAO, for example, on human capital initiatives, and very important congressional change, legislative action that has been occurring, not only specifically around certain agencies, like the creation of the Department of Homeland Security and the reform efforts that are going on around the Department of Defense. And I would note that just those two efforts alone affect over 50 percent of the federal workforce. And one of the things that I would note is that it is worth recognizing that over half the federal workforce will be operating in a vastly different personnel environment in the very near term, and the rest of government should not be left behind, including the EEOC. And making sure that EEOC is at that forefront is, if anything, only more important given the oversight function that EEOC plays as a needed role model, not only for the private sector but also for government itself.
Indeed, there are also a lot of efforts underway in individual agencies that are worth looking at, for example, the General Accounting Office, in its performance management efforts. You also have the IRS in its leadership development work. The Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency has done some important work on a user-friendly performance management system. NASA has done important work on strategic workforce planning.
There are plenty of agencies that are, again, grappling with the same kinds of issues that you have that have come up with solutions that will not immediately transfer over to EEOC but are guideposts for ways in which you can yourselves address the kinds of things that you need to do.
And, clearly, again, the report that was put together by NAPA is a very important starting point. And from the Partnership's perspective, we would agree with the human capital recommendations that are made in that report. They are sound. The challenge is going to be moving from the 10,000-feet level to the actual implementation.
What I would also like to focus on in my last point here is that if you look at--again, I've seen some of the testimony from other panelists coming forward. If you look at the NAPA report, if you talk to experts in general, there's a fair bit of consensus on what needs to be done on the human capital side. It is, again, the doing it that is the difficult part. What I would suggest is that the Commission focus very hard on the how it gets done. The what is going to be, I think, the much easier question than the how. And the most critical element in getting the how right is going to be to continue what you have started, to continue engaging both your stakeholders and your employees in the activity of managing the change that you're trying to follow here.
Clearly, from the Partnership's perspective, if there's any way we can be of assistance, we would like to be. I mentioned a number of the best practices that are being engaged by a number of agencies. We will be launching a solution center that will lay out those best practices in about a month and a half. You have unbelievably helpful other allies, for example, from OPM, which you will be hearing from shortly, and, again, you're not in it alone.
So thank you very much for offering to give me this opportunity to speak, and I look forward to hopefully helping you on your way.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Thank you very much, Mr. Stier.
COMMISSIONER SILVERMAN: In your experience, what are the greatest obstacles to implementing a restructuring plan and how are they best overcome?
MR. STIER: A great question that I will try to give a very short answer to. The obstacles, Mr. Johnson I think laid them out pretty well.
There is, again, a pretty sensible conceptual framework to approach these things with. If you prepare right, the obstacles become less significant. Clearly, having the strategic vision that Mr. Johnson mentioned is very important.
I think a very key starting point is with your leadership. One of the issues that we see, again, across government is concern among employees about whether managers can effectively manage. And, typically, engaging in the kinds of changes that you're talking about here, if you have not worked on ensuring that your leadership and your management corps has the skills that it needs to effectively manage that change, then it's very difficult to succeed.
And, you know, again, you're talking about a smaller number of folks, the investment that you can put into making sure that they are active and successful change agents, is a place that I think is extremely useful.
Third, and very importantly, I think is employee buy-in, and I would add stakeholder buy-in. There is no such thing as too much communication, and it needs to be a two-way communication.
I mentioned the survey that OPM did. EEOC was not included in that first round. I know that OPM focused on large agencies. They're talking about doing work around small agencies. And there's, in fact, I think, a commendable effort to place more resources and focus on small-agency work. But that's a place where I think you would be well served in investing in.
One of the things that you will see a difference between--and you have a very interesting perspective here because you see a lot of private sector organizations as well, obviously, as dealing with government agencies. Well, one thing that you probably will notice is that the best-run private sector organizations have significant internal communication efforts. They have people that are dedicated to communicating their message inside the organization, not simply externally.
That's something that, by and large, you almost never see in government agencies, and that's a problem. You really need effective means of communication both to rally around the shared message of the agency, but also to ensure that those people who are on the front line and your managers and others are able to give real input on how it is that the agency can improve.
COMMISSIONER SILVERMAN: Thank you.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Madam Vice Chair?
VICE CHAIR EARP: Just one quick practical question. The best practices solution center that you mentioned--
MR. STIER: Yes.
VICE CHAIR EARP: --is this a virtual project or brick and mortar? Can you say a little bit more about it?
MR. STIER: Certainly. It is a virtual project, virtual in two senses of the word: It will ultimately be on the Internet and Internet accessible, and virtual in that it hasn't yet been launched. So--
MR. STIER: But I would say that the plan is to launch it in approximately six weeks, and even before then, the information that will be included in that solution center is an open book for you and anybody else who is interested in actually seeing it. And it's a first step, and we are, you know, really, again, working with OPM and with OMB in trying to collect this information, and GAO. And that's another interesting, I think, development. My time from government, I always saw GAO as the enforcer on the other side of the table looking for problems and the "gotcha" organization. I think that Dave Walker is really trying to make GAO into a more constructive partner, and certainly on the human capital management side. I mean, he was one of the early proponents for a focus on this issue, and I think, you know, along with a small handful of other people, largely responsible for the attention that is being paid to the issue.
VICE CHAIR EARP: Okay. Thanks.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Commissioner Miller?
COMMISSIONER MILLER: Mr. Stier, I applaud your comments. I found them very helpful and thoughtful.
One thing that strikes me, sort of picking up on something that Commissioner Silverman had said in her opening comments, and your comments yet again on sort of two-way communication and employee/stakeholder buy-in, one of the reasons, I believe, that the change that occurred here at the agency the last go-round back in '95, which was met with great resistance, whether it's charge processing or mediation, was the side-by-side collaborative efforts of our stakeholders in not just reacting to plans but developing plans, that two-way communication so that everybody has an investment and feels that they've been heard, and, most importantly, the good ideas that are sort of floating around out there are incorporated earlier on in the process rather than later on in the process.
Is that your experience?
MR. STIER: Absolutely. I think that getting that shared buy-in is a very important element to success, and that buy-in comes from early involvement of stakeholders, including, obviously, employees.
I think the challenge, obviously--and, Madam Chair, you mentioned earlier the Commission's structure as being different. Obviously, there are difficulties and advantages to that, and one of the--you know, to move quickly can be more difficult in that context. And it also can be more difficult when you try to develop that kind of consensus to move quickly. However, I think the net effect is to have a better chance of success.
You know, one of the issues that I think was also raised is the question about is change really necessary, and I think that what I want to very much highlight is that I believe that you have no choice. The world has changed dramatically. Your own internal demographics are changing dramatically. There are going to be changes. The questions are: Are you going to be able to make those changes occur in a way that is ultimately beneficial to your mission?
I know you've had some successes, for example, in your backlog and in your case management, and those are to be commended. I would say, though, that in order to build off momentum, you do need to be thinking about that long-term strategic plan and not allow those successes to undermine, you know, a focus on getting to be the world-class work environment and high-performing organization that you're striving for.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Thank you very much, Mr. Stier.
MR. STIER: Thank you.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: I think that's a very good parting comment. I'm reminded of the Mark Twain comment that the easiest way to crush your laurels is to sit on them.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: So thank you.
MR. STIER: Very nice. I'm going to stick around.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Okay.
MS. PEREZ: Good morning. On behalf of my director, Kay Coles James, I'd like to thank the Commission for inviting OPM to this important discussion, especially thank you to CHAIR DOMINGUEZ and the other Commissioners as well. And I applaud the efforts of the Commission to hold these kinds of public meetings where you invite outside groups from both the public and private sector to share their experience.
OPM has been involved over the last year and a half in the President's Management Agenda and leading the charge, if you will, in the human capital initiative, and that has allowed us to take a very close look at a number of the 28 agencies that we're tracking in the President's Management Agenda and work intimately with the agencies and look at their plans and assess their efforts. And I think it has given us a perspective that hopefully we can bring to bear, to the extent that the Commission would like us to do that, to EEOC and your efforts.
It is a different time in the world, and I think that we have seen that the agencies that understand that they have to be paying attention to the changes that are taking place in their environment and technology, even within the organizations and the demographics of our organizations, have made it a point to not change for the sake of change, but really to lay out plans that look at the organizations to make sure that their structures are responsive to the needs of the new clientele, whether it's the employees or the outsider customers.
We are expecting the agencies--we partner with the Office of Management and Budget in actually the scoring of the agencies, so we work with the agencies on a regular basis to assess their efforts and hopefully provide them with the tools that they need to make progress in human resources management and move away from human resources as sort of a back-door operation that just looks at transactions and really to the forefront. What human resources thinkers and strategic planners in the area of human resources and human capital management can bring to the table, what is--sort of raise the consciousness of our leadership with regards to human--the workforce and the human people that--the aspect, that aspect of the organizations. Oftentimes wonderful strategic plans are developed and designed, and they're just beautiful. And at the end of the plans, they said, okay, well, what about the human capital? What about the people? Do we have them in place?
The requirements that we make of the agencies and my expectations I think are consistent with where we have seen some success, is that you think about the human resources aspects of your organization and the forefront. And, in fact, when we had a recent conversation with one of our colleagues in one of our large agencies, he says, Well, we've developed our strategic plan and Goal Number 7 is human capital. And I said, I'm sorry, Mr. Assistant Secretary, I said, this is--Goal Number 7 should not be human capital. You need to assess every single goal in your strategic plan against the human--or your human capital against each plan. Do I have the skills that I need in the organization? What are the skills that are needed for each particular goal? And how do I--if I don't, how do I close that delta, those gaps?
So we've worked very closely with the agencies, and I invite you that when you're thinking about your organization, that you be thinking about human capital, as I know you're doing, in the forefront.
Also, how you deploy and how you deliver those services is extremely important, and the organizational structure that you put in place to support your mission is very important. And I think technology is allowing each organization to make changes in the way that we structure organizations to be more efficient and more effective, when we leverage the technology appropriately. And, oftentimes, it gets sort of, oh, my gosh, you know, the investment in technology is excessive. But I think if you do not invest or leverage the technology when you have an organization like the Federal Government that responds to the needs of millions and millions of its citizen customers out there, unless we leverage that technology, we're not going to become more efficient.
So I think that it is extremely important that you pay attention to your organizational structure in a way that leverages technology and your people and looks at your processes to ultimately deliver a better product. And I am of the opinion that you need to be sort of continuously assessing your service delivery, and it's never really quite done. So even when you structure and restructure, it's always--you need to always keep going back and looking at it.
I think that it is also extremely important that you look at the leadership of the organization and you identify do I have the right people in the organization at a given time, at a time when you're looking to make some significant changes, and that you try to address any leadership gaps in a way that is well developed, well designed, and with a vision in mind. And I'll come back to the vision because both my colleagues, Clay Johnson and Max Stier, have alluded to this. And I think it's extremely important.
But you need to make sure that you have the leadership in place to help you get where you need to go, and I think that's extremely important.
One of the problems, I think, in the public sector--actually, in organizations in general, but it's particularly difficult in the public sector, I think--is the execution. Actually, we sometimes develop these wonderful plans, but, you know, the devil is in the detail. How do we actually get there in terms of developing a good execution? And I think having a good execution is extremely important. Once you develop your vision, you have the leadership in place, you need to have a well-designed execution strategy as well.
We think that it's extremely important in the human capital initiative, and we are expecting the agencies and holding the agencies accountable, for developing performance management systems that clearly articulate what are the expectations that the organization has over individual employees. So that at any given time there's a clear line of sight between what I do, Marta Perez, or any employee in the organization, no matter where they are in the organization. A line of sight between what the employee does and the results and the mission of the organization. It is so important for employees to feel connected to the overall outcomes, and I think we fail them miserably when we do not communicate well and we do not use the performance management system to communicate that vision.
So if you think of that, if you have your vision, you have the leadership in place, you have a well-designed execution plan, you develop your management systems in ways that they articulate what are the expectations, I think that's extremely important.
Then we also expect agencies and the human capital effort to have a diverse workforce. We think that in light of the demographics of our nation and the expectations of our citizens, it's extremely important that we create a workforce that is diverse in talent and experience and backgrounds, in all aspects of diversity, including, of course, ethnicity and racial and disability and so forth.
But we also think it's not important only to make it a diverse workforce, but that the diversity exist at the highest levels of the organization in your mission-critical occupations as well as in your leadership ranks. And I think from the mission of EEOC, this is clearly an area that is always at the forefront of your thinking. But I think it's extremely important in terms of your overall mission how you deal with the agencies and your clients, that this is an important area, that we are also supporting your efforts in terms of our expectations of the Federal Government and the federal agencies.
We also think that it's extremely important--and my colleagues alluded to this--that you are able to demonstrate the results. And in order for you to demonstrate results, if you have the vision laid out well in advance and you have outcomes or expectations, what are your expectations with regards to the changes that you're trying to make. I think they need to be well designed so that when you get there, you can look back and say, well, now I know whether I got them, whether I met the outcomes or not.
I think oftentimes we fail to do that, and when we fail to do that, we do it at our own peril. So I think that establishing outcome measures from the very beginning that help you assess along the way, this is the vision that I have, this is where I want to go, how do I measure, what milestones do I identify to make sure that at the end of the day I can assess whether I'm adding value. And then if you're not, if a particular strategy or effort that you establish is not getting you--you're not achieving the expected outcomes, then you can always go back and revisit. I think we fail organizations when we wait, you know, years to look back and say, okay, do I need to make a change in my organization. So if you develop the milestones and the measures to continuously assess the value-added, I think you can stay on top of the game.
So I think overall we're making progress in the Federal Government. I think that--I've had an opportunity to read the NAPA report with regards to your own organization--and clearly you have a great deal of work ahead of you. But I know that you have the commitment to work in collaboration with your employees and the stakeholders and ultimately will succeed. And I think the fact that you're taking advantage of the experience of outside organizations as well is to your credit.
Thank you again.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Thank you very much, Ms. Perez.
You mentioned that small agencies are not necessarily--you know, you have a specialized focus on small agencies because of the nature of the issues that they face. I think we have to both think about the economy while worrying about the rent.
From your perspective, what are some of the things that you think? You gave us a very thorough layout of the kinds of things, as we look at the structure and the human capital. But if we had to look at the top two things, workforce challenges that we're facing, and how can we move this process along--which is a rather lengthy process, as one might expect, where would you best invest that energy?
MS. PEREZ: I think that for small agencies, as well as large agencies, the beauty of the small agencies, particularly in our government--and OPM is an example of this, and we've just recently gone through our own restructure of the agency. We have a more homogeneous, if you will, mission when you compare it to some of the larger agencies that have very different and discrete components.
But I think that establishing that vision, Madam Chair, is extremely important and communicating that vision, I think, in terms of developing a good execution plan, developing--communicating with your employees and your stakeholders. We have seen that change is going to be difficult. It's going to be difficult no matter how you do it. If you do it slow or if you do it fast, it's going to be difficult for your organization, for your employees, for your stakeholders.
I think it's best to just grab sort of the bull by the horns and say, okay, this is the vision, and then able to communicate that vision to make sure that folks understand that. You've had some recent successes in some of the things that you've tried to do, and I think that laying out the vision, communicating that vision, and then just providing the support that your employees need along the way I think is important. But I think you need to sort of lay it out and just go out and do it.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER MILLER: Thank you very much for coming, and thank you very much for your comments. I think that one thing I kept on coming back to in all the materials in our books, our briefing books, was--I guess I wanted to ask you about it, and that's about sort of human capital and sort of human resources in the context of the EEOC.
A number of people have said already that there's quite a unified vision of what we should be doing in terms of human resources in our own employees. The question is how do we do it. And one thing that somebody said in the context of our current hiring freeze, which is a situation that nobody wants, and that is, this particular manager or district director said it's very difficult for us to decide how to sort of let go or deal with non-performing employees, when ultimately in the context of a hiring freeze we know that we're not going to be able to backfill those positions; that it's either somebody who's a mediocre employee that we move out, but yet we're not going to be able to reach out and bring somebody in, either promote them from within or particularly bring somebody else out.
And so in the context of that situation, I was wondering what your thoughts were.
MS. PEREZ: Well, first of all, I'm going to assume that the premise of your comment is not that it's best to have someone who's not performing--
COMMISSIONER MILLER: No, absolutely not. But it's that sense that's out there among our management layer that, one, you can't fire--you can't discipline anybody in the Federal Government and, two, the context of everything is viewed through the lens of a hiring freeze.
MS. PEREZ: I think there are two separate issues, if I may suggest, and I think in dealing--in talking and working with your management, I think it's extremely important to keep them as such.
The performance management area and the comments and the sense that we can't address inefficiencies in performance in the government I think is sad, and I think that it is not necessarily accurate. I think that it is difficult in government, and in general, to deal with individuals who we feel are not necessarily contributing to the success of the organization.
But I think the problem sometimes lies in the fact that I don't think that sometimes we're as effective in managing our organization as we need to be. And I alluded to this in my initial comments, that I think it's extremely important that we articulate what the expectations are and then hold our employees accountable to that.
Now, the failure to hold employees accountable, even if it's a lengthy process--and when you're talking about people's careers, it should be a lengthy process. We should not be able to just take somebody and say, well, you know, we don't think--today you're not good, and address them--and fire them. I think we should take our time to work with them and to help them understand what the expectations are and address any inefficiencies.
But I think it is doable. I think sometimes our managers fail to leverage the performance management system in a way that helps them communicate with employees and laid-out expectations.
Is it easy to do? No, and I think probably all three of us, Max and Clay and I, would tell you that--and I know you know this--that organizational changes are going to be difficult and dealing with bad performance is problematic in any organization. But if you review the responses in a recently administered federal human capital survey, when we asked our employees, are employees being held accountable for their contributions or failure to perform in the organization, 30 percent, only 30 percent of our employees--that means 70 percent of our employees feel that we're not creating the kinds of work environments where people are held accountable. And that has--that's a problem for the employee that you're not holding accountable. That's a problem for the employees that are working next to those, and overall you're creating an environment that I know you know diminishes the overall effectiveness of the agency.
Is it easy to do? No. If you have a looming issue with the fact that you're not able to hire or bring new people into the organization, that's problematic. But maintaining an environment that is inefficient with bad performers I think creates even a more problematic--a bigger problem for you.
COMMISSIONER MILLER: Thank you.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Madam Vice Chair?
VICE CHAIR EARP: I think that I'm pretty clear about the strategic guidance and support that we could get from OPM as we work through this change, but from a tactical perspective, is OPM available free of charge--
VICE CHAIR EARP: --to assist us with more practical aspects, for example, job evaluation and redrafting position descriptions or desk audits where necessary or those real practical pieces of a strategic plan that would encompass the human resource element?
MS. PEREZ: Well, I'm from the government and I'm here to help and, you know, I--
MS. PEREZ: I mean that. OPM is ready and stands ready to help you. I think the real value for an organization when it's going through its transformation is to make sure that you're leading a lot of those changes and looking at your organization with your own staff, and certainly we'll partner with your office of human resources to make sure that we're providing whatever assistance you have.
And, in fact, in my prepared comments which I submitted to the Commission, I mentioned this. We now have a new structure within OPM that is actually addressing the needs of smaller agencies. And Dave Amaral, who's the senior executive in that group, is here with me today so that he could listen to the concerns of the Commission. And we will support you in whatever way we can. I don't know about the free of charge.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Commissioner Silverman?
COMMISSIONER SILVERMAN: Are there any other small enforcement agencies that we can look to that are a little bit ahead of us in the process? It's always good to learn from other people's successes and mistakes. Or are we sort of charting our own course out here?
MS. PEREZ: Well, I think that each organization has its own idiosyncrasies and missions and authorities that make them slightly different. OPM has a compliance function within there. We just recently went--are going, really, through our own reorganization and restructuring and eliminating the stove pipes and bringing new leadership into the organization. And we have a very strong compliance effort, but operate under a different authority.
It really varies out there in terms of how agencies are going about it and what--is there an agency, another organization like the Commission that is undergoing or contemplating the kinds of things that you're going through? One does not come to mind in terms of the significant changes or even the structure within the 51 field offices that you currently have. So I think that in some instances you probably are creating your own--charting your own new course, and I think that's probably an exciting place to be as well because that means nobody can say, well, you didn't do it as well as...
COMMISSIONER SILVERMAN: Thank you.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Any other questions?
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Okay. Thank you very much.
MS. PEREZ: Thank you.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Let me now invite our Panel 2 members: Al Ressler, the Director of the Center for Human Resource Management at the National Academy for Public Administration; Edison Elkins of EEOC, who will provide an analysis of the NAPA study and feedback from EEOC's field and headquarters staff, as well as a demographic analysis; and the Inspector General for EEOC, Aletha Brown, who will be discussing the findings of a report entitled "Reducing Infrastructure Costs Through Increased Use of Telework," a project undertaken by her office.
Welcome to all of you. Mr. Ressler?
MR. RESSLER: Thank you very much. Madam Chair, Madam Vice Chair, Commissioner Miller, Commissioner Silverman, good morning. I'm Al Ressler, the Director of the Center for Human Resources Management at the National Academy of Public Administration. I'm sitting in for Mrs. Singleton McAllister, a fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration, who is the Chair of the Academy Panel that studied the Commission's organization and structure. She was scheduled to make this presentation, but an emergency over the weekend had required her to be out of town today. So I am pleased to have this opportunity to address the Commission on the critical topic of EEOC's organizational structure.
The National Academy of Public Administration is an independent nonprofit organization chartered by Congress to provide trusted advice, advice that is objective, timely, actionable, and is intended to improve governance at all levels, local, regional, state, national, as well as international.
The Academy's membership of more than 500 fellows includes public managers, scholars, business executives, labor leaders, current and former Cabinet officials, members of Congress, governors, mayors, state legislators, as well as diplomats. Since its establishment in 1967, the Academy has assisted hundreds of federal agencies, congressional committees, state and local governments, civic organizations, and institutions overseas through problem-solving, objective research, rigorous analysis, information sharing, developing strategies for change, and connecting people and ideas.
It was a great pleasure at the Academy to have the opportunity to review the organization and structure of the nation's premier civil rights enforcement agency. The Academy's project team conducted structured interviews with 60 individuals or groups in both the headquarters and field offices. We visited a sample of district, area, and local EEOC offices and interviewed representatives of a number of stakeholder organizations, as well as community representatives.
My remarks today reflect the panel's significant findings and recommendations that were included in a comprehensive report that was completed and submitted to you earlier this year.
The panel's fundamental conclusion is that EEOC's structure, which was designed for the 20th century programs and technology, does not permit it to meet all aspects of its current mission, which now emphasizes prevention and mediation in addition to enforcement, or to take maximum advantage of technology advances that have occurred.
Despite beneficial streamlining of processes that have already been introduced, changes are not sufficient to align EEOC's structure and work flow with its budget and broadened mission, which is to prevent and eradicate employment discrimination and enforce civil rights.
The Commission needs more fundamental change to enable it to provide its diverse, far-ranging customers with a level and quality of services that they need and deserve.
In its written report to EEOC, the Academy Panel made a series of recommendations to address a number of inter-related issues, to include: the organization structure, budget realignment, technology, human capital management, and performance management. The Academy Panel believes these changes are necessary to help lower costs, improve organizational and individual performance levels, and meet the challenges facing the Commission.
Our recommendations address five major areas: aligning mission and function; harnessing technology to achieve the mission; making the best use of EEOC's workforce; performance-based management; and implementation strategies for organizational transformation.
Because my time today is limited and the Academy's recommendations total over 50, I will restrict comments to key issues in each of the five previously mentioned areas. The other findings and recommendations of the Academy Panel are contained in the final report which you released in March of this year.
Aligning mission and functions. The Academy concluded that the EEOC structure of widespread field offices and a headquarters office of field programs that guides policy implementation and program focus for most work done in the field has worked reasonably well for the past 35 years. However, this approach was more appropriate when most business was done face-to-face and paper-based methods were the only means available for processing complaints and interacting with respondents or communicating with federal agencies. It was also designed when most headquarters and field functions were geared toward enforcement.
Today, the EEOC emphasizes prevention and mediation to a much larger degree than it previously did. The panel believes the highest priority recommendation in the area of aligning mission and function are those that address the following: establishing a nationwide toll-free national call center, staffed by individuals who have been thoroughly trained in responding to questions about EEOC's mission and services, and who are capable of taking charges over the phone; realigning the agency's field structure to reduce the number of physical locations. The panel believes that the EEOC should establish a network of lead offices in areas with high workload levels. Lead offices might have satellite offices and perhaps a mobile unit that could travel to areas not in proximity to those EEO lead offices.
Initial implementation should begin with pilots of this combination of place-based mobile and remote services so that the EEOC can develop a test service to customers' infrastructure support, management checks and balances, revised work processes, and supporting human resource systems for recruitment, training, and performance assessment as well as other components.
The Academy Panel recommends that EEOC consolidate most administrative support functions, leaving in each major office one highly skilled, fully trained administrative staff member to provide those services that must be performed on site and coordinate those that are performed at another location. Additionally, we recommend that the EEOC develop the costs and benefits of alternative modes of delivery of administrative services, such as establishing full servicing agreements with other departments, potentially the Department of Interior, Department of Transportation, that provide those services to other governmental activities, instituting additional cross-servicing agreements with other federal organizations, or outsourcing administrative functions, possibly to the private sector.
EEOC's restructuring should not be limited to the field. EEOC needs to have clear organizational distinctions between private sector enforcement and other functions such as mediation, outreach prevention, and technical assistance. As an organization that has made major changes in work methods in the past decade, EEOC needs to consider whether its program direction and implementation functions need to be more separate than they are today. The Academy Panel recommends that EEOC establish more distinct focuses of accountability at the headquarters level for prevention and technical assistance, enforcement and mediation.
Our written report provides specific examples of organizational designs that may be useful to you as you consider alternative approaches.
Harnessing technology to achieve the mission. EEOC has established funding priorities to use technology to increase agency productivity and make information more easily available to its employees, its customers, and its stakeholders. Although EEOC has focused on developing its technological resources, there is still more work that can be done to use IT capability to meet the mission.
In the short term, the Commission will benefit from enhancing its analytical capabilities and addressing operational technology needs. Specifically, the panel recommends that EEOC enhance its analytical capabilities by acquiring software that will allow it to access and analyze data from multiple systems to improve its strategic decision making.
To become more strategic in its information use, the agency must be able to assess its data across technology systems. For example, EEOC must be able to assess its workload statistics against workforce data.
The panel concluded that top priority should be on balancing technology with customer service, creating the tools needed to make the workforce more mobile, and expanding the Commission's telework resources. The panel recommends that secure technology tools for electronic filing be designed so that customer service is user-friendly, staff routinely follows up on internet-filed charges with phone or in-person interviews, and information is provided to those whose queries or submissions do not involve employment discrimination.
Managing the use of the EEOC's workforce. In any organization, human capital strategies must be directly linked to organization mission, goals, and objectives. Given the breadth of the panel's recommended restructuring, staff realignment is essential. However, before it begins realignment, the Commission needs to have its leadership structure in place and its comprehensive workforce planning methodology underway. These should be the Commission's top priorities as it develops its strategic human capital plan, staff realignment, leadership structure, and workforce planning methodology.
All EEOC executives, managers, and the staff that the Academy's study team interviewed were dedicated to eradicating employment discrimination, most even passionate about it. However, there is no well-understood model of what successful leadership looks like in the organization, nor is there an established approach to developing strong managers and effective leaders. The Academy Panel recommends that the EEOC build a model of leadership that integrates achieving results, leveraging resources, maintaining accountability, and improving the organizational culture.
Performance-based management. EEOC has done a great deal to assess and improve its operations, such as the charge--excuse me. We have a bit of a logistical problem that we'll take care of.
MR. RESSLER: My notes will easily soak it up.
Performance-based management. EEOC has done a great deal to assess and improve its operations, such as its Charge Handling Task Force review that led to the priority charge-handling process and its review to best EEO practices of private sector employees. As EEOC processes charges of discrimination faster, its work may have made more of a difference in the lives of the charging parties. It is harder to document the Commission's impact on reducing discrimination overall.
The panel recommends that EEOC develop methods to demonstrate the impact its work has on reducing employment discrimination in the workplace. This would be a multi-phased process and would require extensive coordination.
Implementing strategies for organizational transformation. Organizational transformation demands leadership and the involvement of all organization stakeholders, political, career leaders, managers, supervisors, individual employees, unions, and interest groups, as well as the OPM, OMB, and congressional committees, and staff who provide oversight and assistance. With the commitment and involvement of these individuals and groups, the agency will have a powerful coalition of supporters who can assist its transformation and modernization efforts. The Academy recommends that the EEOC develop an implementation strategy and detailed implementation plan for changes it decides to make to use the plan to manage the implementation process.
That concludes our remarks from the National Academy. We thank you for the opportunity to share our perspectives and elaborate on our recommendations.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Thank you very much, Mr. Ressler.
We will hear from our other two panel members, and then we'll open it up for questions from the Commissioners. Mr. Elkins?
MR. ELKINS: Madam Chair, Madam Vice Chair, Commissioners, esteemed colleagues from the International Association of Official Human Rights Agencies, other distinguished guests, and EEOC colleagues. I am Edison Elkins and I serve as Senior Advisor to the Chair of EEOC. I'm going to take a few minutes and talk about the NAPA report and what we have done since receiving it. All employees were given the opportunity to provide suggestions to the NAPA Panel during its study of EEOC and to comment on the report after it was issued. Approximately 200 comments and suggestions on the NAPA report were received from agency employees. The District Directors sent joint comments, as did the Regional Attorneys. In addition, a number of Directors and Regional Attorneys sent individual comments. In several instances, comments were provided on behalf of all the employees in the office.
We also received lengthy discussions and comments from the local and national leadership of the agency's bargaining unit.
The NAPA report was made available to a number of organizations with an interest in the work of the EEOC. Further, it has been available on NAPA's website since it was issued in February of this year.
The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, which is a coalition of 180 national organizations and is represented here today, provided extensive comments. In May of this year, District Directors and Regional Attorneys were asked to develop and submit joint plans for improving operational efficiency and delivery of services within their jurisdictions and agency wide.
There were common suggestions and themes for improving operations in both the office plans and the comments receives in response to the NAPA report.
Among them: reducing staff costs through a
variety of means, including the use of buyouts, leave without pay, eliminating management positions, reducing the supervisory/employee ratio, consolidating or streamlining administrative staff, and the use of part-time personnel and non-paid interns; reducing the level of management in review of work products; making strategic decisions about which vacancies to fill and reassessing current SES and GS-15 allocations; reducing mediation costs by using in-house mediators and increasing the use of pro bono mediators; establishing national contracts for supplies, copying services for file disclosure, taking depositions, and court reporting services; improving service delivery to the public by expanding the agency's presence to underserved populations in geographical areas; hiring additional bilingual staff to strengthen service to populations not fluent in English; making jurisdictional changes to give persons wishing to file charges access to the closest EEOC office; improving the agency's financial management and addressing the continuing problem of inadequate funding; improving the agency's technology and information systems; reconfiguring headquarters to better support the field, reducing it in size and redeploying employees to field offices; improving training for all employees; improving the agency's performance management and employee award systems; addressing poor performance by employees; and developing specific criteria in making decisions about offices; and not using charge intake as the only criteria.
In the district office plans, there were proposals for reducing rental costs for 28 district, area, and local offices, either by relocating the offices to lower-rent areas or reducing office space in the current locations. Where savings were estimated after the initial expense of moving or reconfiguring the space, the estimated savings ranged from $30,000 per year for one office to $300,000 for another.
In its report, NAPA recommended a number of factors that EEOC should consider in making decisions about the agency's structure, including population demographics, charge-filing patterns, and the presence of Fair Employment Practices Agencies.
I have been asked to discuss these three factors this morning, but first I would like to provide a bit of historical perspective. The last major review of and change to the agency's structure took place in the late 1970s. While EEOC was reorganizing, people were reading "I'm OK-You're OK," "Roots," and "If Life Is a Bowl of Cherries, What Am I Doing in the Pits?" "Star Wars" and "Superman" were blockbuster movies of this era. Elvis Presley supposedly gave his last live performance in 1977, and "Annie Hall" won the Oscar for Best Picture of that year.
In 1978, a new car could be bought for less than $5,000. Gas was 77 cents a gallon, and a first-class stamp cost 15 cents. Also in that year, in a move for gender equality, the Commerce Department announced that hurricanes would no longer be given only female names.
In 1979, a group called the Village People recorded a song named "YMCA," and the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant suffered a partial meltdown. There was no cause and effect, but they both happened the same year.
Baltimore and Cleveland were considered major cities. Las Vegas was a town of 165,000 people. Today it is the center of the fastest-growing metropolitan area in the country, with more than 1.5 million people.
In the 1970s and 1980s, EEOC had absolutely some of the worst office space, both in Washington and in the field, of any federal agency, almost always located in unsafe and undesirable areas, buildings with elevators and heating and cooling systems that didn't work, mildew, rats, and at headquarters, carbon monoxide from the underground garage seeping into the air system. And these offices were furnished with broken and decrepit furniture, often cast-offs from other agencies.
EEOC started the 1980s with its new structure and a backlog of 63,000 cases. It took in 56,000 new charges in 1980.
Much has changed since that time. All of our offices are now located in safe, clean, and decent buildings. In 1980, the total population was 227 million, 54 million less than in 2000.
There were more than 2.5 million people employed in the U.S. steel industry. Now there are less than 1 million. There have been similar or even more dramatic declines in other manufacturing jobs, particularly textiles and apparel.
Increases in jobs have come in EEO-1 job groups of sales and service workers and professionals, each category gaining more than 2 million workers since 1990. There was a decline in craft workers and operatives in the same time period.
The population of the United States increased by 33 million persons between 1990 and 2000. Of that increase, 10 million were immigrants. There were 26 states that had populations of 4 million or more. The largest population growth occurred in the South and West. The South remains the nation's most populous region. Three states--California, Texas, and Florida--each had more growth than the entire Northeast. With a national rate of 12 percent, civilian job growth for the most part paralleled population growth, with the Northeastern States having the lowest growth rate.
Forty percent of the total population lives in the 15 largest metropolitan areas, all of which have EEOC offices. Of the ten largest cities and six Sun Belt cities, New York and Chicago gained population. Philadelphia and Detroit lost population.
The median age of the U.S. population in 2000 was 35.3, the highest it has ever been. By 2008, the media age is projected to be 40.7, with more than half of all workers in the U.S. covered by the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. California and Texas accounted for 24 percent of all ADEA charges filed the past three years.
Women are an increasingly important part of the labor force. In 1971, 43 percent of all women of working age were in the labor force compared with 60 percent in 2002.
In the 2000 census, almost 12 percent of non-institutionalized persons aged 16 to 64 years answered yes when asked if they had difficulty working at a job or business because of a physical, mental, or emotional condition lasting six months or more.
Minorities constitute 30.9 percent of the population. This population is generally concentrated in the coastal and Sun Belt areas and Illinois.
Fifty-four percent of African Americans live in the South, which also has the highest proportion of African Americans in its total population, 20 percent.
The most dramatic change in the minority population was the 58-percent growth in the Hispanic population, the largest increase of any ethnic or racial group. Approximately one in eight people in the United States is of Hispanic origin; 11 percent of the total population speaks Spanish at home. The states where Hispanics constitute 10 percent or more of the total population are New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Florida, and the Southwestern States from Texas to California. However, the fastest growth in Hispanic population is occurring in non-traditional states in the South, Midwest, and Northwest, with North Carolina alone having an increase of almost 400 percent since the last census.
There was more than 100-percent growth in EEO-1 Hispanic employment between 1990 and 2002. The job growth has been greatest in four groups: service workers, laborers, sales workers, and operatives.
The estimated foreign-born population of the United States in March 2000 was 28 million, or more than 10 percent of the total population. One-half of these residents came from Latin America and one-fourth from Asia.
Over 50 percent of the residents of the Miami metropolitan area are foreign-born, as are one-third or more of the residents of the Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco metropolitan areas.
Total federal civilian employment in 2000 was 2.8 million. California had the most federal employees and Delaware the least.
One last demographic note. The unemployment rates for Hispanics and African Americans remain much higher than those for whites and Asians.
There are 28 states which averaged a thousand or more EEOC charges for the past three years. Texas had the most charges, followed by California, Illinois, Florida, and Georgia. For the past ten years, 1993 through 2002, EEOC has averaged 82,000 charges a year. Comparing the first three years of the decade with the last three years, we find an average difference of almost 6,000 fewer charges in FY2000 through 2002, with a wide variation between states, with some states gaining receipts and some losing.
The states in green on our maps are states that had an increase in the number of charges, while the states in blue had a decrease. The darker the blue, the greater the decrease.
During the same period, total FEPA charges tracked by EEOC declined 5.4 percent, with many states declining both in EEOC and FEPA receipts. But in a few states, there were counter-balancing declines and increases. There are many factors that may have contributed to the overall decline in charge receipts, including better counseling and screening at intake.
Today, because of shifts in workload and not being able to fill vacancies as they occur or to pay to move employees to other offices, we find ourselves with an uneven distribution of resources between field offices and widely varying workloads and productivity per investigator and attorney. One office has an annual workload of 168 cases per investigator, and one office has 64. The national average is 105 per investigator.
Average resolutions of cases per investigator range from a low of 74 to a high of 152, more than twice as many, with a national average of 106. There are also disparities among our legal units. One district has a charge workload of 2,000 cases a year and a litigation workload of 23 cases in 2002. It is staffed with seven trial attorneys. Another district also with seven trial attorneys has a charge workload of 3,000 charges and a litigation workload of 35 cases in 2002. Clearly, we must address these imbalances.
The changes I have described this morning present the agency with both challenges and opportunities to serve an increasingly diverse population and workforce. There have been many suggestions for improving the structure and operations of the agency. The challenge is how to best position the EEOC with its limited resources so that it is accessible to all persons who need our services.
That concludes my presentation. Thank you.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Thank you, Mr. Elkins.
We'll now hear from our Inspector General, Ms. Aletha Brown.
MS. BROWN: Hi, good morning. Good morning, Madam Chair, Madam Vice Chair, Commissioners, General Counsel, fellow EEOC employees, and guests. Thanks for the opportunity to discuss with you today OIG's report on reducing costs through telework.
On January 8th, the Office of Inspector General issued a report which is based on the analysis of four EEOC field offices. Our primary objective was to determine whether EEOC can save on infrastructure costs and achieve other benefits through extensive use of telework, while sustaining or improving mission performance. We define "infrastructure" as the non-personnel items that EEOC needs to operate, specifically real estate, telecommunications, information technology, workstations, furniture, and items such as printers. We define "frequent telework" as a situation whereby an employee works away from the central office two or more days a week.
We chose to assess Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, and Washington field because they show strong potential cost-savings characteristics such as existing telework program, many staff, high rent costs, and difficult commuting environments. We used various data-gathering analysis techniques including interviews with key EEOC staff and telework experts. We've used focus groups of supervisors, investigators, administrative judges, trial attorneys, and mediators.
We surveyed staff at all four of the offices, which covered their demographics and their telework schedule and opinions about interest in frequent telework. We developed the cost model, and that cost model accounts for major costs and savings associated with implementing and maintaining a frequent telework program. This study didn't include any analysis of locations other than the four offices we visited, a workload analysis to determine whether staffing levels are adequate or real estate savings that could be achieved through means other than frequent telework, such as office closure or relocation. Nor did the study recommend mandatory frequent telework for agency employees; rather, it provided a model that allows for both maximum and minimum savings based upon various levels of employee participation in a frequent telework program in the four field offices.
The cost model showed savings that are substantial for the two offices in leased federal space, that is, Dallas and Los Angeles, and for the two offices in commercial space, Washington and Miami. Study results using two models show the optimum model based on 85-percent participation of staff we found to be most suitable for telework, and this resulted in a net cumulative savings of about $1.3 million.
Annual net savings are strongly negative in the first year due to start-up costs. In the second through fifth years, savings are substantial and steady and will continue to accrue beyond five years. The survey model using the 57-percent participation rate obtained through the employee surveys in the four field offices resulted in $700,000 in savings. To achieve the cost savings identified in both models, staff would telework two or more days per week, allowing more efficient use of central office space through sharing arrangements. Office sharing would result in reduced space needs that would lead to lower costs for real estate, producing savings that are substantially higher than the cost to set up and maintain a frequent telework program.
Certain critical factors affect whether frequent telework will allow an office to maintain or improve performance. These are suitability of position or staff member for frequent telework, equipment and related needs, and staff and managers' attitudes toward frequent telework. We found that much of the work that's done in the EEOC field offices is well suited for frequent telework. Well-suited tasks include work which requires concentration and large blocks of uninterrupted independent time, work that has well-defined beginning and end points, that is portable, that can be done with limited, unplanned, face-to-face communication and minimal supervision, and work where the need for specialized material or equipment is minimal.
Those positions we identified as best suited are: administrative judges, investigators, mediators, and trial attorneys. Staff from each of these groups performed many other tasks that are successfully performed by teleworkers in public and private sector employment.
To ensure successful telework, employees need adequate equipment and supplies. Based on our interviews with telework experts and with field office staff who telework, these things are computers with standard EEOC software, capability for good quality faxing, copying, and printing, Internet service, EEOC e-mail access, separate phone lines for business, long-distance service, telework training, storage, and also workstation, adequate space, and equipment in the central office.
We calculated the cost to implement a frequent telework program, which includes the information technology, telecommunications facility, real estate cost, and training for years 2003 to 2007 at $1.7 million. The cost model was built on the office-sharing assumption rather than other different space configurations. Each frequent teleworker would share an office but not a desk with another frequent teleworker. Schedule coordination would generally assure that each office had only one occupant per day on most days.
Staff and managers' attitudes are critical for success and also provide information to base training on before implementing a frequent telework program. Many managers, supervisors, and staff in the offices we visited see substantial benefits for frequent telework that include increased ability to focus on certain tasks, improved quality of life, financial gains, increased productivity, and reduced stress. However, many managers are also skeptical about staff and the office as a whole meeting the needs of customers and stakeholders in a frequent telework environment. Staff, managers, and supervisors share concerns for ensuring that EEOC conducts business efficiently if greater telework is implemented.
Some staff also have concerns regarding office space, collegiality, and the management of a frequent telework program. Some staff in focus groups strongly identified with the concept of an individual office with themselves as the only occupant, regardless of how often the office would be occupied. The viewpoint was strongly expressed by several trial attorneys and administrative judges. Also, a number of comments received on OIG's widely circulated draft report echoed the view by trial attorneys.
We concluded that EEOC's escalating real estate costs illustrate the importance of focusing on ways to more effectively manage its infrastructure. We maintain that major cost savings can be achieved in each of the offices we visited, beginning in the second year of frequent telework. Major cumulative savings begin in the third year, and savings are maximized through the optimum model.
If savings estimated in the cost model could be applied at all EEOC district offices, savings would be substantial, and average about 10 percent of real estate costs for those offices over a five-year period.
Finally, with adequate telework training for all employees, reliable equipment, and attention to office layout, the success of a frequent telework program is probable, and enhanced productivity and morale is likely. Our recommendation was to implement or consider implementation of a pilot frequent telework effort to achieve cost savings in the Dallas, Miami, Los Angeles, and Washington field offices.
We caution that due to start-up costs of frequent telework and the financial advantages of beginning frequent telework near lease expiration, piloting in all district offices in the near term would not be prudent.
As for current work, OIG is studying EEOC headquarters to identify potential infrastructure cost savings and benefits of frequent telework on productivity, performance, and customer service. Our final report is expected around the beginning of calendar year 2004.
Also, a six-month OIG frequent telework pilot begins this month. The pilot will implement many key aspects of the telework model developed during our field study, thereby testing our assumptions and providing an opportunity to gain insights that may assist EEOC in assessing frequent telework.
Thank you. That concludes my remarks.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Thank you very much, Inspector General Brown, and all of the panel members, for your prepared remarks. We'll have a brief question-and-answer period.
Let me start with Mr. Ressler. You mention in your report, and certainly it was well developed in the broader context of your remarks, comments about lead centers or lead offices. And there has been a lot of confusion around that recommendation, whether that, in fact, if there are 10 or 11 lead offices, is there an inference that--does that mean that the 41 other offices are going to disappear?
I just wanted to give you an opportunity to respond to that and get your perspective on what NAPA meant by lead offices.
MR. RESSLER: After we released the report, we believe there was some misinterpretation about what NAPA's recommendation really was. The misinterpretation came that we were suggesting that there would be 10 offices and 41 offices would be abolished, and that was not the case at all. Our suggestion and recommendation was that there would be 10 lead offices and there would be similarly linked smaller offices to those lead offices, a different configuration than what exists today. Just how many would have to be determined based on that workload and the demographics that Mr. Elkins referred to.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Thank you.
Mr. Elkins, you gave a lot of demographic data and all kinds of trends and charge activity. What does it all mean? What's the upshot of all this?
MR. ELKINS: There are a few things that sort of jump out immediately, and one is that we have to have more multilingual staff and greater capabilities. But I think what it really means is that we have to closely examine the way we do business--where we have our offices, who the people are that we serve, how do they access our services, what alternatives can we provide for them to have greater accessibility to our services, and how we can reach more people.
There are areas that have rapidly growing populations that we don't have much of a presence in, and we have to figure out how to expand our presence and outreach to these areas. I'm thinking of areas such as the Rocky Mountain States and the coastal areas of the Gulf States and the Carolinas. I think this gives us an opportunity to sit down and look at how we do business and how we can best reach the maximum number of people.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: I appreciated that historical perspective you shared with us back in the 1970s.
MR. ELKINS: "Annie Hall" was on TV last night.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Thank you.
Inspector General Brown, clearly you've made a very strong case for the savings and the flexibility that we could carry out if we integrated telework more directly into our daily operations. How do you factor in culture? How do you factor in the fact that, you know, we're all human creatures, used to habit, we're used to coming to work, dressing up. How can the Commission transition--and I know it's a very difficult question, but how do you transition a workforce that has been conditioned to operating in a certain way with all of these new opportunities that we now have to become more cost-efficient and more effective?
MS. BROWN: I think the short answer to that would be a good strong training program, change management training, and training in telework for managers, supervisors, and staff, because it's now about looking at how to manage your employees through their performance, through their outcomes, as opposed to being right in their space and looking and seeing what they're doing.
So it's a simple matter--which is not that simple. It's costly. It's an investment. But we included the cost of investing in a strong training program to prepare the agency to transition into a frequent telework environment.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Thank you.
Madam Vice Chair?
VICE CHAIR EARP: Mr. Ressler, we had a banner year last year. Federal complaints are down. FEPA charges are down. The Commission's charges are down. We've had a greater outreach program than ever before. And I'm just wondering, in that environment, given how well we were doing in terms of output, what was NAPA's charge? When you evaluated us, what exactly were you looking for? Cost savings? Efficiencies? Some combination?
MR. RESSLER: We were very specifically looking at your organization structure and looking at your human capital management plan and how best to implement that across the agency and how to deal with the programmatic components that you still had in place, as well as being able to absorb what were the increases in the mission or the expansions of the mission of mediation and of prevention, other than just enforcement. And so that was our beginning process, and I think as we began that examination, we found that we could speak to other topics as well, which was the length of the report, which added to the size and the complexity of it. But our fundamental charge was your organization structure and your human capital management plan.
VICE CHAIR EARP: Okay. Because headquarters, Puerto Rico, and New York take up a large percentage of our resources. Just on the question of cost savings, do you have any thoughts on our perhaps looking at those areas first or after we put our comprehensive plan together? Because they are such a large chunk, where would they figure in the overall strategy?
MR. RESSLER: I think I would work the plan first, and I don't think I would take on the New York, Puerto Rico as my first activity in the implementation of the plan. I would find a medium-sized organization where you could learn from an application of whatever the plan was about from a restructuring standpoint, and then I would move into the harder--I would not take the most difficult challenging activity first. I wouldn't take the easiest, either. I would find something in the middle to test what it is that you have in your plan from an implementation standpoint.
VICE CHAIR EARP: Okay. Thank you.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Commissioner Silverman?
COMMISSIONER SILVERMAN: Probably the most controversial of NAPA's recommendations was the 10 lead offices, as the Chair alluded to. And you said that one of the reasons that NAPA went forward was the additional activity we have of prevention. Of course, we've always had prevention. We're making a better effort at that.
But what we're hearing a lot from both our stakeholders and our employees within is that our presence in a community, an office in the community, has links and ties to the community, and that if we were to restructure and take out an office or only have a small presence, say, investigators there, that we would lose that relationship. And I was wondering if NAPA had factored that in and how you thought we could make up for that.
MR. RESSLER: There is a downside to that initially. I think over time you overcome that by changing the model and giving responsiveness to your customer base through other means--the call center, the mobile unit, et cetera.
Also, I think in looking at the size of the field offices, what we were concerned about was the presence of additional infrastructure in all of the individual offices, and that the thought would be to keep a functional presence only but not an infrastructure support presence because of the way we can deliver administrative services from a nationwide basis, that we would centralize those administrative services in the 10 lead offices, for example, and then deliver that support infrastructure to those linked activities or those linked satellite offices, a much smaller footprint but still not a lack of presence of the EEOC in the communities where it's necessary to maintain that presence.
COMMISSIONER SILVERMAN: Mr. Elkins, the Americans with Disabilities Act is a comprehensive statute, and it's relatively young, and it certainly wasn't around in the 1970s. How does the ADA, which now accounts for 25 percent of our workload, factor into any plans for restructuring?
MR. ELKINS: I should have said, in the late 1970s, very few of our offices were accessible. And all of our offices are now accessible. But I think we also have to consider accessibility in terms of more than just a physical presence, our offices. We have to think of other ways of having people reach out to us and us to reach out to them. Obviously, it's got to be a big factor in where we locate our offices and how we structure them.
COMMISSIONER SILVERMAN: Because I suspect disabled people are everywhere, so--
MR. ELKINS: Absolutely. Every state--
COMMISSIONER SILVERMAN: They have harder barriers to get to us.
MR. ELKINS: Right.
COMMISSIONER SILVERMAN: So we certainly have to factor that in.
Ms. Inspector General, as a result of the events of September 11th, our New York office was forced to utilize teleworking for quite a long period of time. And I think that--I would think that that experience would provide us with a better understanding of how telework would affect our field offices.
Has your office spent any time looking into the New York experience? And if so, what did you learn from that? And will some jobs lend themselves better than others?
MS. BROWN: I personally went to New York with my deputy, and we spent some time with the New York staff. And their views were included in some of our findings.
First off, they were forced into the situation, so it was a little bit different for them. But what we found based on our interviews with staff, there were a good number that found that they could work and work well away from a central office place. Their bigger issue at the time was being in the unsuitable office space that they had. But we learned from them some of the things that people--most of the things that staff need to have if they're going to be working away from central office space.
They helped us pull together or verify what we had gotten from experts in terms of the kinds of equipment and the kinds of supplies and things that they need. We talked with representatives of every work group. Those that were less suitable were the ones that had to rely a lot on what they do in the central office place, like the administrative staff. They didn't telework much at all. But mediators and attorneys, those people teleworked, and most had good experiences doing it.
COMMISSIONER SILVERMAN: Thank you.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Commissioner Miller?
COMMISSIONER MILLER: Thank you. This is certainly sort of a chunky panel in terms of substance, not in terms of individuals.
COMMISSIONER MILLER: You've covered a lot, and so let me begin to wade into it.
Mr. Ressler, one of the things that you've said both in the comments and in the report and so on, I want to sort of unpack a little bit. In terms of sort of--I think you said something about, you know, sort of to meet all aspects, changing--you know, that our mission has changed, which now emphasizes prevention and mediation. And let me lay out for you sort of an alternative assumption there.
Coming from the individual who chaired the Mediation Task Force and sort of helped give birth to what at that time was somewhat of a controversial issue, mediation and prevention, I believe, are means through--means to achieve in part our mission of enforcement; that is, mediation is not an end in and of itself, nor is prevention an end in and of itself. Our mission, as I see it, is to reduce and prevent discrimination, and that can occur in any number of ways, through litigation primarily, because I think that that is an important piece of how we respond to discrimination that we find; conciliation; and then also through mediation and sort of outreach as a part of that.
So I don't see those kinds of issues as really a shift in our mission, but those things have always been there in sort of one way or the other. And so, therefore, I'm approaching the structural reorganization in terms of how is this ultimately going to benefit our enforcement activities, because at our core, unlike other sort of DOL agencies or what have you, at our core I think we're an enforcement agency. People come to us, complain of violations of the law, and have an expectation that we as a law enforcement agency, we respond to those complaints of violations of law through investigations and so on and so forth. And so that's sort of my sort of overall approach to how I begin to look at the issue of restructuring.
I think that we do have a challenge of saving money and fiscal responsibility, and our challenge is to figure out what we do with our sort of far-flung, so to speak, office structure, although employees are working everywhere, and that in the impact of face-to-face investigations, face-to-face sort of intake, I think is absolutely critical. And we've seen that in the comments coming not just from the civil rights community but, importantly, from the business and management community as an important piece of how our work gets to be done, and the quality of our investigations and the quality of our work has improved because the quality of our intake has sort of improved. And that occurs not through letter writing or not through Internet but through face-to-face investigations.
In looking at offices, you mentioned sort of charge flow as one thing that you're sort of looking at and figuring out, which offices to sort of think about in terms of lead offices and other lead offices. Is that the only thing or is that the most important thing in your estimation of analyzing lead offices?
MR. RESSLER: I don't think it's the only thing, but I believe it was the belief of the study team that it was probably the most important--for an initial determination, anyway.
COMMISSIONER MILLER: And so, therefore, the issue of that one way--because I think the challenge that we have as a Commission is sort of thinking--you know, is figuring out what to do. And so one way or the way that you're recommending that we at least begin to sift through our office structure is to examine the charge flow. So those offices that have the highest charge flow become lead offices, and those with less charge flow are not. Is that correct?
MR. RESSLER: I would start with that as my model, and I would test that model and apply it against some other options that you might come up with as you develop that.
We did not go into a level of detail as we examined what that lead office component could look like.
COMMISSIONER MILLER: That gets to my next question about implementation strategy that Mr. Johnson and the earlier panel had mentioned and really focused on having an overall goal and vision and picture of what the whole thing is going to look like, and then so that everybody is clear on that, we have a road map, so to speak, of how we go, and then we sort of march forward and everybody has shared expectations of where we're going.
You've talked about sort of piloting or taking a look at medium-size offices first and figuring out how that's going to play out. Is that--how does that jibe with sort of having an overall picture of this is what we believe the agency should look like in five years and here's how we march forward to it?
MR. RESSLER: I think it's consistent with that, Commissioner Miller, in that your strategic plan would be at a fairly high level with some important goals and objectives. Your tactical plan would speak to some examples that you would actually deploy, and you would have an operational piece to that as a third component, where you would put in motion those tactical plans and keeping it linked with the strategic plan.
COMMISSIONER MILLER: One of my colleagues I think raised the issue of headquarters. Was there a particular reason why in trying to sort of assume cost savings or greater efficiencies that you began your look out in the field where the charges are coming in rather than in the oversight functions of headquarters as ways of realizing efficiencies and savings?
MR. RESSLER: Commissioner, I don't know the answer to that question. I'd have to go back and do a little research and talk to some actual study team members. I was not on the study team, having only been at the Academy since March of this year. But I will get an answer to that question for you and submit it back in writing.
COMMISSIONER MILLER: Great. Thank you. Welcome to the Academy, by the way.
MR. RESSLER: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER MILLER: In terms of this sort of fiscal constraint or the fiscal reality, let's call it, that we're now sort of operating under, which I wholeheartedly understand and realize that it's my responsibility to deal with, is there sort of--from your perspective, as expert administrators, sort of a goal in mind for an agency like us in terms of, you know, what our real estate costs should look like, where we should be positioned vis-a-vis other agencies or in personnel costs, something that we should be approaching? Because my question, I guess, goes to how do we know that we've restructured enough? How do we know sort of when to stop in terms of--I mean, I think that there's a general sense that more offices may be better than less offices. So how do we know when we've restructured enough?
MR. RESSLER: I think what you have to do, sir, is you find some benchmarks that are out there with agencies that are similarly situated, that have similar missions, and you begin a dialogue with them about how the delivery of services goes in their particular business area.
I don't know if there is a right answer to many of the questions that we've posed or even some of the recommendations that we've suggested here. You have to kind of look at it, examine it, and do what feels right for the Commission. You've got a very specific culture in this agency. It's a longstanding culture. It's going to take three to five years to even begin to make inroads into the change of that culture.
What you have the ability to do, in our opinion, is to set in motion a lot of these changes and a lot of these recommendations that begin to bring some flexibilities, potentially, to the regional environment. Is the regional environment structure still the right one? Or do you do some different consolidation and some different configuration?
There are so many different things going on in government right now as organizations are being examined that it would be worthwhile and useful to take a look at some examples. And we'd be prepared to help with some of that as well.
COMMISSIONER MILLER: Thank you. I appreciate that, because I think that what's important and what I heard from the previous panel is that we have a plan and a vision in place and that we don't go about this sort of in a piecemeal fashion, either by way of how leases are--you know, because some leases are coming up, let's look at these kinds of issues, but to really have a full, thoughtful plan and then to implement that plan in some sort of rational basis so that everybody is clear on where we're going and what we're heading towards.
One of the things, by the way, in doing some of my preparation for this meeting is--in looking at some of our sister agencies, I mean, one of the things--and I'll come back maybe with some of the other speakers--is looking at some of our sister agencies, one of the things that we hear all the time about the EEOC is, well, 90 percent of our budget is consumed by rent and personnel costs, or 80 percent, or whatever, that we have very high rent and personnel costs.
Well, I looked at sort of if you looked at our sister agencies, whether it's the FCC--the FCC has a higher percentage of rent and personnel costs than we do, the same with some of our other enforcement sister agencies.
So I wonder, while that is a startling and a difficult fact for us to grapple with on a fiscal basis, I wonder whether that's just the nature of us as an enforcement agency, because we are not a grant-giving agency, we are not a programmatic agency. What we do is we have investigators and we have buildings which house them and so on.
So that was something that was challenging. I was wondering if you had any thoughts on that.
MR. RESSLER: Well, clearly, the desire of the Commission to be physically located with its customer base drives a lot of the costs associated with your real estate footprint and your infrastructure costs. There might be different ways to do that, and I think the report that we speak to has got some suggestions in there. The mobile van idea is just one. The circuit rider idea is just another. You know, is it important that you have a five-day operation eight hours a day in given locations? Or maybe do you have a two-day operation six hours a day in certain locations?
And so you can approach it differently than we have in the past in the traditional physical presence of a location delivering services.
COMMISSIONER MILLER: I appreciate that, and I welcome those suggestions. What is challenging to me is that what I see is happening out in the field, what goes on in the field, is basically not just intake coming in, but investigations and litigation. And that includes--and much of the success of this agency over the past ten years--because I think that everybody would agree, business or civil rights groups, or a union, for that matter, is that we're a much better agency today than we were ten years ago, and part of that is because investigators and attorneys are working better together and more collegially in groups rather than, I think as Marta might have said, siloing sort of investigators and then handing things over to lawyers. And that's, I think, a particular challenge, and my concern as I begin to think about our approaches forward is how do we preserve those kinds of relationships, that kind of team building, the investigations that requires people to sort of be there, work together, and litigate a case. I've litigated cases before, and it's very difficult to litigate a case sort of sitting by yourself. And that is, I think a challenge.
I want to move on to Mr. Elkins just for a moment and sort of pick up on something that the Chair sort of led off with, and maybe I would--I am not as gracious and articulate as she. But maybe--are all these factoids--does that basically mean that we should close offices in the Northeast and open more offices in the Sun Belt because there's more population growth and things? I'm still trying to get my head around what all of these different demographics means in terms of how we structure our offices.
MR. ELKINS: Right. I think that there's plenty of work in the Northeast, and it's declining in comparison with some of the other areas, but that doesn't mean that we pull up stakes and go elsewhere. I think we may--what it does suggest is that we look at allocation of resources.
COMMISSIONER MILLER: I mean, specifically in what way? What's on the table in front of us is offices. We've got 51 offices. We've got 24 or so, you know, field offices. We've got the map here, in addition, of all of our field offices and area offices. What does that mean we do?
MR. ELKINS: Well, it may mean that we open up some new offices. Las Vegas, for example.
COMMISSIONER MILLER: I've said that for many years, that we do that, because it is the fastest-growing community. But what does it do--what does it--I mean, the challenge that I think everybody's concerned about is what does it mean in terms of the offices there. And so, therefore, maybe later we can continue this conversation.
MR. ELKINS: Sure.
COMMISSIONER MILLER: Because I think that's really a challenge. I do realize the world has changed, but I don't know what the implications are of that, I guess.
MR. ELKINS: And it really depends upon the criteria that we establish. Some offices might be made smaller. We may open up new offices. Some offices might be expanded.
I mean there are a number of possibilities which haven't really been decided yet.
COMMISSIONER MILLER: Because we're just sort of getting this information in, and I think it's really useful.
Lastly, I want to get to Ms. Brown on the telework. I've looked at all the reports, and I'll say that the jury is still out in my mind about the efficacy of really moving towards telework, for a couple of reasons. One, the managers and supervisors out in the field that I've talked to about telework seem to be sort of resoundingly negative about sort of the impact that that might have on their ability to litigate and their ability to investigate cases, the ability of investigators and attorneys to work together in a collegial way, to get them together rather than putting people off in their offices or on their kitchen tables or whatever by themselves. And that's a great concern of mine, that in the effort to try these new kinds of things, that we don't undermine sort of what's really good about our program and what's really good and important about the issues. And some of the things that have come back from the New York experience also raises concerns in my mind.
And, lastly, I guess talking about sort of the human capital that Ms. Perez and Mr. Stier were talking about, in terms of, I think, recognizing the marketplace of professionals, whether they be lawyers or whether they be senior investigators or whatever, with respect to an expectation about private offices and ability to meet with clients and preserve attorney-client privilege in a way, to be supported, have their files with them. In litigating a case or investigating something, it's not just, I think, a matter of taking a file home with them and doing that, but it's an ongoing, constant chit-chat in the hall, "What do you think about that?" And I'm not quite sure if I'm just sort of old school on these kinds of things, whether these things are--sort of culturally can be, you know, sort of trained, managers can be trained in this new world, or if it's something about the essence of the work that we do.
While I think in the private sector many lawyers work at home, the people sitting on the opposite side of the table from us in either conciliations or trials, some lawyers work at home; but for the most part, litigation goes not occur by litigation attorneys through the process of telework. And I'm a little concerned about some of those issues, and I just--notwithstanding what I also want to mention is your very complete and thoughtful exercise in going through and putting--and marshalling sort of information, I thought it was really well done. I guess I'm still a little unconvinced that this is sort of going to be good for our mission.
MS. BROWN: Thank you, first of all. Secondly, you're not the only one that's unconvinced. And so it's--it is a concept that is new and it's happening across the government and it's not moving as fast as some people would like it to just because of the cultural barriers.
Now, in terms of our own agency, our talks were with the staff at the four offices that we visited, we knew that there were issues with--based on the information we got back, with trial attorneys particularly and their dislike, less of telework than of shared office space. Okay? Because the frequent telework program is not a mandatory program, it is a volunteer program, and the savings that would result to the agency would be based on the number of people who were best suited and who actually do it.
So I would suspect that people who are so opposed to the concept wouldn't volunteer for the program, and that's how I can look at it--
COMMISSIONER MILLER: No, I think that's very smart. In terms of volunteering, is it the individual employee that gets to volunteer, or does the manager get a sense--get a say? Because some employees are, quite frankly, better suited to working outside of an office environment, and other employees may need some more direction.
MS. BROWN: It's a shared responsibility. In my own office, I'm going to look at each employee in terms of what their workload is, what their performance level is, and based on certain decision factors, I'm going to decide whether they're suitable to be frequent teleworkers.
Certainly if you have someone who's marginally performing, that's not a candidate you want to send out. And, also, if you have someone who you need to rely on to be in the office to greet guests or answer phones, or whatever, being tied to that central office, that's not a candidate for frequent telework. But there are suitable tasks in each of the positions --except in perhaps the administrative positions.
Each of the skill sets in my office requires individual time and independent time. They have to analyze data write. There are things that warrant a need to work away from the office.
COMMISSIONER MILLER: Is it difficult to realize cost savings, budgetary savings, from a voluntary program, do you think?
MS. BROWN: Well, with the voluntary program, based on the survey that we did, it was 57 percent.
COMMISSIONER MILLER: Of employees--
MS. BROWN: Of employees.
COMMISSIONER MILLER: --not managers allowing these people to go?
MS. BROWN: Well, again, it's a survey.
COMMISSIONER MILLER: Right.
MS. BROWN: So the data that we got shows 57 percent of employees would volunteer to telework two or more days a week. Now, so our information is based on the data that we gathered, and the analysis of that data.
COMMISSIONER MILLER: Last question, I promise--and it might be a better questions for Sallie Hsieh: What's the cost estimate per employee for teleworking, to set them up with a DSL line and fax and printers and computers and phones? You told me what the estimated cost savings were. What's the cost investment per employee to do this?
MS. BROWN: I don't have the cost per employee. I have the cost of $1.7 million for--
COMMISSIONER MILLER: In savings?
MS. BROWN: In costs.
COMMISSIONER MILLER: On, in costs?
MS. BROWN: To set it up a frequent telework program, incrementally during the years 2003 to 2007.
COMMISSIONER MILLER: And how many employees would that encompass?
MS. BROWN: I can not answer that question.
COMMISSIONER MILLER: I'll let Sallie do the math and figure it out.
MS. BROWN: Yes.
COMMISSIONER MILLER: I'm giving her a preview of my question. Thank you very much, all of you.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Thank you, Commissioner Miller. And thank you, panel members. I very much, on behalf of all of our commissioners, appreciate some of the very creative ideas that you have offered the Commission for consideration.
Commissioner Miller mentioned that 81 percent of a budget fixed for rent and salaries is not necessarily out of whack with anything else. However, when you look at the balance of that budget, and you invest it or have to invest it in enforcement, travel, mediation, other kinds of program initiatives, it does leave very, very little room for what we should put first; which is the people, and the development and the training and the leadership of those individuals.
And I think that's the crux of the challenge that we have. There's no lack of needs, as it relates to how do we invest and use that 19 percent remaining budget. But the challenge for us is, how do we do that in the context of what's the most important thing, which is really to prepare our workforce for the 21st century.
So I very much appreciate your comments and creativity, as we move forward with our continuous improvement efforts. And Mr. Ressler, thank you for filling in at the last minute. You did an outstanding job under the circumstances.
MR. RESSLER: Thank you.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Thank you very much.
Okay. We have one more panel before we adjourn for a lunch recess. I'm going to invite--I'm sorry? Take a break? Do you want to take a brief break?
MS. GUARRAIA : Yes, we're supposed to reconvene at noon, and it's noon now, so--
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Oh, okay. I have 12:00 to 12:30, Panel 3 here.
COMMISSIONER MILLER: But that included a break.
MS. GUARRAIA : That included a break at quarter of 12:00 to 12:00.
COMMISSIONER MILLER: Gee, what a surprise.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: All right. Shall we take a--
COMMISSIONER MILLER: Five minutes?
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: --a five-minute break? All right. Great.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: All right. Let's see if we can get back. Okay.
I want to welcome our Panel 3 guests who will discuss the current state of EEOC and the new realities that they have faced in the context of their responsibilities.
The panel is our senior managers at EEOC headquarters, with one exception, a former Acting Director of the Office of Field Programs, who has returned to his post as District Director of the Charlotte Office. Reuben Daniels, Jr is here; as well as our EEOC Chief Human Capital Officer, Angelica Ibarguen. They will be followed in their comments by Sallie Hsieh, our Chief Information Officer, who will report on the agency's state of technology; and finally, by Jeff Smith, Jeffrey A. Smith, Chief Financial Officer, who is going to speak to us about the state of our budget.
So let me turn it over to Mr. Daniels.
Reuben Daniels Jr.:
MR. DANIELS: Thank you. Good morning, Madam Chair, Madam Vice Chair, Commissioners, General Counsel, and all of the EEOC staff. Thank you for the opportunity to share a few observations on the task before us from my perspective as a field office director, who has also had the privilege to serve as Acting Director, Office of Field Programs, for nine months of the current fiscal year.
The Office of Field Programs' primary responsibility is the administrative enforcement of the federal statutes prohibiting employment discrimination in the public and private sectors. I will use this time to highlight span of control, staffing, and workload concerns.
The Chair and agency leadership implemented a five-point plan nearly two years ago, through which the agency would accomplish its vision and mission. It built upon prior changes, such as the priority charge handling procedures through which the agency improved its charge processing operations, bringing inventory and average charge processing times to historic lows.
The agency has a legacy of stellar achievements in spite of significant internal as well as external obstacles. And I will address just a few of our internal issues. The Office of Field Programs currently has three major program functions: field management programs, field coordination programs, and state and local programs.
The 24 district offices and their affiliated 27 area and local offices have program development, implementation, and reporting responsibilities to each of these offices that frequently overlap or require use of related resources to achieve agency goals.
Outreach, education, and alternative dispute resolution or mediation--central themes to our enforcement efforts in private sector and federal sector--are located in field coordination programs at the headquarters level; while the vast majority of our staff resources report through field management programs.
Our success last year in conducting more than 4,000 outreach events, reaching over 360,000 people, could not have occurred without the use of investigative, federal sector, and legal resources whose primary goals are set outside of field coordination programs.
The 24 equivalent designated district offices range in staffing allocations from 28 to 130 persons. The management level of staffing for deputy directors and enforcement managers in those offices is uneven across the organization, with no clear correlation to supervisory or staff ratios.
Current staffing profiles for many offices do not match the agency workload. The agency for several years has moved charges from receiving offices to another office for investigation, to balance workload and assure timely investigations. The agency this year authorized the movement of nearly 3,000 private sector charges and more than 1,000 federal sector complaints, to match them with available staff. And it is anticipated that for Fiscal Year '04 we will move an even larger number of cases.
We found during my time at OFP that it was imperative that we move cases. Failure to do so would have been a disservice to our customers and our staff. Our customers would have suffered longer processing times; our staff, as indicated earlier by Mr. Elkins, would have been confronted with uneven expectations.
We must not ignore the fact that the agency lost nearly 140 investigators from the start of Fiscal Year 2000 through March of Fiscal Year '03. Essentially, we have now lost the capacity for about 16,000 resolutions per year.
Program managers frequently confront issues related to program consistency among the district offices. As we strive to present a consistent face to the public as regards access and services, while empowering managers to make local decisions, we frequently struggle to avoid exceptions swallowing the rule. Examples of changes and difficulties with maintaining consistency have affected our intake, our phone coverage, as well as language access availability in the various offices.
As you know, the agency's current efforts to find long-term solutions began with the directive we received from the Office of Management and Budget in May of 2001, which set forth workforce planning and restructuring requirements for all federal agencies. Essentially, the EEOC along with all agencies were expected to find ways to deploy resources to delivery service positions that interact more directly with our citizens, and to flatten the federal hierarchy to reduce the numbers of layers of management in government.
To assist with preparation of the five-year plan pursuant to the President's management agenda, and to seek ways to make the agency more efficient and effective, the NAPA study--which we have all shared and come to love--was commissioned. The NAPA report focused on three over-arching identified areas of concern. And I won't go into any great detail, except to acknowledge that a primary focus of the report was on a call for a national call center for information distribution and electronic charge intake. And you will hear more of that this afternoon from Cynthia Pierre, the Director of Field Management Programs, who led a work group earlier this year to study the feasibility of a national call center before the NAPA report was issued.
A second item was a streamlined field structure. Again, we're acknowledging the need for staff capabilities throughout the country for investigations, mediations, education, and outreach, and trying to build a marriage between staff and technology.
And thirdly, a reorganization of headquarters to establish a more balanced distribution of functional capacities.
The variations in workload and staffing profiles for the field district offices seem to support NAPA recommendations for restructuring of the field office alignment. An objective review of the variations in office workload, staffing, local and national demographic trends, and employment trends, requires we revisit the current headquarters, as well as district office configuration.
The staffing and workload disparity for offices of equivalent rankings is striking. And the continued movement of workload to staff runs counter to our national goals of quality customer service and efficient operations.
In conclusion, the choices confronting this Commission are large, with long-ranging consequences. Civil rights enforcement is an issue that requires commitment, passion, and the will to do the right thing, despite our biases or self-interest.
All members of the EEOC family must understand the choices you make are larger than any individual circumstances. Your choices must reflect that which is best for the mission and the customers on whose behalf we have dedicated our life's work.
This is a moment in time when this community of believers whom you have invited here today must rise and shape civil rights enforcement for the next 40 years. This is a time when we must wisely and boldly plan an organization whose staffing, workload distribution, and organizational structure ensure citizens and decision-makers are in close proximity, and services are delivered in the most efficient and effective manner possible. Above all, this is a time to be certain our organization, staffing, and work processes are true to our mission.
That concludes my statement. And I want to thank you for the opportunity to speak with you on the state of the agency as we confront new realities for the 21st century. Thank you.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Thank you, Mr. Daniels.
MS. IBARGUEN: Good afternoon, Madam Chair, Madam Vice Chair, Commissioners, guests, and colleagues. Thank you for the opportunity to report on the state of human capital and some of the challenges we face.
The President's management agenda calls for strategic management of human capital. OPM has a score card by which agencies are measured on how well they perform regarding strategic alignment, strategic competencies, leadership, performance, culture, and learning.
One of the major objectives in the Chair's five-point plan is the EEOC as a model workplace. Achieving all of these is a formidable challenge in the best of times; but it is extremely difficult without the financial investment.
At a minimum, EEOC must invest in the future by providing for training, and rewarding employees by developing an effective and efficient workforce plan, and by investing in creating effective leadership.
Our workforce mirrors that of the Federal Government in its demographics and future projections. We, like the rest of the government, are worried about losing 70 percent of our workforce who are eligible to retire in the next ten years. Also, 97 percent of our top management is eligible to retire in ten years.
Of the close to 400 people that we've lost in the past two years, 37 percent left due to retirement. We're losing critical skills, and the hiring freeze in place for the past two years has limited our ability to recruit and fill these critical positions as they become vacant. We're hemorrhaging people with talent and experience, and will continue to do so as our people choose to leave the agency.
These separations have created work imbalances and skill gaps. In order to fill the gaps, we need to invest in our people by enhancing their skills so that they can not only meet the current demands of the job, but anticipate and prepare for the future.
Currently, there is a minimum discretionary funding to invest in our human capital. Budgets for awards and training are allocated at the back end of the budgeting process, and are significantly less than suggested amounts.
The suggested funding for awards is recommended by OPM to be 1 percent of payroll. In our case, that would be $2 million; versus the $500,000 that we actually received.
Our training budget is characterized by its wide fluctuations from year to year. In 2003, the EEOC could afford only $400,000 in training. This is significantly lower than the 2 to 3 percent, or $4 million, recommended by high-performing organizations according to the ASTD, the American Society for Training and Development.
Our field offices are multi-functional operations, as you have just heard from Reuben. They require structures that differentiate from unique functions, and different knowledge and skills in such areas as federal sector hearings, alternative dispute resolutions, investigations, and litigations. Therefore, EEOC employees now perform multiple functions, particularly as headcount has decreased, and without the appropriate training to enhance their skills to meet these new requirements.
While we have talented people in the EEOC who are committed to and passionate about the mission, we are not developing them or creating the kind of environment that will make them do what they do best. Under these conditions, we will experience an exodus of the best and the brightest, create low morale and discontent.
Given this reality, we have much to do to become a model workplace. A workforce planning process is essential to defining the core competencies for staff, identifying current and upcoming skill gaps, and designing specific approaches to fill them.
We've received approval to purchase the software for us to start the process. Ultimately, we want to make sure we have the right people in the right jobs with the right skill mix for now and in the future.
An example of what we could do if we had funding is to establish a training academy to concentrate on developing the core competencies of mission-critical occupations, with the ability to certify EEOC investigators and mediators. However, identifying our competencies and skill gaps, without the resources needed to close the gaps or retool employees to meet the requirements of the 21st century EEOC, is futile.
We will continue to lose ground without tools necessary to make a positive change. In this process, what will suffer is our ability to deploy our resources strategically; to expand our presence, provide quality service to our customers, and enforce our laws.
We must develop leadership capabilities to meet our current and future needs, and to lead employees through change. To do this, we must consciously identify and develop talented staff to assume leadership positions. Our leaders must learn to manage in a complex and changing environment. They must be advocates for change. They must adapt their management style to address new forms and methods for getting the work done.
These methods should rely on increased use of technology and alternative work arrangements, such as telecommuting. EEOC's work and the nature of the analytical process needed to perform the work, as I said before, is complex. Therefore, we must develop strong performance management capabilities among our managers.
Our leaders must operate in an environment that requires training employees to handle the increasing complexity of the work, while learning and using technology to improve efficiency.
Unfortunately, leadership development programs that rely on funding for rotational assignments and relocation costs are limited, due to our fiscal resources. These programs are essential experiences for competent and well-rounded leaders.
Developing effective leaders will go a long way to developing a high-performing culture. Modeling the way, creating trust, and environments that allow employees to become self-directed and self-motivated will help change the culture of the organization from one that is afraid of change and steeped in current structure, to one that is flexible, adaptable, and poised for the future.
To meet these demands, the HR function needs to transform from a transaction processing operation to a value-added, customer-focused, strategic partner. We need to conduct a gap analysis of competencies required and expected for this new way of performing the job, then create a plan for bridging the gap.
Although clearly not enough, we've taken the following steps to address EEOC human capital challenges:
We have developed a succession planning program which will focus on leadership competencies. Through this program, we will identify competencies needed for our leadership positions. We will compare these desired competencies with those of our current management group, and fill gaps that exist through training and experience. We will do the same for mission-critical occupations.
We've conducted three management development courses this year. These courses were conceived, developed, and taught by our training staff.
We've changed the performance plan for all SES to reflect heavy focus on the job of management and leadership. In collaboration with the union, we have designed a staff development program which will allow six individuals to be trained for high-level work.
We've partnered with OPM, DOT's transportation virtual university, to initiate an e-learning pilot. This broadened the scope of learning and development activities available to our employees.
We've reached a critical junction in the area of human capital in the EEOC. We can continue down the same path, losing critical skills, not investing in training for our people, not rewarding outstanding performance. But the status quo is not sufficient to address our issues.
We should take a new path by investing in our human capital resources and helping employees grow; create a performance culture, retaining our critical skills, and adding to these by hiring new skilled workers to back-fill our critical positions.
Our future depends on making our people our priority, and then funding that priority. Thank you.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Thank you, Ms. Ibarguen.
We will now hear from our Chief Information Officer, Sallie Hsieh; and our Chief Financial Officer, Jeffrey Smith. Ms. Hsieh?
MS. HSIEH: Madam Chair, Vice Chair, Commissioners, colleagues, and guests, good afternoon. Thank you for the opportunity to report on the current state of EEOC's information technology and the issues and challenges that face us today and in the future.
About a decade ago, recognizing that improvement in technology must be made in order to perform our mission effectively, EEOC began to overhaul its outdated technology. This technology improvement initiative was originally designed as a five-year program.
Because EEOC is chronically under-funded, major projects and significant milestones had to be carried out in a phased fashion. As a result, it took the agency about eight years to build a solid technology infrastructure.
This infrastructure has served as the foundation for other technology advances. Although essential, but due to its nature, it was not meant for delivering many of the benefits related to streamlining work processes and functions. However, because the infrastructure was in place, the agency was able to focus efforts on consolidating and upgrading our legacy information systems, in order to provide easy access to higher quality data.
We envision a goal of making real-time information available to anyone who needs it, at any time, for any place.
During the past two to three years, we have phased out our accounting and budget systems, by implementing a new financial system that integrates the functions of budget, procurement, finance, and asset management. We replaced the old personnel and payroll systems by moving to a single system that covered both functions.
Also, after a multi-year development effort, EEOC implemented a new integration mission system for managing agency's charge and case related information. This new system consolidated information on intake, investigation, mediation, litigation, and outreach functions. It uses Web technology and provides employees user-friendly access to a centralized national database that provides real-time information.
These efforts we made to consolidate and eliminate duplication also coincide with one of the objectives of the electronic government initiative. Today we have one financial system, one human resource system, and one mission system.
While significant progress has been made, there is more that can be done to effectively use technology to improve operational efficiency. But sufficient funding invested in a consistent manner over the years is needed to reap the benefits more timely.
EEOC is currently facing many new challenges as to workforce changes. And the technology continues to evolve and impact business in all areas. In today's digital age, technology is virtually used in everything that we do in our personal life and work. The general public now expects better and faster information and services from the government. EEOC needs to find new ways of working, carrying out our responsibilities, interacting with the public, and delivering the services.
All of this requires a significant shift in the way we think and conduct our work. Internally, technology professionals need to work in partnership with program offices in order to carry out changes in businesses processes. Externally, we need to partner with other agencies to leverage technology to adapt tools and best practices that work well elsewhere.
Building upon the success we had of integrating data and reducing redundancy during the past two years, we need to ensure the new systems have the ability to interface with one another. To further boost operational efficiency, we need to develop a data warehouse that pulls together data from different systems for workload management, budget projection, and statistical analysis, for faster decision-making; which in turn will assist us in advancing the initiatives of the President's management agenda.
In addition, to be customer-centric, we need to transform to an agency that provides services electronically. The real value of electronic government is about how to make government services more accessible to the public, business organizations, and other government entities.
EEOC is moving aggressively in this area. Last year, we provided electronic filing capability to federal agencies for filing EEO statistics. This year, the agency implemented a system that allows employers to file their EEO reports online.
In the future we must continue to explore other opportunities of providing additional services online, to reduce paperwork burdens on our customers and business partners. "E-gov," coupled with the Government Paperwork Elimination Act, require us to convert paper documents into electronic format that can be accessed, stored, and processed online. Additionally, once our critical information is in the electronic format, it can be easily backed up, stored offsite, and recovered, in the event of a disaster.
Since EEOC is still a paper-intensive organization, to make paperwork elimination a reality we need to continue implementing an electronic document management system for the conversion of paperwork, as well as the elimination of manual processes. A good example of this practice is the electronic filing of legal documents such as motions and briefs to the federal courts by our legal units.
Last but not the least, with an increasingly mobile workforce: tablet and notebook computers, PDAs, and wireless networks, that can offer the flexibility today's workers need to perform work. EEOC needs to explore these technologies and develop best practices in the secure implementation of these tools. This wireless technology, although still maturing, will be the important component of future computing, and we need to prepare for the application to the workplace.
Faced with these challenges and issues, EEOC must reposition itself to meet the needs of the future in a changing environment. We must be prepared for the 21st century, by leveraging technology for delivering quality service to the public.
Some leaders in e-government believe that good e-government projects would stimulate more public interest in federal services, and therefore increase the demands for them. This implies the agencies must commit more money in technology to provide improved services.
At EEOC, this means that we must first commit consistent funding for performing continual updates and enhancements, to prevent us from falling behind. And we must also commit additional and sufficient funding for implementing new technologies, so that we can be an organization that is competitive, dynamic, and able to meet the challenges in front of us. This concludes my report. Thank you.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Thank you very much.
MR. SMITH: Good afternoon, Madam Chair, Madam Vice Chair, Commissioners, General Counsel, and guests. Thank you for the opportunity to present information on the EEOC budget situation.
For this briefing, I would like to address several critical fiscal issues which I recommend the Commission focus on to improve the long-term financial health of the agency. As we heard from earlier panel members, there are significant needs for attracting, developing, rewarding, and retaining a highly-skilled workforce with modern information technology tools.
There has been an agency history of having to realign budget plans from employee development, employee recognition, and information technology to pay for the higher costs of compensation, benefits, and rent. To meet these needs, the Commission must address the issues which have created the high cost structure: compensation, benefits, and rent.
In my 16 months as Chief Financial Officer, I have had the opportunity to experience firsthand and deal with the results of chronic agency budget and cost structure issues. Our most immediate need was to stabilize the agency's budget situation for fiscal year 2003, to avoid furloughs. During this same period, our agency team prepared the EEOC submission for the President's Fiscal Year 2004 budget.
Accurate and timely financial information is critical for management of the agency's finances. In October 2001, we successfully implemented and are operating an approved government financial system with our business partner, the Department of the Interior's National Business Center. Our fiscal responsibilities start with this official system of financial records. The system provides our agency budget, status of funds, and other financial data online and through recurring reports to our managers and staff.
The audit quality of our financial information is of paramount importance, as the Commission analyzes the business case for change. The President signed the Accountability of Tax Dollars Act of 2002 on November 7th, 2002. This act extends to the Commission a requirement to prepare and submit audited financial statements to the Office of Management and Budget and Congress. Our agency initiated a pre-audit of the financial statements almost one year prior to the legislative requirement. Our first formal annual performance and accountability report is due January 30th, 2004, covering fiscal year 2003 activities. The President's Management Agenda's initiative of Improved Financial Performance also requires us to obtain and sustain clean audit opinions on our financial statements.
We have many fiscal challenges, as government budget and financial requirements evolve. For every acquisition, we seek to maximize competition and obtain the best value. We seek to report accurate financial and performance data on a timely basis. Finally, management accountability requirements must flow down when senior agency managers are empowered as allotment holders for their program resources, including compensation and benefits.
I would now like to review some of the budget history of the Commission. I have appended three charts with additional financial information. In Chart 1, we see the compensation and benefit cost element over the past five fiscal years is the largest percentage of our budget each year. In Chart 2, we see the increase in average compensation and benefit costs over the past five fiscal years. In Chart 3, we see the increase in rent costs compared to other non-pay costs over the past five fiscal years. We also see the implications of rising compensation, benefit, and rent costs on program funds. Currently, compensation, benefit, and rent costs consume about 80 percent of our total budget. The only real option is to begin to reduce the percentage of growth of compensation, benefit, and rent costs, to make additional resources available for program spending, employee development, employee relocations, and information technology.
In fiscal year 2002, the agency experienced an operating plan shortfall for compensation and benefits within our $310 million budget. The shortfall carried forward into the fiscal year 2003 budget base. The primary reasons for the shortfall: a pay increase beyond the President's budget guidance; higher salary for information technology staff, as directed by the Office of Personnel Management; unbudgeted accretion of duties promotions without internal budget offsets; and over-estimated savings for employee separations. We had to freeze travel and program spending and realign funds from awards, training, and information technology budgets to absorb the shortfall.
For fiscal year 2003, the agency submitted a $308 million budget based on certain assumptions for our future workforce profile. A significant change in both the actual separation rate and average compensation and benefit costs contributed to a fiscal crisis. To address it, the President submitted an $11.6 million supplemental budget request to Congress on January 7th, 2003. Shortly afterwards, the Congress enacted a $308 million budget which required our agency to absorb an unfunded $1.7 million pay increase, a $3 million state and local program increase, and a $2 million government-wide rescission. However, with support from the President and Congress, a $15 million supplemental appropriation was approved in April 2003. This additional appropriation prevented up to a 19-day furlough of all agency employees and funded the previously unfunded $3 million for the state and local program increase.
For fiscal year 2004, the President submitted a $335 million budget for our agency. The budget includes a $5 million installment to help pay for the estimated first-year cost to reposition the agency for the 21st century. As we await final congressional action on the request, we are again faced with the possibility of funding a pay increase greater than the budget request, as well as directed program spending not included in our budget submission.
During this challenging period, we nevertheless have made progress in financial operations: We consolidated travel and accounts payable processing with our financial system service provider. We expanded the use of the government purchase card program and reduced the administrative paperwork based on suggestions from our field employees. A national office supply contract was implemented last year, again in collaboration with our administrative team. Our legal team is now piloting regional solutions for deposition and court reporting services. Unfortunately, the actual and estimated savings for all of these changes are not nearly of the scale to allow us to ignore the need for structural and operational reforms.
With this information, let me conclude by summarizing what I believe are the three most important budget planning considerations to support the discussion on the need to reposition the agency for the 21st century.
One, execute a disciplined analysis of future workforce and infrastructure requirements. The Commission must create a more analytical approach for workforce and infrastructure budget planning. There is a critical need to reevaluate how we serve citizens and to determine the optimal workforce mix of skills, occupation codes, career ladder and development tracks, supervisor-to-employee ratios, and compensation and benefit plans. The appropriate level of budget resources will emerge from this analysis. Also, the agency may be paying up to $8 million in excess rent over the next five years, unless the Commission does something to challenge the long-term infrastructure needs. The scope of this review must include an examination of the current location and space requirements for our headquarters building. In order to allow the Commission maximum flexibility during the repositioning deliberations, we froze long-term lease renewals agency-wide in December 2002.
Two, recognize and manage competing budget priorities. Like any public or private-sector organization, the Commission must regularly examine its mission and goals, internal program priorities and costs, so our future budget requests are reasonable and help us to achieve our mission more cost effectively. If the Commission has new programs or wants to expand existing programs, the agency must make an exceptionally strong budget business case with factual workload data and explain how we plan to measure success for our choice of investments in new and expanded programs. We also must be willing to consider offsetting new costs by redirecting funds and increasing efficiencies.
Three, formulate a long-term performance budget strategy. The Commission must focus on a long-term performance budget approach which more clearly blends together the complex workload relationships, budget requirements, and performance metrics among our major programs. It should reinforce how the taxpayer dollars we spend achieve positive results for the Nation. The first step is the publication of the agency's updated strategic plan on October 1st. It is critical that the Commission work toward rationalizing the agency's budget requirements using three to five-year, forward-looking workload, budget, and performance plans for each of our program activities.
It is imperative that we effectively address these three areas to better serve our customers, remain a viable law enforcement agency, more effectively carry out our mission, and demonstrate meaningful results of the important work we do. If not addressed, we can expect to continue the budget trends discussed earlier, which have serious consequences for the viability of the agency.
This concludes my statement on the budget situation at EEOC.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Thank you very much, Mr. Smith.
Let's see, we can actually have the full panel. Can they come up?
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: But let me start with our CFO. There is a school of thought that believes that perhaps we're operating at maximum efficiency, and what we do need to do is obtain more funding. What is your best analysis of that argument?
MR. SMITH: I think we first have to go back to 2001, when OMB published their bulletin for taking a look at our agency. And my thinking is that once we've done that, that then we will have an opportunity to have a better business case for exactly what budgets we need; whether that be larger increases, or smaller increases. But I think we first have to demonstrate a self-assessment that we are operating at peak efficiency. And I don't think we've done that.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Thank you. Let me ask our CIO, how are we doing in getting to green on our e-gov initiative under the President's management agenda?
MS. HSIEH: Well, I think we're doing pretty good. We're moving pretty aggressively. But I believe to do more we really need to have the funding that's necessary to support it.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Thank you. Ms. Ibarguen, you mentioned that about 37 percent of the attrition resulted from retirement.
MS. IBARGUEN: Correct.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: I wanted to get a sense from you as to why--I know you conduct exit interviews. And I wanted to get a sense from you as to the range of issues that determine people's departures. What drives people to leave the Commission?
MS. IBARGUEN: In some cases, 25 percent of the people, by the way, that left in the last two years left for other agencies. They're looking for promotional opportunities outside of our agency. So they've reached the maximum level that they can get to here, and then they'll go someplace else.
Other issues are management issues. Some of our managers have not been trained for management, or haven't gone to management schools for a long period of time.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Okay. Were training and development and those kinds of things factored into the equation at all? Or is that not an issue?
MS. IBARGUEN: It's an issue that comes out in the exit interview, but I'm not sure of the impact. Hopefully, we'll have a clearer idea when we do our morale survey next year.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Okay. Mr. Daniels, what was the one thing you came away with during your tenure here as Acting Director of the Office of Field Programs, the one thing that you took back to Charlotte with you, in terms of how headquarters operated?
MR. DANIELS: That's a very interesting question, Madam Chair. A very difficult one. I took many things away, but I think the one key thing I took was that I believe that you have here a team of people that are very dedicated, as is the field team, to the mission of this agency.
I think that there is a recognition that we need to make some change. Now, there may be disagreements about what that change should look like, but I think people understand that we have made changes with respect to our processes. We are operating with a good level of efficiency, but that is not enough. And we must be willing to take a hard look internally, and face the changes that must be made.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Thank you.
Madam Vice Chair?
VICE CHAIR EARP: Thank you. Mr. Smith, let me start with your third comment about: Formulate a long-term budget strategy. You indicate in your written statement that the first step is publication of the agency's updated strategic plan for October 1.
Now, given what we've heard this morning about time lines, possibly input, and then you mentioned self-assessment, do you still think that we could move forward October 1? And if we did, what would be included in the strategic plan?
MR. SMITH: Well, first of all, the development of a strategic plan has occurred over the past 12 to 18 months; a necessary update involving a large number of people, both internal and now external to the Commission. So the publication of the strategic plan basically gives us a framework on what's important to the agency, with some performance metrics that are six-year forward-looking performance metrics. What we have to do is back that up now with the tactical plans, the organization, and the budget that we need to carry it out.
My forward-looking comment comes from my assessment that in the past the Commission has approached each budget year as a one-year event. And we've tried to defend the previous year's work, and look forward one year. I don't think we tell a good story using that approach.
I think we need to look two to three years, both in workload projections and budget requirements and workforce makeup. And I think we'll have a stronger business case.
VICE CHAIR EARP: I was very pleased to see that, actually. I'm incredibly supportive, and I'm very happy that you're looking three to five years. I wish we could look five to ten, but we'll take the three- to five-year look.
Mr. Daniels, let me ask you a question about some of what we need to do, and whether or not it's possible to do it just through management. In your remarks, you talked about span of control, supervisory ratio. And in prior administrations, my experience in government is almost everyone comes in and talks about looking at supervisory ratios, command and control positions, span of control.
Which of those issues lend themselves not so much to a major realignment, but to solid management decisions?
MR. DANIELS: I believe that what you see currently in the field is a reflection of decisions that were made regarding how a district office, an area office, or a local office should look. We have a model that we follow fairly rigidly. Now, the exceptions, of course, being where staffing resources or funding resources have caused us not to be able to fully staff that model.
I believe that certainly this is a good opportunity for us to take another look at that model, to create more flexibility and, as we talk about empowerment of employees, to really make some major movements in that area and broaden the span of control, where appropriate. And in some cases, it may even be necessary to narrow the span of control.
VICE CHAIR EARP: We've followed the model, despite what the exigent circumstances, or the realities, are?
MR. DANIELS: Well, I wouldn't say that it was despite the realities. I believe that we thought we had a good model. And I think we tried to stick with that.
VICE CHAIR EARP: We just adhered to it. Okay. Thanks.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Commissioner Silverman?
COMMISSIONER SILVERMAN: I'm sitting here trying to formulate a question that--I almost feel like we're chasing our tail here. To move forward and change and to better serve our mission, what is appearing for a theme here throughout the day is we need to train and we need to award. But to train and award, we need money. And that money, according to our CFO, is the first thing that goes. So without a windfall of money to change, how do we break this cycle? Any thoughts?
MR. SMITH: Well--
COMMISSIONER SILVERMAN: I know that's why we're here today, but I'm still not hearing the solution.
MR. SMITH: Yes. In point number one, I tried to get you to go down one road, and that was to take a look at infrastructure. I believe from my analysis that it is not a difficult thing to do, to save $8 million over the next five years in rent costs. And that's with everybody still having a desk.
COMMISSIONER SILVERMAN: Any other thoughts from the panel? Because rent is one of our fixed costs that's big, but the bigger one is employee compensation. And obviously, we're not looking to cut our labor force, so how else can we get that number down? Is there a way? Or are we mostly talking about rent here to lower our costs?
MR. SMITH: Well, I think in my message it's rent and it's also managing your average compensation and benefit cost over the long term.
COMMISSIONER SILVERMAN: What does that mean?
MR. SMITH: Taking a look at the structure and levels of your workforce. Career tracks, full performance levels, things that generate an average salary next year above $91,00 a year.
COMMISSIONER SILVERMAN: Okay. As you know, each district office recently submitted recommendations regarding cost-saving measures. I was wondering, Jeff, whether your office has taken a look at those, and whether or not we are looking to implement some of those bright ideas?
MR. SMITH: Yes. I addressed at least two of them in my presentation, given the constraints of time. One was the national office supply contract, and then secondly, to look at regional solutions for court reporting and deposition services. However, as I said, they're just not at the kind of scale that is going to help the Commission all that much short-term or long-term.
COMMISSIONER SILVERMAN: Angie, how does our employee recognition program compare with agencies of similar size? Do you know?
MS. IBARGUEN: I just used general data. I believe that OPM's is about 2 percent, but I can't--I've looked more at national data than anything else.
COMMISSIONER SILVERMAN: All right.
Reuben, you talked about how restructuring headquarters to separate out mediation and outreach from our enforcement program would enhance our services. Would you just expand upon that a little bit further? Because I know a lot of people are somewhat cynical about that idea.
MR. DANIELS: Well, actually, Commissioner Silverman, my comments would probably have gone a little bit in the opposite direction. I understand that was a recommendation from NAPA.
COMMISSIONER SILVERMAN: Yes.
MR. DANIELS: However, one of the things that I pointed out in my comments was that the field office directors have responsibility for all of those program areas, and are expected to administer them efficiently; and I believe have done a very good job of meeting those goals and objectives. So we may want to think more along the lines of what the field has been doing, as we revisit that planning part of the process.
COMMISSIONER SILVERMAN: In headquarters, as well?
MR. DANIELS: In headquarters, as well. Although I think there is some merit to the thought that mediation, because we have it as such a focused part of our program, it is in fact the one area that we have firewalled off with some real strong confidentiality concerns, that it may merit looking at a little differently.
But I think that as far as--I believe that the door is open, that we should really look at it, and really take a hard look at how the field offices have managed all of those program areas, and see if there are some lessons to be learned from their experiences.
COMMISSIONER SILVERMAN: Thank you.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Commissioner Miller? You're standing between them and lunch now.
COMMISSIONER MILLER: What did Bette Davis say? "Buckle up, it's going to be a bumpy ride."
Ms. Hsieh, the easy question that I gave you an allusion to earlier: What's the cost per employee for telework? And what does that involve?
MS. HSIEH: For the time the study was done, a few months back by the IG's office, I think we estimated it between $5,000 and $6,000. But the cost for hardware continued to drop. You know that. So I think right now maybe we're looking at about $4,000.
COMMISSIONER MILLER: And what do you encompass by that?
MS. HSIEH: Talk about a laptop for the employee; telephone a second line based on the study; broadband Internet access. In order or employees to perform work effectively at home, they've got to have access to internal systems, either IMS or human resource or the finance system. To do that, they've got to have the broadband. Otherwise, performance just is going to be too slow. Also, let's see, printer. We talked about four-in-one type of fax, printing capability, and copying.
COMMISSIONER MILLER: Does that also include sort of estimates of what the cost of support of that whole structure is going to be?
MS. HSIEH: No.
COMMISSIONER MILLER: No?
MS. HSIEH: That does not include the support. It's just hardware, software. Another piece that's very important is the firewall. That was included in the first estimate. Because access to the system, you've got to make sure the information is secured. So we're including that, as well.
COMMISSIONER MILLER: Great. Thank you. Mr. Daniels, what's the relationship between outreach and enforcement? How does outreach ultimately sort of play into or support our enforcement mission? Do you see charge intake reduced? Do you see lawsuit filings reduced, discrimination reduced? Is there a relationship between outreach and the core parts of our mission?
MR. DANIELS: I believe they are complementary parts of our mission. There is a possibility that with increased outreach and education, that the charge intake may go down; particularly where you have strong outreach and collaboration with the employer community. Because what we've found is that many employers do want to do the right thing and treat their employees fairly; they don't want to violate the law. So it has a potential to reduce charge intake, as well as lawsuits.
On the other hand, as you do outreach and education into under-served areas, you reach a number of people who may not have accessed our services in the past. We also identify issues that we have not previously litigated or developed. So there is the possibility for outreach and education to strengthen our services to those populations.
COMMISSIONER MILLER: Do we have any evidence? I mean, is it sort of anecdotal?
MR. DANIELS: It is primarily anecdotal. We have not conducted a formal study of it. But as I talk to directors who have done expanded presence into various under-served areas, they have noticed a significant increase in charge intake from those areas. I've had the similar experience in my district.
And also, you will notice that with better outreach and education to employee advocacy groups, that many times they can help screen the level of referrals coming into the district offices. So the education has had a positive impact, I believe, in also, in some cases, reducing the number of people initially coming into the offices for services, and then allowing us to do a better job of screening out charges that should not be in the system in the first place.
COMMISSIONER MILLER: One of the things that's been talked about in this restructuring stuff is sort of going with lead offices and sort of other offices under that. In running OFP and being a district director, you've seen the relationship between district offices and area offices and local offices. Do you have a sense of how that might translate in sort of a different schema, having more area offices than district offices? Or is it more important to focus on district core offices, rather than smaller satellite offices?
MR. DANIELS: I don't have a plan in mind. But certainly, I think there are many scenarios that are possible.
COMMISSIONER MILLER: No, I'm asking what your thoughts are, not what a plan would be.
MR. DANIELS: Okay.
COMMISSIONER MILLER: Your opinion.
MR. DANIELS: I believe that that could work. Certainly, we've found that the area local office process, where they report through the district offices, has worked, has proven to be a very efficient process, I believe. So there's no reason, I think, to suspect that a larger collaboration with fewer--well, with a few lead offices--would not also work.
I think one of the things that our financial officer has spoken about that I found very intriguing is the notion of trying to consolidate administrative services. I think it just lends itself to that notion.
COMMISSIONER MILLER: I have two questions for Mr. Smith. Your presentation seems to assume that the compensation and rent positions in our budget are different, or out of whack, compared to where we ought to be. And again, my approach is in terms of the context of other agencies, federal agencies, that provide primarily service-oriented experience, rather than goods or rather than sort of giving out program dollars.
And I'm wondering if, in fact, we are sort of out of whack from other agencies like the NLRB or others, and sort of what your thoughts are on that? And then I have a quick question about the call center.
MR. SMITH: First of all, the 80 percent of compensation, benefits, and rent is just a fact.
COMMISSIONER MILLER: Right.
MR. SMITH: It is part of an education process to understand the Commission's financial structure. Although it's always good to go look for best practices, when I look at the average cost of rent per employee, $10,000 a year, I do not think that we're going to find an answer in looking at other agencies particularly.
Just as an aside, at the Securities and Exchange Commission, they just made accountants excepted service on a different pay plan. But I have taken a different approach.
COMMISSIONER MILLER: Excuse me. But isn't it relevant, if we've got offices in sort of lead cities and we're paying for rent through GSA or what-have-you, it's important to get a sense of what other agencies are paying for that same rent within a city? If we're paying for rent in Chicago or Denver or San Antonio, and it's exactly in line with the market of what SEC or NLRB is paying, then that means we're doing pretty good. If it means that we're way over-paying in places, that means that we've got a problem. Do you agree?
MR. SMITH: Well, I come at it a little differently. You made an assumption that we need to be located where those other agencies are located. And I think one of the purposes and analyses that needs to take place is whether we need to be in those center-city locations.
Market rates drive what we pay. It's a competition. I feel comfortable that at any location you pick, at the time that we conducted the competition we got the best available rate. But at the same time, when you go for a re-lease at the location, it's a good time to take a look at market conditions, as well as your requirements. So that's really what we're talking about in out-year infrastructure savings, is what we need at what location.
And I can't go to SEC necessarily, or NLRB, for that. But I have seen some wide ranges of percentage of budget, which is what you are getting at, from 5 to 15 percent of budget going to rent. And you have to look at the mission of the agency and how you're going to deliver services, I think, ultimately.
COMMISSIONER MILLER: Great. That's really useful. My last question for the entire panel, which goes to Mr. Smith: We haven't really put on the table quite yet--we'll do that this afternoon--the call center. But one of the questions that I have for you is, how do we realize budgetary savings for sort of fiscal savings from the investment in a call center?
Have you thought that through? Is that ultimately going to relieve some of our financial pressures and achieve savings, if we go down the path of a call center?
MR. SMITH: First of all, no, I have not done the data analysis. I think we should wait to hear from the project director and then probably have that discussion.
COMMISSIONER MILLER: Great. I'll talk to you later, then.
MR. SMITH: Yes.
COMMISSIONER MILLER: Thank you.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: All right. Thank you all very, very much. I appreciate your input.
We will take a lunch break, and be back here at 2:15. Thank you.
[Whereupon, at 1:05 p.m., the Commission meeting adjourned for lunch, to reconvene at 2:15 p.m. the same day.]
COMMISSIONER MILLER: I guess we can begin now.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Okay, the meeting will come back to order. Welcome back. Our fourth panel today, is comprised of Gabrielle Martin, who is the President of the National Council of EEOC Locals No. 216; John P. Rowe, who is our EEOC, Chicago District Office Director--he was elected by his peers to represent the Agency's district directors; Katherine Bissell, who is our regional attorney in the New York District Office--elected by her peers in the Agency's regional attorneys. And then we will hear from Cynthia Pierre who led EEOC's National Contact Center Work Group--she is, formerly, the Birmingham District Director and now the Director of Field Management Programs here at the Office of Field Programs.
So, let's turn it over to Ms. Martin.
MS. MARTIN: Thank you. Good afternoon, Madam Chair, Vice Chair, Commissioners, Staff, colleagues, and guests. While you may know that I'm the president of the National Council of EEOC Locals No. 216, you may not know that I'm also a 16-year veteran of EEOC employment. All of my time having been done in Denver, Colorado. And I thank you for the opportunity to speak here this afternoon.
First and foremost, I must tell you that the employees are angry. Not because change may come, but because of how change is being managed. There's a lack of communication; a lack of information about the NAPA recommendations, there are issues about contracting out employee jobs, office closings, and downsizings, and there's a lack of focus on recognition, performance management, training, and employee development.
And this focus on employees is not to say that our customers are not important, but is to recognize another important point, and that is that well-trained, recognized, and satisfied employees make for well-serviced customers.
This may sound redundant, but I believe it needs to be said, because it seems we have lost our focus. EEOC is a federal law enforcement agency. What EEOC does or does not do impacts almost every employee covered by the laws we are mandated to enforce. And while we are a small agency, I suspect that we are one of the most important.
With that in mind, we cannot undervalue the employees that I represent today, nor their issues.
While small and chronically underfunded, it is clear that this Agency wants to chart a different course. And EEOC should not change merely for the sake of change. In this process, it would improve employee morale if there were forthright communications with the employees about what is going on and sufficient background data to make informed decisions. In seeking input, EEOC must be willing to share, otherwise, our comments can only go so far.
The existence of offices in locations is, itself, a deterrent factor. And in making decisions about whether to close or downsize offices, we should keep this in mind.
We should also keep in mind that law enforcement cannot be done by virtual offices. For that would send a message that discrimination is virtual, existing only in the minds of those claiming to be victims. That is not a message we want to send to America.
Law enforcement, by its nature, is very labor-intensive. EEOC must invest in its people using this resource to perform mission-critical work. And our mission is so important that we cannot afford to auction a single job to the lowest bidder; that is wholly unacceptable.
What is also unacceptable is that, while a number of federal agencies have publicly fought against contracting out, EEOC has not. And we must fight even harder for our employees in the budget process; both for more money and against contracting out.
Notwithstanding our budget limitations, we have to find ways to hire enough employees to get the work done. When I say enough employees, I mean both professional and support staff. To continue in the vein of not adequately staffing EEOC, is something we can ill afford. Right now, our too few employees are stretched too thin, filling the void left by so many vacant positions.
EEOC also needs to do a much better job of recognizing and rewarding the talent and efforts of its employees. And it must do so in a credible way. For example, while EEOC says that customer service is vital, too often, monetary awards go to individuals who produce the highest numerical results.
And when we say we're willing to contract out call centers, this sends a distinct and important message about how vital customer service is. And offices have to stop discouraging employees from spending the time necessary to provide good customer service.
As for the performance management system, it, too, is in dire need of change. It impacts staff development and awards and, ultimately, the service we provide. Quite frankly, as one of those involved in developing the current system, it's been tried, it doesn't work, and it's time to go back to the drawing board.
I note it will be counterproductive, however, to talk about improving performance management or awards, if we do not review and update our position descriptions; if we do not resolve longstanding classification issues; and if we don't take a look at what skills we need to take us into the future.
As for employee development, poor performers are not the only ones who can benefit from this type of planning. And until this is changed, EEOC will continue to fail both its customers and its employees.
Finally, EEOC must invest adequate time and budget for training purposes. EEOC's Internet training program is largely under utilized. Why? Because employees don't have the time to use it at work; there's insufficient education; and very little encouragement for employees to use it. And when they go home, because they're taking work home to keep up with the numbers, they're just too tired to do it.
Last year, in spite of--or because of our tight budget--perhaps, in spite of it--we ended up turning back money. During last year, investigators were told not to schedule on-site visits; hearing and litigations travel and activities were rescheduled or cancelled. We didn't hire staff; training requests were denied; and monetary awards were limited.
There were also other "we cannot dos" and EEOC employees deserve better than that. We should be able to count on this Agency to implement sound financial practices. We should not have to face potential furloughs one month; be told that there's no training or awards money the next; and then, the following month learn, oh, well, we do have awards money and some travel money. That's very demoralizing to the employees that make it happen for others.
Other areas needing significant focus and change include EEOC's management structure and technology. There's a lot of support out there for the notion that this Agency needs to look at its management structure. It's too top heavy and what that results in is poor customer service.
If you have three to four people reviewing every work product in the field, you have additional reviews when those work products come here to headquarters, I can only wonder whether people are suffering needlessly because we can't get the work out.
Moreover, because of our budget situation, we cannot afford to fund layers of review. We need to look at this situation and direct resources to the mission-critical work. I'm not advocating that anyone lose their job in this process, but that we focus on our law-enforcement mandate and put our resources there.
Training for managers is also an investment EEOC needs to make. To train them to be good coaches. Good coaches know when to push and how; when to let it ride; how to develop an effective and cohesive team; and how to value every team member.
Technology is another area where changes can improve what we do, but it cannot do it alone. We advocate that you explore greater uses of technology, such as, having federal agencies and FEPAs transfer data and case files electronically; expanding the use of computers and technology by our attorneys, our hearing staff; and in our intake areas. Certainly, in intake, this is an area where we can be finding ways to use our technology to better serve our varied constituents that come in.
As a final note on technology, EEOC can't think of call centers as the quick-fix for our volume. Staff use is mandatory and a script and laptop just won't let us provide the customer service that we need to. Just ask the Veterans Administration and the IRS about the time, money and toll on customer service required before they realized that call centers are not the quick answer.
Two weeks ago, we celebrated the 40th anniversary of the March on Washington. As I stood in this building watching the tapes and as I reread the "I Have A Dream" speech, I was reminded that Title VII exists because Dr. King and other people put their lives on the line, in part, for fair employment laws.
The anniversary was a reminder that today there are still members of our society who carry the dream of equal employment opportunities.
It is the Commission's obligation to provide adequate staffing, as well as tools and other resources necessary for us to meet our mandate.
My question in closing is whether the changes this Agency is preparing to make will keep us true to the dream. That concludes my remarks.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Thank you Ms. Martin. Mr. Rowe? I understand that you are representing all of the District Directors?
MR. ROWE: That's correct.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: That's a tough order to have all of those views reflected in one set of remarks. But give it your best shot.
MR. ROWE: They have been thoroughly beaten and they're now cowed enough that they'll be silent while I speak.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Okay. I'll get the phone calls later.
COMMISSIONER MILLER: What about us?
MR. ROWE: Have you not been thoroughly cowed? Darn it, I tried. As--let me say, first, Madam Chair, Madam Vice Chair, Commissioners that I, too, am pleased to have the opportunity at this meeting to address you.
As those of you who are in the audience today and don't know me, it should be obvious, already, that this ends the formal part of the meeting.
MR. ROWE: But I do want to take a few minutes and do three things: I want to highlight a few of the matters that we raised in our written submission. I hope that it will be read with some care and that it will become part of an ongoing dialogue amongst us all.
I also want to have a few comments on some of the things that were brought to us this morning in presentations and that caused me to attempt the rewriting of my remarks during our lunch hour with very little success, I'm afraid.
And, finally, I wanted to suggest to you simply what the District Directors believe they can, if you will, bring to the table in the important work that we have to do in assessing what changes will be best for the future of EEOC.
I probably have a less optimistic talk than most of our presenters, but, Madam Chair, you may remember, two years ago, last month, I believe--the first time we had a conversation, it was in your office. A small group of District Directors was involved in OFP on a project and you were kind enough to ask to meet with us.
You asked each of us what you need to know or ought to know if there was one thing that you ought to know upon coming here. If I recall correctly, I suggested to you that what you would need to know is that within a short period of time, all the information that you would receive would be filtered and that, as a consequence, it would make it difficult for you to make the best decisions without sort of getting past that Beltway mandate and talk with those of us who are doing the Commission's work in the field.
And so, I'm very pleased to have this opportunity and I hope we will continue to have opportunities for personal direct discussion as the months go forward.
I want to, as I said, comment a little bit on what some of the folks said this morning in presentations. Mr. Johnson suggested to us, I think, that we ought to try to do the vision thing first and then put in place specific aspects of those visions as we could manage to do so, including resources considerations.
As you'll notice, in our paper, we suggest the same thing utilizing terminology drawn from another field of endeavor, but do suggest that where we do not have the resources to do all things at one time, that it nonetheless is good and valuable for us to agree upon thorough examination, the places we'd like to be in a couple of years. And then go there step-by-step, pilot-by-pilot, as that becomes possible to do so.
We suggest, then, that this master plan, as we've referred to it in our document, be the work product of the upcoming discussions that we not take into consideration what we can afford this year or the next year, but try to plan for a longer term.
In the short-run, I fear that what we can afford is precious little, unless the way we afford it is to draw down what funds would otherwise be used for operational purposes. And that is something that the District Directors, in particular, have grave reservations about.
By operational funds, I think what we all need to see is that right now, a huge amount of money-saving is going on. It goes on every day so long as the freeze on hiring in the field continues. Those are the folks who are missing who cannot be replaced now and who cannot be replaced by other resources that are presently in the Agency.
I think it's the Directors' view that at all events, we need to bring this freeze to a close and that there are a variety of ways to do it, but we see that the benefit and compensation budget-line, if you will, require--is both the matter that the line being used for current savings. And it is at the same time, the place to go for those savings is simply that what we are looking to have happen is a movement from, we can save the money by not replacing investigators and attorneys and suggest, instead, that we need those investigators and attorneys. And there are places to go for savings in compensation.
As you noticed from our paper, the place we point to is this building. That probably makes us no friends in this building and is not meant as a fingerpointing matter but, rather, that this is something that, unfortunately, we all know and have been reserved about going about.
The fact of the matter is that whether we are talking about the staffing, the compensation portion of our budget or the rental portion of the budget--agency wide sacrifice on a shared basis has not been the order of the day.
For example, we spend some $8 million each year on rent and related fees for the operation of this building. This building, by and large, contains those individuals at EEOC who have the least need for constant public contact. They have the least need, in general, to be able to be accessible to the public. We've discussed in some detail today, the need for us to have a presence in more places. But the place we have least need for that is the folks who are either dealing with cases, in which they do not need to interact with the parties to those cases. Or in larger numbers of cases the staff of support services offices where absolutely no need to be in the center of Washington, D.C. appears.
This city, as you may know, is one of the two cities in the country with New York City, which has the lowest--the lowest vacancy rate in its urban area office buildings. That seems to us to suggest strongly that subleasing of this entire building and the relocation of this building--the building staff, to an extremely nearby, but low-rent area, would be in keeping with the shared sacrifice and the modeling notion that we advocate.
Now, clearly, the Commission, itself, and the field office in Washington, seem to us to be the two portions of the entire staff of this area whose stakeholders are in central Washington in substantial enough part to justify their presence here.
That is not the case, for example, with the Office of Federal Operations, where, until a relatively small number of years ago, that office was, in fact, located in Virginia without notable distress to its ability to function.
What I'm saying, I think, is that we don't have a plan. But we have a plan as to how to come up with a plan. We'd like to all participate. We'd like to contribute our ideas. We hope that we would have, shortly, some of the tentative thoughts of the Agency's leadership to feed back--to respond to and to continue a dialogue. But as that has not been the case, at present, we do seek it. We ask for it now.
Those are the remarks at this point. I'd be happy to address questions.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Thank you, Ms. Bissell?
MS. BISSELL: Good afternoon. My name is Kathy Bissell, I'm the regional attorney in the EEOC's New York District Office.
My regional attorney colleagues from throughout the country have asked me to address you today on their behalf. The views that I present in my oral presentation as well as the extended, written remarks, which you have received, represent the consensus views of the 23 regional attorneys across the country.
First, let me say that the regional attorneys want to be part of the process of determining how the EEOC will position itself for the future.
We are willing to participate in the formulation of plans for restructuring and repositioning; to serve on task forces and work groups; to comment on proposals and to participate in whatever process there is going to be that moves us from where we are today to where we are going tomorrow.
We want to have an opportunity to comment on any plan or proposal in order to make meaningful contributions. The regional attorneys, as a collective group, bring vast experience and knowledge of the Agency to the table, as well as the commitment to the goals and the mission of the Agency.
While we welcomed the opportunity to speak here today, it is difficult to make concrete comments about any specific restructuring or repositioning, because to our knowledge, no such plan or proposal has been articulated, either publicly or within the Agency.
It is difficult to say anything about the merits of reconfiguring or closing or downsizing or restructuring or relocating this office or that function, when, insofar as we know, no such plan or proposal exists.
Despite some rumors to the contrary in the field, it is our understanding that we are at the beginning of a process. And it is our hope that the regional attorneys and other field personnel will be part of any work group or groups that take what is learned today, along with whatever other information we have or gathered and make recommendations for repositioning the EEOC for the future.
Our experience is that the most effective changes in the Agency have taken place where there's been broad field participation in formulating those changes and we hope that you will take this approach as we move forward.
Second, we believe that any restructuring or repositioning must be evaluated in the context of the central mission of the EEOC: The eradication of employment discrimination through the investigation and conciliation of charges and litigation of appropriate charges when conciliation fails. As we discussed in our comments on the NAPA report, we believe this was the fundamental flaw in the NAPA study.
Third, we believe that a strong litigation program is an important part of the Agency as it is structured today and that a strong litigation program remains important as we discuss an Agency that is positioning itself for the future.
The five-year study of the litigation program issued last year by the Office of General Counsel, demonstrated that the EEOC's litigation program is successful.
We have recovered hundreds of millions of dollars for victims of discrimination and established thousands of revised policies and training programs. And through publicity about our litigation, we have educated many more employers about their responsibilities under the laws enforced by the EEOC.
It is also our experience that a strong litigation program contributes to the success of other parts of our program. Employers are more receptive to efforts of proactive prevention. We're more willing to participate in mediation. And we're willing to resolve charges through settlement and conciliation because they know the EEOC will litigate if that is necessary.
With these three premises in mind, I would like to briefly comment on the two specific studies before the Commission today.
The study by the National Academy of Public Administration; and, then, the study by the EEOC's Office of Inspector General on telecommuting.
First, I would like to address the NAPA report. My extended remarks set out in detail our comments on the NAPA report and include some areas where, in fact, we are in agreement with some of the recommendations.
However, as stated earlier, we believe that the NAPA study failed to look at the need for change in light of the central mission of the EEOC: The eradication of employment discrimination and the enforcement of the law.
In addition, the regional attorneys are especially concerned about what appears to be the underlying premise of the NAPA report: That there are major flaws in the EEOC's current field structure.
We believe that the EEOC's results contradict that premise. In fact, the EEOC has demonstrated continuous improvements since at least early 1995 and continuing to the present in the investigation and resolution of charges, through staff in the field offices.
The results from the field for fiscal years 2001, 2002, and, we believe, continuing in 2003, demonstrate that staff in the field are processing charges more efficiently; reducing inventory; successfully mediating complaints; increasing class litigation; and obtaining millions of dollars in benefits through the enforcement and litigation process.
The regional attorneys believe that the changes suggested in the NAPA report, should be evaluated in light of this history of success.
As the report notes, the Commission's mission-critical work is done in the field. The work is being done well. The present structure of offices has been successful.
In recent years, the EEOC has been considered a serious player, making a difference in jurisdictions in which we had previously been considered irrelevant.
Accordingly, closing or significantly downsizing offices ought not to be considered an appropriate goal of our efforts. If closing offices is necessary for budgetary reasons, the plan should involve the fewest offices and the least disruption of the current field structure as possible.
The regional attorneys also want to articulate their concerns about the inaccuracies in the NAPA study related to legal unit staffing and productivity.
The numbers on the legal unit staffing found on page 113 of the report and the resulting conclusion that there is an opportunity to examine attorney staffing levels in order to reduce them, are just incorrect.
The legal unit's staffing in the field is at its lowest since 1998. As of this summer, there are only 160 trial attorneys in the field, down from 193, prior to the hiring freeze in 2001.
With a current yearly work load of approximately 800 litigation cases, there are about five cases per trial attorney. And a significant number of those cases are pattern and practice, or class cases, which require teams of multiple attorneys to effectively litigate. In fact, the Defense Bar routinely staffs cases we litigate with multiple attorneys.
Clerical and support staffing has also declined. And the shortages have reached critical points in many offices.
The NAPA Study's analysis of the field legal unit productivity also failed to recognize the duties of the legal units, in addition to litigating cases. The point is, that plans for the future must include sufficient resources in field legal units to ensure quality litigation that supports the Commission's mission.
Now, let me turn to the EEOC's Office of Internal Inspector General Report on Telecommuting.
The infrastructure and cost reductions suggested in the OIG's report are predicated upon a reduction of space through the use of shared offices, based upon the implementation of a frequent telework program.
The Regional Attorneys understand that there is a need to control costs and that rental costs are a major budget item. But the need to reduce rental costs ought to be addressed in the larger context of the other changes that may occur as the result of the process that we are engaged in today, the NAPA report--and other decisions about the direction of the Agency and how the Agency spends money.
Overall, the Regional Attorneys are concerned that the space reduction issue has not been thoroughly examined with respect to both budgetary concerns and programmatic implication.
As indicated in my extended remarks, there are numerous reasons that shared offices for trial attorneys are problematic. And time does not allow me to go through them all today. However, the Regional Attorneys are unanimous in their views that shared offices for trial attorneys should be avoided if at all possible.
Also troubling is the conclusion of the OIG report that the trial attorney position is suitable for frequent telework. The report, while conceding that generally comments from trial attorneys and supervisors of trial attorneys, were negative regarding frequent telework and shared office space for trial attorneys seems to discount these concerns.
Furthermore, the report's articulated criteria for determining what jobs are or are not suitable for telework is incomplete. We believe there is absent from any consideration the concept of team work, both in terms of litigation teamwork, as well as teamwork between attorneys and investigators. We believe frequent telework has a negative impact on fostering teamwork between attorneys and attorneys and enforcement staff and, consequently, it makes us less effective in carrying out the mission of the Agency.
Furthermore, it is well established that for telecommuting work, we must have the necessary resources. And these would include the computers, phones, Internet connections, fax and copying capabilities, all are necessary. Until EEOC has accurately assessed all the cost implications of telecommuting and has the budgetary means and the determination to spend the money required for that purpose, we do not believe telecommuting is an option for reducing our infrastructure costs, unless we are willing to reduce our ability to form our mission.
That concludes my remarks. I certainly want to thank you for the opportunity to speak today and also to let you know that the Regional Attorneys are looking forward to continuing a dialogue and working with you on these important issues.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Thank you. Thank you very much, Ms. Bissell. Let's open it up for questions before we hear from Cynthia Pierre. Madam Vice-Chair
VICE CHAIR EARP: I have a hypothetical and I'd like each of you to address it. Suppose we have an office in a state where its demographic trends show currently a 20 percent decrease in charges; a loss of population from at least some of our protected classes; and we have an office there that is high performing, highly functioning, with competent staff- doing a good job.
And that there is another state, geographically close by, where the demographic trends indicate that protected classes are moving there in droves. And the trend, at least, let's say from data that we get from FEPA, is that there is an enormous amount of work to be done from the charges and receipts coming in.
How would you propose, in light of clear indication that there is no additional money to handle that situation. Why don't we start with you, Ms. Martin?
MS. MARTIN: I think your hypothetical mirrors reality. And I think, just as we're doing today, we have to look at what's going on, where we're losing charges. If there's highly competent staff there, I think we can develop ways to get them to places where we have seen trends in populations. We can look at what's driving those trends to determine the best way to deploy current resources, if you will, to address those situations.
VICE CHAIR EARP: What about having a presence in the area where the receipts are going up and the demographics indicate that there is a need for some contact with the EEOC?
MS. MARTIN: Oh, I think you have to look at that and if there is no more money, part of closing offices is spending a lot of money to deal with the staff that are there. So, again, I think you have to say, how do we best do that?
If we don't have money to close offices and open new ones, then how do we most effectively use our staff to get them to that location with some regularity and to some type of permanency. I think, you know, the Commission is typically located where there are large population centers, but we have to service an awful lot of territory where that's not necessarily the case, but we see a trend, such as population growth or there's an industry there that triggers a number of charges and I think we've been able to rise to that challenge by effectively deploying the staff that we do have.
VICE CHAIR EARP: Okay. Mr. Rowe, do you have some thoughts on that?
MR. ROWE: Well, I think it is--it's sort of the extreme case of something that is part of our present.
I guess I would want to know first the why of each of your premises. For example, why is there a 20 percent--and I don't know the time frame over which the 20 percent charge reduction went on. But is it--if it's in a reasonably short period of time, is that because one of the things that the office has recently focused on is giving appropriate pre-charge counseling and so there's been a significant lessening because the charges that are now coming in are very likely to be valid charges relative to the prior practice.
So, with respect to each of your premises, there may be explanations that do not suggest that a wholesale relocation, for example, is even an answer that is necessary.
I think, though, that what I'd like to just focus on for a minute is you're talking about a high performing office; the fact of the matter is our field offices vary widely in their capabilities. And so, as we mentioned in passing in the paper that we've submitted to you today, I think the Commission has to be extraordinarily cautious about interrupting success in its field offices.
If we have a very good thing going, I think building on it rather than eliminating it in favor of a theoretical advantage that has yet to be proved out; something we need to be awfully cautious about.
VICE CHAIR EARP: So, let me understand, in the face of data indicating that the need is greater in some other area of the country and that where this high performing office is located, data indicate a high level of success, at least from the number of charges-- and our relationship with the community, you would still not see a compelling reason to move those resources from Point A to Point B?
MR. ROWE: Again, depending on the underlying facts involved in premises like there is a decreasing charge load. But let--but to answer you directly, if we have a high performing office over in an area where the population increase is going on, we have a rather mediocre performance shown, the first thing that needs to be looked at about that is there a way to have the benefit of the high performing office preserved?
Now that may call for some, simply some creativity, depending on what they do very well. They may want--we may want them to do it over a broader geography, for example.
The answers that we might give here today, probably have to do with our past more than our future. Closing an office, relocating staff--these are the things that we've known about for 30 years. But maybe that isn't the limit of what we can creatively design that takes advantage of the good performance in the first office you were talking about, and has some capacity to also provide valuable services and, perhaps, even upgrade the level of performance in the second office that you're talking about.
VICE CHAIR EARP: Ms. Bissell?
MS. BISSELL: I may not have much to add, but I would say two things: One is, I think that it's important that we look at what the high performing office has done and, like they've mentioned, I think the fact that charges have decreased does not necessarily mean there's less of a need for the office. It may, in fact, be that the high performing level that has taken place is important to keep in place or you're going to find that there'll be more discrimination, you know, if you pulled some of those resources out.
So I think we should look at that as a positive and not necessarily immediately think we can remove resources from that particular situation.
I would also want to know what kind of underserved population there is, notwithstanding how many charges are coming into the office, because I think we also know that when we do more outreach and we reach out to underserved populations, we actually get more people in--we know there's more discrimination than is coming in our door.
I couldn't exactly get from your hypothetical whether you were saying the other state had no office or just a less performing office.
VICE CHAIR EARP: No- office.
MS. BISSELL: No office, okay. Then my other comment won't, but I'll make it anyway. I mean, I think if there's a less performing offices, I do think that we should do a better job of partnering or best-practices or whatever so that all our offices are performing at a higher level.
VICE CHAIR EARP: Okay.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Commissioner Silverman?
COMMISSIONER SILVERMAN: One of the things that NAPA talked about was converting some of our District Offices or making fewer lead offices. And I think that plays into the hypothetical that the Vice Chair just gave.
If we have good management in place in some places and not as good in other places; if we have offices where we have an excellent culture in some places and not so good in the other place--would we, as an agency benefit from thinking about narrowing down the number of lead offices and spreading out the good management, assuming that just because you can manage one office well, you can manage from a distance as well? And that is something that I'd like you to address and tell me what you honestly think. All of you.
MS. MARTIN: I think that there are sort of two issues: One is, we have a structure in place and in district offices, it looks a lot different than it does in area and local offices. If the question is can we take resources from bigger offices where we have proven performance records and infuse them and work with smaller offices to make them better performing? I think that's probably a good idea.
If you're saying, okay, now that office is a good functioning office, so let's rob its resources and put them somewhere else. My concern would be what are we leaving and what's going to be the legacy of that office. I think we have to have an approach of not taking from one place and putting in another so much as we need to say, how do we make them all top performing offices?
And it often is a question of resources. Smaller offices, quite frankly, aren't staffed, so it's more difficult for them in some ways to have the same kind of high performance. It doesn't mean they don't have high performance, it just means they have more limitations. So when you talk about looking at a picture, or putting together a picture where you have more or fewer lead offices and lots of small offices around, my concern would be can you adequately disperse the resources so that each of those offices can be high performing, because as it is now you have small offices and in some ways they have to go to the big offices and beg, because that's where the money is.
So I think the challenge there, again, would be how do you take those resources and disperse them so that everybody can be performing at a very high level.
MR ROWE: I'm just, what Gabrielle was talking--these two scenarios occurred to me. First, assume that we cut our district office, it will then, presumably, become an area office. It will then presumably report to some adjacent district office. Now that is a way in which the senior field executive will have some authority over the office that wasn't doing so wonderfully.
Unfortunately, what that does, at the same time, I mean, you simply have less minutes of that good manager's time and it becomes a matter of spreading thinner and spreading thinner. You know, there's a good deal of talk, for example, in the OMB Bulletin about delayering. In the field right now, we're pretty delayered, you know. I'm a District Director in a 6,000 charge office. I have a deputy. We used to have two enforcement managers; they have both gone. So we have two senior managers in place of four. That's a typical--we're delayered now.
Let me give you the other possibility. Right now, in headquarters, just in the SES ranks, in headquarters--I think this is true, we have 20 SES positions in headquarters, which is essentially close to the same--in other words, we have 18 on-board, we have 18, in the field on-board.
Of the 20 positions in headquarters, 10 of those, I believe report to other SESers in headquarters. Those report to another SESer in headquarters who reports to a presidential appointee.
If those layers were dealt with this way, you have 25, in rough terms, you have 25 district offices. If five of them--if five of them had this kind of change: you had--you took the good managers and made them regional directors. And you have five of them. And then, and they report to Nick. And each of the District Directors of the 25 report to that regional manger. What you've done is, you've cut down what I would view as an overwhelming layering of senior executives in headquarters and you would create five places where, with the assistance of another SESer in the field, a regional executive would be able to provide overall management, to five or what are now district offices.
I guess what I'm saying is, when I saw NAPA in its report refer to, quote, "lead offices," unquote, I did not immediately assume--that when they were talking about district offices, I just thought they were talking about, maybe we should put 10 in round numbers, at the top layer of the field operations and cascade it down from there.
And I don't disagree, in general terms, with that because, as far as I'm concerned, we have spare resources.
MS. BISSELL: I guess I would just make two comments: One is, I think that the regional attorneys, as a group, believe that the more presence we can have in more different places is important. I think the concept of having attorneys in area offices has been successful and I think we believe that's successful. So that would be one concept that I think is important.
I also think that there's lots of different configurations that we could come up with. And I think what we really need to do is start a better dialogue with people in the field as well as headquarters about what those possible scenarios are and sort of dialogue: well, if you did it this way, what would that mean? If you did it that way, what are the criteria? Because I don't' think there's any one solution. Part of it is understanding what the problem is. And if the problem is just we have too much, you know, we don't have enough money, then that's --then you have to deal with that in one way. If the problem is, we don't think we're being effective, then, you know, we have to deal with that.
And I think part of it is defining the problem and then seeing what are the many solutions that might be out there and have an opportunity to sort of vet those where we can give you our experience about why one thing might work and why one thing wouldn't.
And I think the other thing I would say in the field is because of the lack of resources, generally, what's happened in many district offices, is people, the structure starts becoming, in a certain way because of the people. I mean, Jack's office doesn't have enforcement managers. Our office in New York doesn't have a deputy. So different people start taking on different management roles, not because of a title or whatever, but because of the resources and because the people have certain skills.
And I think we could learn some things, also, from that about what kinds of things work and what kinds of things don't work.
COMMISSIONER SILVERMAN: I just have one other question. Kathy, your office, obviously in the wake of 9/11, did go through the whole telecommuting experience. And I was wondering if you could share a little bit about that with us, since we are examining it.
MS. BISSELL: Right, I know that the Inspector General did talk to Spencer and so there's some comments from that. My staff, the legal unit staff put together a response which I thought was very thoughtful. If people don't have that I'd be happy to share it. I think most of you should, if you don't-- And I think most of it had to do with two things: Obviously forced telecommuting was a disaster, in my book. You know, when you're forced to do something and you don't have the resources, which was really the problem. We had no--we were dealing with telecommuting without the resources.
So the first think I would say, I think you absolutely have to have the resources.
The second thing is that I think having gone through the experience, most--I know my legal unit staff, but I think it's even true of other staff in the office, is that they wanted to be in the office. Even in the terrible situation we had for an office for that year and a half, which most of you saw--people wanted to be there, because there was the team work that was important; there was the interaction that they got in terms of their supervisors or other people; and so, to basically set up a situation where people are forced not to be able to come and be in an office, I think is a bad thing.
And I think that most of the people that I work with would tell you that, using telecommuting to reduce office space, I think people would not--in my office, given their experience, would not support.
COMMISSIONER SILVERMAN: Thank you. Commissioner Miller?
COMMISSIONER MILLER: Just a couple of questions. Thank you very much for all of your comments. I found them interesting.
Mr. Rowe, I want to--just so that I understand, through your thoughts and I appreciate you trying to be thoughtful and reflective on behalf of the District Directors. I guess--are you saying that it is somewhat artificial to consider restructuring or cost restructuring by looking entirely at the field without looking at the Agency holistically? The field and headquarters together that that should be the process so that--is that where you're going?
MR. ROWE: Pretty much so, Commissioner. I suppose I would take a small step farther and say that it seems to me difficult for the kind of sacrifice that we think will be involved in downgrading of offices and relocation of staff and the like; to not see headquarters of sort or, in there with us, perhaps modeling for us. And going the extra mile. By and large, for example, families will not be uprooted and moved about the country, if headquarters goes to Tysons Corner. But if, because relative to--
COMMISSIONER SILVERMAN: You obviously haven't commuted in Washington, D.C., lately.
MR. ROWE: You mean never see the children again, is that?
COMMISSIONER MILLER: I don't even know where Tysons is, as Leslie knows.
COMMISSIONER SILVERMAN: I'd have to draw Commissioner Miller a map.
MR. ROWE: I have to say I used that example because of my, you know, aeons of experience, that's where the predecessor to OFO, in fact was located, at exquisitely less rent than they are paying for their spot.
VICE CHAIR EARP: Bailey's Crossroads.
MR. ROWE: And you're exactly right.
VICE CHAIR EARP: Which is better.
COMMISSIONER MILLER: And many agencies have sort of moved out to the suburbs here in Washington.
MR. ROWE: Yeah, to be sure. You know this happened and we've had some discussion about the fact that a lot has changed since X--a lot has changed since we got into this building, as well. Things were relatively speaking, going our way budgetwise and we could afford a lot of red marble. But that's not true now. And the question is where is the savings available to us? In the field, the saving is available at--in my judgment, a significant reduction in our capability to be effective. And although there are variations to that, it's quite clear, sort of reading the fine print from the IG's report and the NAPA report together, that on a per staff basis, it is more expensive to have little tiny offices and, yet, there is the suggestion about intake-only satellite offices, for example.
But they are the most expensive per person to rent. The larger offices like my own, are relatively inexpensive to rent. One would guess that if that were true, if there were economies of scale that ran all the way through that the staff here would, on a per staff basis, be the most economically housed, particularly given the fact that there's not a lot of call for mediation conference rooms and extra waiting rooms for the mediation program and the like in this building.
The fact of the matter is that at the bottom line, the headquarters is housed more expensively than the District Officers are.
So, yeah, we would be happy to see some, you know, some leadership on the sacrifice side, mm-hmm.
COMMISSIONER MILLER: I'm--you raised two points. I just want to ask a question. Gabrielle, Ms. Martin was quite complete in her comments. And Ms. Bissell, spoke about the regional attorneys and her thoughts on telework, but I wanted to hear both from the District Director perspective and the regional attorney perspective any thoughts that you may have on either the call center proposal or for the District Directors any other thoughts on telework?
MR. ROWE: Let me address the matter of the contact center first, since, on the one hand, I was a member of the work group on the national contact center; and on the other hand, that may put me in a slightly different position than any of my colleagues. I think there was a huge amount of concern among the District Directors, generally, about the coming to be of a national contact center.
In part, because it seemed premised on something--on facts that the District Directors are not in agreement with; that is: the underpinnings seemed to be that you had every office had 600 unanswered telephone calls and so forth and so on. By and large, and this is certainly not 100 percent, but to the extent of, perhaps, three-fourths of the District Directors believe--continue to believe that calls from the public are being quite adequately handled with current staff.
And the concern that arises out of that is, well, then, we're going to pay money which has to ultimately come from operations, in order to do what is now being done.
I take this argument to them in this fashion: I think there is more--absolutely a place for a national function here. For example, many of the Districts are located in areas where the technology does not make it possible to use the same sort of technology--the digital switches, if you will--that are available in Washington and in Chicago and a variety of other places. So that suggests that using a national location for the technology is a matter of considerable gain.
On the other hand, there is not a lot of acceptance of the sort of notion at the other end, which is, if you use staff from a contractor to answer these calls and, therefore, free up staff in field offices--and I think the example was, you know, to do investigations and so forth. The fact of the matter is that not everybody in the field office is likely to succeed in these redeployed functions. And so, I think that has to be given proper due in the, you know, in the working out in the implementation.
I think where we are on a national contact center is--harking back to something that was said this morning, the devil is in the details. I think everything we've seen in the report that the work group submitted can be the floor, if you will, for the implementation of something quite valuable. That is not to say it will be, there is work to be done yet.
As far as the telework matter, again, I would certainly share what Kathy had to say about the use of telework as a device to make it possible to make it possible for us to shave significant amounts of square footage from our office spaces. If the result of that is that either professional employees need to share offices and, therefore, will find it extraordinarily difficult to do what they do now in terms of working out settlements; in terms of mediators using their own offices as caucus rooms and the like, then those functions will fall down in their effectiveness.
I think we need to look at all sorts of other means for reducing our rent costs before we start shaving people's offices and the document that came to us suggested specifically that we reduce the number of conference rooms for mediation. Ours are in use 100 percent of the time. If that does not continue, we have very little notion as to how we will hold those conferences.
So I just, again, if we can look somewhere else, that's a good idea, I believe we can look lots of other places before we reach the question of offices and waiting rooms and conference rooms.
MS. BISSELL: I know you want to, but let me say just two things: One I think that the regional attorneys could say that the process that was employed to get to the national contact center with the work group and the ideas is a good process. And we would hope that, as we move forward on other issues, we use that process. I do not have comments from the regional attorneys on the national contact center. If that was something that people thought was important, I could certainly take that back to my group and ask for some comments on the proposal and do a consensus view if that would be helpful.
COMMISSIONER MILLER: I think that would be helpful, thank you.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Thank you. Thank you panel members very much. Very helpful.
I do have just one observation. I do have to say, I'm still troubled by the fact that if we believe the theory that people follow jobs, and that reflects the migration of the people. And if we, also, appreciate the fact that the fastest growing segment of our charge activity is that of small- and mid-sized businesses, which are not usually housed in major downtown areas, but because of our service and technology, they're all diffused. Then I do think we have some--you know we have a disconnect somewhere in how we are approaching our services. Because small businesses and mid-sized businesses, you know, oftentimes develop out of people's garages out of suburbs.
You know, Hewlitt-Packard being a perfect example of that kind of a thing.
So I'm concerned that if, in fact, the demographic patterns that we're seeing are because of the movement of jobs, and we're still looking at a structure that reflects more of a manufacturing economy, that we may end up with some imbalances. But, anyway that's for further discussion. But thank you very much. Ms. Pierre.
Cynthia G. Pierre:
MS. PIERRE: Good afternoon, Madam Chair, Madam Vice Chair, Commissioner Miller, Commissioner Silverman, Colleagues and distinguished guests.
My name is Cynthia Pierre and I am now two weeks into the position of Director of Field Management Programs in the Office of Field Programs. For five years prior to that, I was director of the Birmingham District Office and I am very pleased today to present the findings conclusions and recommendations of the National Contact Center Work Group.
And hopefully shatter some of the myths that have risen about the contact center development along the way.
If I was in the field at this point and I was appearing on a panel at this point in the afternoon, I'd be asking everyone in the audience to kind of take a stretch break. But, perhaps, we could take a virtual stretch break at this point.
On January 21 of this year, I was selected to head a work group to investigate the feasibility and desirability of establishing a national call center for EEOC. The full work group consisted of field and headquarters representatives, including two District Directors, the OIT Director, a Deputy District Director, a Regional Attorney, an Enforcement Manager and Intake Supervisor; an Administrative Judge and representatives from the offices of Federal Operations and Field Programs.
Technical advisors to the group were provided by the Office of General Counsel, the Office of Legal Counsel, the Office of Information Technology, the Office of the Chief Financial Officer and Administrative Services, and the Office of Human Resources.
Finally, expert support was provided by the Research and Analytic Services Division of the Office of General Counsel. We began our work on February 3, 2003, and submitted our draft report to the chair on June 20, 2003.
Although we initially focused on government call centers, the work group soon expanded its review to include multichannel contact center operations, which handle not only telephone calls but, also, e-mail, postal mail, facsimiles, and fulfillment of requests for publications and materials.
We also coordinated and exchanged information with another agency work group that is developing an on-line assessment tool and questionnaire for people who believe they may have been discriminated against.
This report, we believe lays out a compelling case for change by discussing the key elements of the business case.
In my presentation today, I am going to focus on the first three elements: Where we are now. A vision of where we want to go. And a third, how we plan to get there.
Other elements of the business case are discussed more fully in the report, including impact on our internal stakeholders; allocation of roles, responsibilities and resources and how the process would be managed.
Before I discuss these major points, I want to talk a bit about the methodology of the group. We researched current call center practices by reviewing relevant industry literature; arranging presentations from representatives from four federal agencies, with call center operations, the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation which has in-house technology and contract staff; the Department of Labor; and General Services Administration, both of which have totally outsourced centers and the Social Security Administration, which has a totally in-house operation.
The work group surveyed the field to determine EEOC's current business process with respect handling unsolicited public contacts, as will as an estimate of the current volume and type of calls received by the Agency.
We also held an informal market survey with call center vendors, receiving detailed presentations of vendor qualifications, capacity and the range of contact center operations.
Finally, the work group made on-site visits to an outsource federal call center and in-house call center, with contract staff.
Now for the first element, where we are now.
The Agency receives more than 1 million unsolicited public contacts each year. Only 39 percent of which are potential charge inquiries; 22 percent for general information and 17 percent are asking for status of charge.
The remaining 22 percent cover a range of miscellaneous categories detailed in the full report. However, we have no information on the nature of the charge-related inquiries, which could help us to forecast trends or areas of particular concern.
And, in fact, we only know about the types of charges because of the survey that was conducted during March of this year. Prior to that, we had no idea what proportion of calls contained the various different types of inquiries.
Fifty-one field locations have various procedures in place for responding to contacts from the public. They have various types of telephone systems, and equipment, all resulting in a wide range of capacity and performance.
Many procedures are unchanged for more than 30 years ago, having not kept up with advancements in technology or the opportunities of more efficient use of human capital.
Complaints about poor customer service and inaccessibility, are received regularly by field and headquarters office director. As well as the officer of the chair and, I imagine, by other commissioner offices as well.
Examples include unreturned calls, inconsistent and sometimes inaccurate information to the public; disinterest; and, sometimes, discourtesy. There are no monitoring systems to ensure quality and timeliness of responses.
Customer access is limited to telephones, walk-ins, faxes, and postal mail, there is no public e-mail access to the Agency.
Analyses of the telephone survey responses show that approximately 52,000 hours will be spent by staff in 51 different offices this year answering public inquiries by telephones alone.
This is based on an average of 3 minutes a call for 87,000 calls that we recorded in the month of March, during our survey.
In addition, 19 offices have menu systems and recorded information for which we could not estimate the number of calls handled.
To meet demand, managers, supervisors, investigators, attorneys and clerks are deployed to answer phones, retrieve messages and return calls.
Offices reported taking from lone to five days to return calls.
Now I want to talk about the second element, which is a vision of where we want to go.
In government, you know, we tend to address problems by muddling along, sort of tweaking at the edges. We believe that a bold vision is necessary to bring about dramatic improvements in the Agency's customer access and customer service competency. It hardly matters what information or services we have to offer if people can't reach us.
Our vision is an agency that offers premiere customer service, providing a model for the rest of government.
We want to fully implement the President's management agenda, which calls for improved human capital management, expanded e-gov and increased focus on meeting the needs of our customers.
Following the philosophy of our successful priority-charged handling procedures, we believe we need a process for every call or contact gets the level of service warranted. For example certain routine inquiries could be handled by an electronic interactive voice response system, while others would be routed to a call center representative or an EEOC expert depending on the complexity.
We want to fully utilize available or state-of-the-art technology to improve capacity, consistency quality assurance and accountability in handling our large volume of calls. We want to be quickly accessible and responsive to the public, our stakeholders and ourselves. We want to expand language capacity and called handling and we wan to expand service hours.
Finally, we want to be able to capture and analyze information from inquiries to identify emerging trends and issues and to better inform policy development.
Number three, the third element--discusses how we can get there and why a national contact center as a recommended solution. The report discusses a number of potential solutions for the problem we are trying to address. The problem is summarized in conclusion one of the full report which reads: The Agency's current system for handling unsolicited calls from the public is severely impaired by a lack of systems capacity, facility infrastructure, and appropriate staffing. Also, accuracy, consistency, responsiveness, and professionalism are core competencies that must be developed in order to improve customer service.
While certain offices manage to be responsive to the public, the overall picture of the Agency is one of spotty achievement with no national customer service standard.
Conclusion two of the report provides the rationale for the option recommended by the National Contact Center Work Group. Conclusion two reads: The National Call Center solution would benefit all offices, rather than requiring choices to be made on which offices should be allocated additional staff and equipment in a given year, in order to upgrade their performance.
A national contact center would allow a quantum leap in performance, service quality, and appropriate deployment of staff. To instill public confidence and improve it's image, EEOC needs to present a consistent, high-quality, professional face to the public.
The Work Group made six specific recommendations: Recommendation one, the EEOC should establish a National Contact Center to serve as a central point of access to handle all unsolicited public inquiries that currently are received by the 51 field offices.
It is not recommended at this juncture to include calls received by the Office of Federal Operations or Field Management Programs in the National Contact Center.
Recommendation two: The National Contact Center should be competitively outsourced to allow maximum opportunity to get the best value pricing for the call center start up and operations. The EEOC should use the statement of objectives, procurement, process to expedite implementation.
Recommendation three: The EEOC should start operations with a pilot phase for at least two years to allow for the collection of refined baseline data on performance metrics and costs during the first 12 months; and an assessment of vendor performance, during the second 12 months.
This pilot phase would allow pilot costs to be lower by being spread over two years. Also it would allow pilot costs to be lower by being spread over two years. Also, it will allow time for sufficient information to be gathered before committing to a multi-year contract at a cost higher than necessary.
The pilot should be national in scope in order to gather accurate and reliable baseline data on service demands and to evaluate vendor performance.
Recommendation four: The services handled by the National Contact Center during a pilot phase, should cover the spectrum of basic inquiries, frequently asked questions, information on laws and procedures; the EEO report series, office hours, locations, staff directories, and case information, assuming we can have a process that allows for caller authentication.
The EEOC National Contact Center should respond to inquiries from potential charging parties and assist in the completion of on-line charge questionnaires, if appropriate.
Other services to be phased into contact center operations include: handling e-mail; facsimile, postal mail, and fulfillment of requests for publications and printed materials.
The EEOC contact center should not handle actual charge filing.
Recommendation five: The EEOC Order 150.005 Protection of Privacy, issued December 5, 1991, which prohibits the use of electronic or mechanical devices to intercept or record telephone conversations of EEOC employees and members of the public who conduct business with the Agency, should be modified to allow for monitoring and/or recording of calls of Contact Center employees for quality assurance purposes.
Recommendation Six: The EEOC should develop internal and external marketing strategies to communicate the compelling business case for a national contact center to its staff, its customers, and its stakeholders in order to solidify support for this initiative.
Now, what are the benefits and costs? A national contact center would all the Agency to benefit from economies of scale. The technology and staff needed to handle 1 million-plus inquiries a year is very expensive. Only one government agency has a fully contained, in-house call center. That is the Social Security Administration, which handles 1 million calls per day.
A national contact center would allow field staff to spend more time on investigations, technical assistance, outreach, and litigation. And, also spend more time on intake, by reviewing charges inquiries that are coming in and spend more time on categorization charges.
Specifically, an out-source national contact center would allow the Agency to lower costs in a number of ways: it would allow for one, better staff modeling; the ability to accurately forecast staffing needs based on call volume and service needs; paying only for what you need.
Number two, better performance management, that is the ability to determine the appropriate measurements of service quality; to gather and utilize the trend date for continuous improvement.
Number three, it would allow for efficient use of technology applications, including the Web, automated attendant and interactive voice response, among others.
To automate responses to routine inquiries and reduce staffing needs.
Number four, will allow for improved process re-engineering. The business model for handling customer calls, can be streamlined to produce quicker response times, less information and higher customer satisfaction.
Number five, It will allow resources for training targeted to development of soft and hard skills necessary for successful job performance.
And number six, it would allow an opportunity to partner with contact center specialists who are able to realize economies of scale and use knowledge of industry best practices to improve quality, meet service demands and be able to initiate operations quickly without the usual start up costs. Typical transition and set up time is about 90 days from award of contract.
The final question, of course, is how much will this cost? We could not pinpoint the cost with any degree of accuracy because costs varies widely with amount and level of services purchased.
Therefore, we concentrated on developing a draft statement of objectives for a performance-based acquisition, which will allow the Agency to get the best value for its dollar should it decide to proceed along these lines.
We have costed out staff time, currently spent answering calls at nearly $1.4 million. Cost estimates from various sources have been as low as $1.1 million for an outsource center. And it ranges upwards from there.
Since we are recommending a competitive bidding process, I cannot say more without risking the integrity of that process.
This concludes my presentation, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today. I would be happy to answer any questions.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Thank you very much, Ms. Pierre. Very, very thorough analysis and you and your work group are to be commended for the great job that you did.
MS. PIERRE: Thank you.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Madam Vice Chair?
VICE CHAIR EARP: No questions, just a compliment. I think the report was excellent. The final report was a little dense to read through.
MS. PIERRE: Weighty, we would say.
VICE CHAIR EARP: I'm generally supportive and I look forward to finding out what the next steps are and seeing what the details are.
MS. PIERRE: Thank you.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Commissioner Silverman?
COMMISSIONER SILVERMAN: I have to admit I haven't read the final report, it just came in the end of last week, right? Did you talk about how we would go about monitoring the quality of the contact center, because so many people have raised issues regarding that.
MS. PIERRE: Right, I mentioned one of our recommendations concerns the fact that we have a privacy--an order that covers privacy and prohibits the recording of telephone calls from the public or by EEOC employees. And in order--every contact center works with a quality assurance officers who listen in on calls in order to assess the accuracy of the information recorded by the agents as well as the information--the accuracy of the information provided.
And in order for the quality assurance process to work in a contact center, we would have to modify our order to allow for that.
COMMISSIONER SILVERMAN: I understand sort of the why of the contact center, because it would be more customer driven, which is one of the things we heard about this morning. Although Mr. Rowe was saying that the District Directors, three quarters of them don't believe that this is needed. But when it comes to the cost-saving portion--if the National Contact Center, because of its limited role has to turn around and forward a lot of the calls back to the offices, how will we be able to--do you still think we'll have a significant enough cost-savings to warrant it?
MS. PIERRE: We thought it would be important in the design to make sure that we are developing scripts that would answer most of the questions that are being asked at the--what we call first-call resolution at the contact center. And EEOC staff would be involved in the development on the content of the scripts. And we would have three tiers, in fact, so that EEOC staff would be a final, would only be the final tier at the third level for recourse.
And if we look at only 39 percent of the inquiries being charged-related, then we're talking about 61 percent being for other things.
COMMISSIONER SILVERMAN: That's all, thank you.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Commissioner Miller?
COMMISSIONER MILLER: Thank you. Thank you very much for both your presentation and the work of the task force. I do have a couple of questions. In sort of looking out and trying to see what other agencies have done, in terms of call centers, you mentioned Social Security and some others--did you look at any other law enforcement agencies? Have other law enforcement agencies implemented call centers in response to their work?
MS. PIERRE: We obtained literature or copies of the contact center specifications for Immigration and Naturalization Service and which--they have a call center that answers the inquiries on their laws and enforcement aspects. And they, in fact, use an outsource contact center.
We also saw samples of the scripts that they use, as well.
COMMISSIONER MILLER: That's more technical assistance?
MS. PIERRE: No, this was answering questions on their laws.
COMMISSIONER MILLER: The--one of the things that's--
MS. PIERRE: Oh, excuse me.
COMMISSIONER MILLER: Sorry.
MS. PIERRE: Also, Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division and the Office of Contract Compliance Programs, also have call centers that answer questions on their laws. Theirs, we found, resulted in a significant number of referrals back to the offices. We found the reason for that is because the emphasis at that agency was on a call, every call being answered, as opposed to the information was being provided. Our emphasis would not be just on every call simply being answered and referred, but on providing sufficient information for at least the resolution of the call in the contact center.
COMMISSIONER MILLER: One of the issues that's been talked about with respect to the call center is the expertise required to answer the calls. And one of the things in the report is that the majority of the calls are answered have to be handled by a GS-12 or above, which indicates that there are substantive conversations going on. Can you talk about that a little bit?
MS. PIERRE: Well, the fact is, the majority of the calls are answered by GS-12s. The other fact is that the majority of our investigative staff are GS-12s because of their longevity. So that doesn't mean the calls couldn't been answered by someone who had a lower grade level. This is just a fact of our profile in the field.
What we believe the emphasis would need to be is on training or contact center staff. Just as we train our investigators and our investigative support assistants when they come in to be able to answer inquiries over the phone. Contact Center staff could be provided the same training and periods of time are allowed for intensive training and review and refreshers and constant updates of scripts and training for agents.
Another benefit from that though would be that as happens in other government agencies and in the private sector. Contact center agents often become feeder group for employees in the Agency when vacancies occur. Because they have developed some level of knowledge an expertise through their work in the contact center.
And if we're looking at an agency where we have, as Angie spoke this morning, suffered a lot of attrition. As Reuben spoke, we've lost, you know, quite a few investigators over the last year, it would seem that being able to have a feeder pool of people available, when we lose people it would be a benefit.
COMMISSIONER MILLER: Did I read somewhere that there was a turnover rate of 30 percent in some of these similar agencies?
MS. PIERRE: That's true.
COMMISSIONER MILLER: And how would that impact our ability to continually to train and monitor people at a call center? And connected to that, one of the things and I think Mr. Norris raised this, is in terms of intake screening, we've tried to, as you know, reached real excellence in that area. And I'm trying to figure out what might be the impact of a call center by outside contractors who have received some training but are not our employees on our ability to better prioritize, do intake, sort through charge prioritization, and so on and so forth? Do you have a sense of the impact?
MS. PIERRE: Mm-hmm. One of the things that we learned in talking to contact center vendors is the turnover can be quite high, as high as 30 percent in some places. I should say, because of how the operation is won and the type of employees that are hired by the contact center. We, as Jack said, there's a lot of devil in the details, right.
We can--in our requirements--we can ask for a certain level of background or qualifications for contact center agents. One vendor even told us that they could focus on hiring former EEOC staff or former federal EEO staff, retirees and so forth to populate contact centers.
So we can put specifications of backgrounds on employees that would make it much easier to train and retain them in the Contact Center environment. But it does have to be part of our design and detail and we can't be very careless about it. But it is a very good question. But it is something I think that we could definitely address and deal with.
COMMISSIONER MILLER: And the cost-savings, walk me through where the fiscal cost savings are going to come from--through heading down a path like this, or is it mostly focused on customer service?
MS. PIERRE: The main focus is on customer service. We weren't focused on how much money could we save from this process, but how we could increase the efficiency of the Agency, increase our customer access. Be more customer focused. Be more professional, more responsive to the public and so forth. And it may be for the same amount of dollars. It may not be for a significant savings, but we would get a lot more bang for the buck.
COMMISSIONER MILLER: Thank you.
MS. PIERRE: Mm-hmm.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Thank you very much. As we welcome our next panel guests, let's take a seven minute stretch break.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Panel five is the last, but certainly not the least of our panels today. We're very, very appreciative of the representatives from several stakeholder groups that have taken the time to be with us today. They're not only stakeholders, they're real partners in the fullest sense of the word to advancing and furthering the mission of the Commission. So we're very, very grateful for taking your precious time to come and be with us. today.
Let me introduce Wade Henderson, the Executive Director of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights; Camille Olson, of Seyfarth Shaw, representing the Society of Human Resource Management. Following their remarks, we will hear from L. Steven Platt, who is the immediate past president of the National Employment Lawyers Association; and then, Jeffrey A. Norris, who is the President of the Equal Employment Advisory Council. We will hear first from Mr. Henderson and Ms. Olson and then we will hear from Mr. Platt and Mr. Norris. Mr. Henderson.
MR. HENDERSON: Well, thank you Madam Chair for those kind words. And good afternoon to you and members of the Commission. And thank you, also, for the opportunity to testify today and to offer comments on proposals before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission regarding its structure and organization.
Again, I'm Wade Henderson, Executive Director of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights. We are the nation's largest and most diverse national civil rights coalition with over 180 organizations representing a broad constituency, including persons of color, women, children, labor unions, individuals with disabilities, older Americans, major religious groups, and gays and Lesbians.
The Leadership Conference and its members have a shared commitment to advancing equal opportunity in employment and ensuring that all Americans are treated fairly in the workplace.
We believe deeply in the EEOC's mission and the critical role that it plays in investigating and challenging discriminatory employment practices. We are firmly committed to helping to ensure that the Commission thrives as a vital institution with the tools and resources it needs to accomplish its work in an effective manner.
Allow me, also to acknowledge and introduce Jocelyn Frye the Director of Legal and Public Policy for the National Partnership on Women and Families. Jocelyn serves as the co-chair of the Leadership Conference's Employment Task Force and I really want to acknowledge her assistance in all the work that we do.
Today's public meeting, comes at a critical juncture in the life and history of the Commission. The EEOC faces many challenges. All of which have important implications for the structure and organization of the Agency; the ability of claimants to access the Commission's services and the overall effectiveness of the Agency's enforcement work.
We recognize the Commission's limited resources increasingly must be stretched to respond effectively to a wide mix of employment discrimination cases, with varying levels of complexity.
Even with significant progress over more than three decades, persistent discriminatory employment practices continue to limit job opportunities for women, people of color, older Americans, people with disabilities and other employees.
The Commission must tackle, not only visible practices but, also, subtler forms of discrimination that, although hidden from plain view, continue to deny equal employment opportunity to far too many.
I'd like to focus my remarks on several specific questions we understand are now under consideration, as well as some of the overarching principles that we believe should guide this discussion.
Most importantly, we caution against implementing changes without comprehensive analysis of their potential impact; significant outreach to stakeholders; congressional oversight; full opportunity for public comment on specific proposals, and a meaningful opportunity for ongoing give and take as you consider today's preliminary response to your proposals for change.
We believe the Commission should be guided by several core principles. First, any decision about the structural organization of the Commission must be consistent with the EEOC's primary role to enforce employment discrimination laws and help individuals vindicate their rights.
While it is always important to focus on identifying new strategies to detect and remedy discrimination, enforcement remains an overarching responsibility for which there is no substitute.
Second, it is essential to ensure that all potential claimants have equal access to the EEOC's services.
Third, it is critical to ensure public accountability as the Commission contemplates potential changes.
Fourth, achieving high quality and high performance in all EEOC services and functions must be a top priority, as organizational changes are evaluated; and;
Fifth, the Commission must maintain a strong institutional presence in different communities throughout the country to maximize access to EEOC services.
Now with these principles in mind, we offer the following comments:
To begin, the delivery of services by the EEOC must be improved. First, we believe that the discussion of potential improvements in the EEOC's services delivery must start with a thorough assessment of the needs of local communities.
To ensure that such an assessment is comprehensive and accurate, the Commission should engage in a dialogue with community leaders and local groups in different regions of the country to identify unique challenges facing their communities. Such consultation is critical to making informed judgments about how best to serve claimants and communities.
It is also important for members of local communities to hear from you directly and concretely about specific changes that are being contemplated in different areas of the country to minimize confusion and misinformation.
Second, the Commission must continue to work to ensure that individuals understand their rights and have meaningful access to the Commission's technical expertise and investigatory process. Any changes must take into account the unique challenges of serving different communities, such as communities where there are significant language barriers.
It is with these concerns in mind that we have considered three specific proposals that we understand are under review by the Commission:
First, the National Call Center. In prior comments to the Commission, we raised serious concerns about using a call center for the intake of claims. One-on-one meetings often provide the best forum for the type of nuanced services required in employment discrimination claims. Clients need time to fully explain their complaint and the intake person needs time to adequately assess the complaint.
In contrast, call centers frequently operate within strict time limits. Thus, staff answering calls might not be able to delve fully into the intricacies of the complaint. We understand that the call center proposal that the Commission may be considering currently recommends that the call center should not be used for claims intake.
Even with limiting the call center to providing general information, however, we have reservations about the logistical challenges involved with ensuring that each call is handled appropriately and potential claims are referred to the appropriate offices.
Thus, rather than undertaking such a significant change at once, we recommend pursuing a pilot that is both time limited and smaller in scope; perhaps, involving one region of the country for better analysis.
Second, reconfiguring or closing offices. As a general matter, we support EEOC efforts to explore ways to decrease real estate costs, such as locating offices in lower-rent areas. However, we opposed and continue to oppose the sizeable office restructuring in the NAPA recommendations.
We believe that any significant reduction in staff and availability of offices would cause substantial harm to individuals seeking to have their claims heard fully and fairly.
Moreover, eliminating offices without ample study and public consultation could send the wrong message to clients about the EEOC's commitment to reach out to underserved communities and reverse much of the progress the EEOC has achieved in recent years.
To the extent that wholesale elimination of numerous offices is not contemplated, that is an important step forward. But reducing the capacity of individual offices, even if a nominal presence is maintained, ultimately could have the same effect on a particular community as shutting down an office in its entirety.
We believe that there are several threshold steps the Commission must take before reaching conclusions about office reconfiguration:
One, articulate the criteria you will use to determine changes to the structure of EEOC offices.
Two, undertake a cost-benefit analysis that considers the financial and human consequences of potential change.
Three, develop a concrete plan to ensure that any changes are well communicated to members of local communities; and,
Four, if you must implement this new change, lead by example. If you really are interested in cutting your costs, why don't you move further eastward, here in Washington, D.C., Like the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, and substantially reduce the cost that you're paying for some of the most expensive real estate in the District of Columbia?
Third, the Leadership Conference's third recommendation to guarantee access involves teleworking, which would create a network of dispersed staff who work separately from home offices, rather than working collaboratively in regional offices. We believe, however, that any teleworking program, must be piloted in order to fully evaluate whether it is a worthwhile alternative that continues to serve complainants in the best way possible.
The third aspect of improving service delivery involves greater investment in training of EEOC staff. We are well aware that the Commission's resources are already strained. But training is crucial to ensuring that EEOC personnel have the information they need to achieve the Agency's objectives.
Further, comprehensive training is essential to ensure that potential claimants receive accurate information about their rights and how to pursue their claims.
Let me take a few moments to discuss the need to respond to change in demographics, as well as to improve technology at the EEOC.
Effective outreach is a critical part of ensuring that individuals can access the Commission's services. Changing demographics and shifting population trends only heighten the need for outreach into local communities. People must be aware of where the Commission is and the resources it can provide. And must have confidence in its ability to respond effectively when they seek assistance in vindicating their rights.
Any changes in how the Commission operates, should expand and not diminish outreach activities, particularly in underserved communities.
In addition to outreach, it is important that the Commission is well positioned to meet the needs of the increasingly diverse communities it serves. Being mindful of its limited resources, we believe the Commission must identify ways to provide training, such as language classes for staff so that they are better equipped to assist clients.
Partnering with community groups to educate workers about their legal rights and employers about their legal obligations, is another strategy for ensuring that the Commission is connected with potential claimants.
Finally, the Leadership Conference is supportive of the EEOC's general efforts to make technology upgrades. However, we do have a concern about one technology-related proposal, and that is electronic filing.
In our prior comments, we pointed out that enabling clients to file their claims electronically raises a number of legal and technical questions. An electronic, automated process without any guidance from trained personnel risks jeopardizing the rights of claimants because it eliminates the give and take essential to ensuring that claimant's understand their legal options.
Asking clients to file claims electronically, also assumes that they have access to and skill with using computers, which cannot be presumed for all individuals interested in filing a claim.
To the extent that the Commission may be considering limiting electronic inquiries to general information, and not claims processing, we believe that such an approach is much more sensible.
And, again, when you think about this issue, I encourage you to think about workers and employees in places like Mississippi who work in, you know, poultry-cleaning factories or places in North Carolina that often don't have access to computer equipment. And think about the general digital divide, which affects us in a number of areas, much less many of the workers who are the most significant claimants for the services that they provide.
For over 50 years, the work of the Leadership Conference has reflected our long-standing unwavering commitment to ensuring equal employment opportunity and affirming equal justice principles. Our support for the EEOC and its mission is rooted firmly in this commitment. And we believe that the EEOC has a vital role to play in widening the doors of employment opportunity for all Americans.
We also understand the importance of ensuring efficiency in the EEOC's operations. We believe that the Commission's efficiency goals, if pursued in a thoughtful, collaborative manner, need not undermine the rights of claimants nor overall enforcement.
We thank you for the opportunity to participate in today's public meeting. And we look forward to working with you on these critical issues, thank you.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Thank you very much, Mr. Henderson, for your very thoughtful and constructive comments. We greatly appreciate them.
MS. OLSON: Thank you. Good afternoon, Chairwoman Dominguez, Commissioners, fellow panel members and guests. Thank you for the opportunity to provide recommendations on how to make the EEOC more customer centered, performance driven and results oriented in light of the myriad of factors that have made the American workplace more complex and challenging than ever before.
Let me begin by introducing myself. I'm Camille Olson. I'm a partner and chair of the Labor and Employment Group of Seyfarth Shaw, which is an international interdisciplinary law firm. I've also been certified as a senior professional in human resources, regularly teach EEO and employment issues at two law schools, and I'm an active member of the Society for Human Resource Management.
I come before you today on behalf of that society. It is the world's largest association devoted to human resources management. The Society for Human Resource Management represents today more than 175,000 human resource professionals throughout the country. The society's mission is to serve the needs of human resource professionals by providing them with the most essential and comprehensive resources available, as well as by advancing the human resource profession to ensure that human resources is recognized as an essential partner in developing and executing organizational change.
Human resource professionals are particularly well suited to discuss ways in which the Commission can efficiently and effectively face the challenges of the 21st century. Many human resource professionals are the cornerstones of their organization's employer-employee relations, as they are the individuals charged with the responsibility to ensure the implementation of fair employment practices throughout their workplaces, including fair employment practices in the areas of hiring, training, compensation, benefits, promotion, transfers, terminations, and in terms of maintaining a harassment- and retaliation-free work environment are maintained throughout their organizations.
To provide the Commission with recommendations for an effective future, SHRM, through its website, announced that it was seeking insight from its members to help prepare the Commission for the 21st century. Additionally, SHRM posted queries on its web-based bulletin board and also conducted a survey of its members to obtain insights from throughout the country.
SHRM is pleased to be a part of this process and offers the following recommendations based on specific feedback from its members.
First, I would like to highlight a few ways in which the Commission can enhance customer service and respond organizationally to demographic changes in the workforce.
As evidenced in the most recent U.S. Census data, demographic changes will certainly cause shifts in the workplace. The Commission has done an admirable job of offering relevant documents in many languages.
The Commission must continue to ensure that information is linguistically available and accessible to all minority groups. This information should not only center on information for employees, but also information prepared for employers to ensure their continuing compliance and prevention of discrimination and harassment in the workplace.
Additionally, aging baby boomers will bring issues relating to an older workforce to the fore. By 2006, more than half the workforce will be over 40, the youngest age eligible for protection under the Age Discrimination and Employment Act. In fact, nearly half the population will be in the ADEA's protected age group by 2035. This, alone, is sure to mark an increase in age discrimination claims, and the Commission must be prepared for an influx of these claims and the individuals who will most likely be bringing them.
The EEOC must also be able to assist employers with the transitioning demographic workforce. With such a newly diverse workplace, an increase in reverse discrimination claims is a distinct possibility. The Commission should be prepared to handle a greater volume of such claims and prepared to also provide compliance guidance to human resource professionals in the context of a transitioning demographic workforce.
I'd like to stop and pause over SHRM's last comment. Providing human resource professionals with compliance guidance in the context of a transitioning workplace is critical. It, however, is not the only area in which this partnership must be forged.
For example, publishing legal and EEO best practices would be valuable tools to assist the human resource community not only in addressing thorny legal issues, but also day-to-day compliance issues, waiver and release forms, FAQs, EEOC preferred investigation procedures and materials that synthesize the already available myriad of technical advice opinions and other information that are available.
In short, establishing the goal of being a partner with human resource professionals to ensure widespread education, compliance and prompt resolution of EEO issues in all workplaces, having this goal reflected throughout its national programs, throughout its educational resources, its training, its investigation, its mediation and its resolution of complaints is critical.
This partnership will address and ensure that the EEOC's goal of enforcement of the EEO laws is at the grassroots level. Your grassroots constituency is really the human resource professional.
Human resource professionals believe that an obstacle that the Commission faces is that, on a regional level, and in some district offices, human resource professionals do not consistently have experiences with the Commission in connection with the issues of prevention and eradication of employment discrimination as a neutral body. Rather, in certain regions, the Commission is perceived as an adversary to human resource professionals and their employers and organizations that they represent. This perception adversely affects the Commission's ability to achieve its goals.
The second major issue I would like to address is how can we change this perception. To help achieve the goal of a discrimination-free workplace, the Commission must recognize that human resource professionals and their organizations are its customers too.
SHRM recommends that the Commission view human resource professionals and their organizations as partners in the goal of creating and maintaining workplaces that are free from discrimination and harassment.
SHRM is mindful that the EEOC has national programs, many of which have been recently implemented and have really sought to further this goal. Just a few examples include the EEOC-sponsored mediation and guidance for small business at the regional levels, improved training for investigators, both on procedural and substantive levels.
Additionally, there's been a great emphasis on reducing the backlog of charges, minimizing delays and following the practice of utilizing one investigator by either local industry or local company.
As noted earlier, these national programs are at odds with some experiences of H.R. professionals who have noted some of the following: Regional offices automatically assume, in connection with certain discrimination charges, that, in fact, discrimination has occurred, and places significant burden on H.R. professionals to respond to often vague complaints without specific factual support present that can be addressed.
Some human resource professionals also report that at the conciliation phase the organizations they represent are treated as adversaries. Human resource professionals believe that an effective way to increase conciliation results would be to allow the free flow of information between the parties involved in the conciliation process.
Simply put, there should be a discussion of the specific facts, and merits, and deficiencies of the complaint to ensure an effective conciliatory process occurs.
In the interest of time, I'm going to move on to a couple of other recommendations from human resource professionals; one being that SHRM recommends that the Commission develop and implement a set of standard operating procedures to avoid the unnecessary utilization of resources on nonmeritorious claims, procedures such as including instructions on the intake of claims, including a streamlined checklist to assist the intake officers to assess nonmeritorious claims from the outset and also to obtain information more effectively, perhaps from the charging party, to ensure that pertinent information can be asked of human resource professionals and their organizations.
Similarly, decisions to litigate should not be based on the possibility of large financial awards and/or publicity. EEOC headquarters in Washington, instead, should be involved in rewarding regional offices' performance based on criteria that includes the success of their outreach efforts, compliance and training programs, the number of successful mediations that are conducted in a region, not simply on their financial settlements. Incentives should also be tied to the goals that are set by the Commission nationally.
Finally, the EEOC's three stated goals--prevention, enforcement, and mediation--are all noble goals. One stands out as having the greatest importance to human resource professionals, and that is the issue of prevention. SHRM applauds the steps that the Commission has taken to create materials that better educate human resource professionals and the organizations that they represent.
SHRM members urged the Commission to consider offering compliance training as a service to organizations. The Commission's technical assistance programs are excellent tools for teaching professionals throughout the country prevention and compliance techniques. SHRM recommends two enhancements to these programs; first, consistent content in those programs throughout the country and, second, that those programs be offered at a price point that doesn't make them prohibitive for either small businesses or for individuals who don't have budgets to be able to attend them.
Finally, I'd like to address one point. SHRM members urge the Commission to consider the National EEOC Call Center to cover routine inquiries and provide initial information to investigators at the outset of an investigation. We've all talked about the fact that to be effective, this call center must be staffed with well-trained employees who give advice and information to employees and employers alike.
SHRM has provided such a resource to its members since 1986. Obviously, it's on a much smaller scale than we would be talking about in terms of the Commission, but if you just look at the call center that SHRM provides to human resource professionals, since 1986, it has received, on average, over 75,000 such calls in a year, many of those relating to EEO compliance and prevention issues.
In the survey that SHRM did in connection with this discussion today, 75 percent of SHRM members said that they would welcome such a call center and actually use it to assist them in ensuring prevention and compliance with their EEO programs.
In summary, thank you for the opportunity to be here with you today to discuss these very important issues. SHRM looks forward to playing an active role in helping the Commission address and implement this extensive and impressive undertaking of all of our future.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Thank you very much, Ms. Olson. And let me also thank SHRM for particularly their partnership on the cyber chats, which we have found to be so helpful, as we have embarked on them over the last couple of years and e-mailing all of your H.R. practitioners back and forth have been extremely enlightening for us to learn about the basic issues that are going on in the workplace. So thank you for SHRM's desire to partner with us on that front.
MS. OLSON: Thank you for the partnership as well.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Madam Vice Chair?
VICE CHAIR EARP: Just one question for Ms. Olson. How would you measure the success of an outreach program? Do you have some ideas on that?
MS. OLSON: One way to measure it is obviously by measuring whether, in fact, it's been utilized by a particular community and the human resource professionals that are in it. I think that would be very easy to have in terms of the data, in terms of the folks who are actually attending meetings, seminars, using a call help line, actually requesting particular documents from the EEOC.
In addition, it can be measured by having feedback surveys to members who use it to determine whether, in fact, it assisted them or impacted their ability to improve upon their existing EEO policies and practices.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Commissioner Miller?
COMMISSIONER MILLER: You're trying to mix it up a little bit.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Yes, I am. You noticed.
COMMISSIONER MILLER: So am I.
COMMISSIONER MILLER: Thank you very much for both of your presentations.
Ms. Olson, one of the things that we've been talking about today and that's certainly at the core of the NAPA report, for example, is sort of looking at organizational restructuring out in the field, and I'm very interested in your members' I guess relationship with field offices, local offices, small offices and communities and cities, district offices. What is SHRM's perspective on field office restructuring, whether it's about going to lead offices, contracting reducing offices, as the gentleman from NAPA commented on?
MS. OLSON: Yes. If I could perhaps just make two points in the interest of time. One is I absolutely agree with what I hear to be the Commission's view of ensuring that services are available where charging parties and employers need them, so that to the extent our workforces are moving to different areas of the country, that they have accessible services to them and that we all recognize that those services may need to be of a blended approach basis.
It may not be all web-based, it may not be all 1-800-hotline based. It may need to be a blended approach, especially given the different workers who use the EEOC services, and the fact that older workers may find it more difficult, for example, to use Internet-based charge processing, but those may, in fact, be the preferred method for individuals who otherwise would take an hour or two hours to get to a center, and younger workers and middle-age workers, actually, at this point, who are much more capable and flexible, in terms of the use of computer systems.
Let me just also mention again SHRM's perspective on the regional offices and the district offices comes from all of its members' individual input. And there many members have talked about the fact that they have very good relationships with their district offices and regional offices, that there is, especially for nationally based companies, inconsistencies, in terms of enforcement issues, and it makes it particularly difficult to roll out and implement national programs or policies and procedures that one would think might be equally appropriate in one state, as another, as it's viewed under a federal law, and yet that isn't always the case because different district offices view things differently.
In addition, I would be remiss if I didn't again state that there really is a desire to be a partner with the Commission and the EEOC. We are out there. We are in the workplaces. We are really the first line of defense, and the first line of implementation of good, sound EEO programs, and we want to be sure that you utilize us in that manner.
COMMISSIONER MILLER: Thank you, Ms. Olson.
A quick question for Mr. Henderson if I could. We talked a little bit again, this issue of the call center, and the question of to what extent, how do you see the call center coming in, with all of these calls coming in, you mentioned that it's not appropriate, necessarily, for intake, and we might hear some more about that. Is there a role for a call center?
MR. HENDERSON: Oh, I think there could be a very important role for a call center, certainly, in providing generalized information that might be readily available through one of the regional offices, but is a more structured approach to providing that kind of generalized information. I think it could be very useful.
What I don't think it can do is to substitute for the kind of interview process that an intake official would generally engage in with a complainant, in discussing the nature of his or her complaint, the nature of the injury sustained, the breadth of relief that might be offered, the variety of options that could be considered. I think it's awfully difficult to ask a call center to replicate that important internal function that the EEOC now provides.
The fear is that, in too many instances, the call center would be used for that purpose, as a way of obviously achieving efficiencies and reduction in costs. That's understandable, from a bureaucratic standpoint, but the question of whether it provides the service needed for individual clients, those seeking the assistance of the Agency, is one of the considerations I think you'll have to analyze.
COMMISSIONER MILLER: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER SILVERMAN: I just want to thank you both for coming today and for your testimony. We appreciate it. Your input is very helpful.
MR. HENDERSON: Thank you very much.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Mr. Henderson, I'm going to take your recommendation to heart. This wonderful, inexpensive land in Western Maryland that--
MR. HENDERSON: Actually, I was referring to East of the river, Anacostia, recognizing that there are many desirable areas in my hometown of Washington, D.C., that could benefit from the Equal Employment Opportunities' relocation.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Thank you very much.
MR. HENDERSON: Thank you very much.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Again, Mr. Platt and Mr. Norris, welcome.
Steven Platt is the immediate past President of the National Employment Lawyers Association, and Jeff Norris is the President of the Equal Employment Advisory Council, which is often confused with EEAC and EEOC, but we're good partners.
MR. NORRIS: Actually, I was going to get to that.
MR. NORRIS: We have some experience with charge filing.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Who would like to begin?
MR. PLATT: I'd be happy to.
My name is Steven Platt. I'm the immediate past president of the National Employment Lawyers' Association. We are the only group that we know of in the legal community that deals with lawyers who practice primarily on the plaintiff or the employee side. Our members, combined, exceed 4,000, and if you figure that the average attorney carries about 20 to 30 cases per attorney in this area, that represents between 80,000 and 120,000 cases across the country.
Our members do include most of the most prolific class action plaintiff's employment lawyers as well, but I come to the table not only in that capacity, but also as a practicing lawyer for 25 years. I have tried lots of cases in federal and state court, and I have been toiling in this area for 25 years.
The National Employment Lawyers Association appreciates the fact that we've been given an opportunity to be here today. We have worked very closely with the Agency in the past. We testified on numerous occasions in the 1990s on behalf of the Agency, in support of the Agency's budget. We're prepared to do so again if we're called upon to do so.
We participated in the negotiated rulemaking that took place under the old Workers' Benefit Protection Act in 1994 and '95 and resulted in the adoption of regulations under the OWBPA. We also worked with the then-Vice Chairman Paul Igasaki on the EEOC's Task Force on Charge Processing, and we also worked with the Commission and its staff in the preparation of Guidelines on sexual harassment following the Ferger and Ellerworth cases, which then became expanded to harassment of all sorts.
More recently, we have been touched with you and worked with you on the issues of mandatory arbitration, and we continue to be involved in the ABA's Government Liaison Committee, where we have an opportunity to meet with all of you again roughly on a yearly basis in Annapolis.
We appreciate the fact that we're here today, and our comments are intended to be constructive. Where we have disagreements, we consider them to be disagreements amongst friends, and we hope that our remarks are taken in that spirit.
The first thing that concerns us why the need for radical change if radical change is, in fact, necessary. The fiscal year 2002 was one of the best years the Agency has ever experienced, at least how we measure it. According to the statistics, you settled a near record in benefits of $301 million for victims of discrimination, and you also managed to reduce your inventory to a 31-year low in terms of the backlog of cases, and it looks like, although you'd be in a better position to tell us than us, but it appears that those statistics are continuing
So our concern, on an initial basis, is, if things are working, we need to be careful about what kinds of changes we make. We understand that there are scarce resources, we understand that the Agency continually goes from fiscal crisis to fiscal crisis. I am aware of only one real significant budget increase that took place in the 1990s, one and only one, which enabled the Commission to purchase computers and to become more efficient than e-mails.
So we understand where you're coming from in terms of the budget, but we are concerned also that in making changes, and changes are difficult, they're hard to accept, in some instances, but in making changes that we not fix what's already fixed, that we not interfere with areas where the Commission and its departments or its field offices are working effectively.
Change is difficult, and I know this firsthand from being the president of a large organization. And if you think it's hard to get the people in the EEOC to accept change, you might want to try dealing with a bunch of lawyers.
MR. PLATT: And we understand change is inevitable, so we support that overall, but we just issue a word of caution in terms of making sure that we don't break what's already fixed.
Another concern that we have is that there seems to be a concern in some quarters about what the Agency is doing with the NAPA report. We appreciate the fact that you shared with us the letter from the president of NAPA clarifying what his position is. I think his position has been somewhat misunderstood. But part of this comes from the way that language appears in certain types of documents. Sometimes it's just a wording shift, it's a change in focus, and sometimes it's not a change in focus; it's a change in direction.
For example, in the mission statement of the Agency, it went from eradicating employment discrimination in the workforce to promoting equality of opportunity in the workforce and enforcing federal laws.
The vision of the Agency has gone to becoming the world's preeminent civil rights agency by serving as a standard-bearer for excellence in outreach, and I'm referring to the fiscal year 2004 budget, which has these preliminary comments.
The five-point plan that the Agency puts forward on Page 5 of the budget talks about proactive prevention.
And then number three on the list of five is enforcement. Now, maybe that's just a shift in vision, in terms of where you're coming from. And if that's the case, then that's fine. Our concern is, and I think where some of the problem has been with some of the plaintiff-oriented or employee-oriented organizations, is that some people see this as a fundamental shift, and we believe that the EEOC's first and foremost mission has to be, is and always will be, the enforcement of the civil rights laws.
And as the only real agency dedicated solely to that function, you accomplish the goal of education and, in a sense, outreach by being effective in enforcing the laws.
Every time there is an article that appears on the website talking about some kind of a voluntary conciliation or some kind of settlement of a matter without going to full lawsuits, for example, like the Dial Soap case that just happened with Ms. Olson, that has a very positive effect. It has a positive effect because it wakes people up. It makes them pay attention, and then they come to the Agency and seek the Agency's help.
Your website is fantastic. Where this website was five years ago compared to where it is now, it's just a complete turnaround. And the information that's available there is incredible, if people will just use it. We use it all the time. Lawyers use it all of the time. I'm always promoting that to our organization, to our members to use it, because there's a lot of very useful information. That's very positive.
But if we're talking about shifting a substantial percentage of resources from enforcement to outreach, then we wonder whether, in times of scarce resources, that that is money that is well spent. We're not suggesting that outreach be abandoned by any means, but we're concerned about what the emphasis is in a time when there's not enough money to do a lot of things that the Agency needs to do.
And, again, this is reflected in the budget, and I understand the budget figures can be changed, and maybe sometimes they're misleading because you might be able to take them out of context, and I don't intend to do that, and I'm not trying to, but as an example, I believe it's on Page 15 of the budget, you talk about doubling the amount of money to be spent on outreach from I think it's approximately $32 million to about $63 million, and yet, according to the numbers that were submitted to Congress, it suggests that there's going to be $10 million less in enforcement.
The number of charge filings is increasing. The Agency is aware of this. Everybody agrees that that's the case. It's going to continue to be the case in the near future, and yet it seems like the projected numbers are suggesting that enforcement will go down. Maybe in a perfect world, that would be the case, and hopefully it would be the case, but if charge filings are going up, then enforcement is not likely to go down.
In addition, we're concerned about what is happening in some of the field offices. There's always been a problem with cause findings, in terms of investigations. The national average was running about 3 percent. I know about this because we got involved with a very detailed discussion with Chairwoman Castro when this issue came up. We noticed that the charge filings went from a high of 16 percent in Wisconsin, for example, to a low of .7 percent in Puerto Rico, to which she said at the time, "Oh, is it that high?"
MR. PLATT: But what happened was the charge cause findings percentage went up to about 7 percent nationally by the end of the 1990s, and we see that percentage slipping.
The reason we have concern here is, if we're going to be cutting resources to the field offices, we have to be very careful about how that's done because when resources are cut to field offices, they have a tendency to send charges out the door. I've seen this in practice.
If we give them targets and we give them objectives, they'll meet those objectives, but sometimes they won't meet them in the way that we want them to meet them, and that's a serious concern.
We also noticed, just anecdotally from my membership and also from the statistics that your own office generates on a regular basis, that the offices that seem to do the best are the offices that have lawyer staff or legal staff as part of them.
We've seen this happen. I'm not going to get into names of offices. I don't think that's an appropriate thing to do here, but just as an example, without naming names, I know of one situation where lawyers were brought into a particular regional office, a field office, and the investigators didn't realize that they could issue subpoenas. They didn't understand that when they were told that they couldn't get information, that there was a means available to them to get the information.
And even more so to the fact, if they couldn't actually get the subpoenas issued because they didn't have enough manpower, the mere threat of the subpoena being issued obtained voluntary compliance.
So we urge the Commission to do what it's doing now, to engage in a very careful consideration of all of the opportunities and objectives and to talk to all of the stakeholders, and we thank you for being allowed to present our views here today.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Thank you very much, Mr. Platt.
MR. NORRIS: CHAIR DOMINGUEZ, VICE CHAIR EARP, Commissioner Silverman, and Commissioner Miller, on behalf of the 330 employers of the Equal Employment Advisory Council, we appreciate very much the opportunity to partner with you this afternoon as you reconfigure and realign the agency for the 21st century.
I also appreciate that I'm the last speaker and I'm the only thing that's standing between now and adjournment.
MR. NORRIS: One of the benefits of going last is that you don't have to re-say everything that has been said, so what I'd like to do is just use a few moments to just hit a couple of highlights of the things that I think are most important that have come out of this hearing today.
You've heard many suggestions today about how you should prioritize and allocate your resources. And as you leave this room and as you embark on a course for doing that, I would ask you to keep one thing in mind: that there is one constituency that deserves your special attention, and those are the individuals who, for some reason, have felt it necessary to use your resources, to seek your assistance by filing charges, and the employers against whom those charges have been filed.
And for both of them, for that constituency, the workplace is--in the vernacular, it's broken, it's busted, it needs to be fixed. And they've come to you to try and fix it. And the greatest service that you can provide to them is to give an administrative process for the fair and the prompt resolution of their claims.
Now, processing charges may not be the most glamorous thing that you're asked to do as a Commission. But it's probably the most important thing you're asked to do, certainly for the 80,000 or so people who come to you each year and for the employers who are charged with discriminating. And everything that you do should be driven towards securing the prompt and the efficient and the fair resolution of those disputes. That's the way you can be of the most value to the public.
Now, I know that that's a fairly easy statement to say. I also know that, to a certain extent, I'm preaching to the choir when I say it, because ever since 1995, the Commission has diligently been working to streamline its charge processing procedures, and with substantial effect. As Mr. Platt said, your pending charges now hover around the 30,000 or 35,000 number, and three years ago, it was taking in excess of 200 days to process the average charge. Your third quarter statistics say that's down to about 156 days. So significant progress has been made. That progress is appreciated by our members. But we did ask them: Are there things that we would recommend to you to even improve the process further? And there are a couple of things that they did mention that are highlighted in my written testimony. I'll just hit upon a couple of the key ones.
Commissioner Miller has already alluded to the fact that the key slot in the field is the intake officer, and I'd like to have more to say about that when we talk about the call center.
A more rigorous application of the priority charge handling categorizations. A number of our members have indicated that charges are still being categorized as A or B charges, which, after fairly prompt investigation, indicate that they should have been C charges.
It's also been recommended that there be a pre-investigative screening stage for the Category B cases. A number of states have enacted a process in which the agency takes the charge, the charging party's statement, the employer's response, and the charging party's reply to that response. In other words, they've heard from the charging party completely and the respondent completely. And then before an investigation is actually started, a determination is made at that point, perhaps a second screen, to determine whether that charge has been properly categorized as A, B, or C and may be subject to dismissal. But that may be a way to turn loose some of the B charges at an earlier appropriate stage.
And, of course, we've been a big supporter of yours in your pursuit in mediation. We're going to be a big supporter of yours in the pilot for additional ADR. The statute was set up in a way that was designed to have employment disputes resolved as close to the parties as possible. These initiatives are moving in that direction, and we applaud your efforts and wish you well.
And, finally, the conciliation process. Hopefully, the recent Eleventh Circuit decision in Asplundh served as a wake-up call that the conciliation process is the final stage where litigation can be avoided. And without acknowledging that there are cases that need to be litigated, in essence, litigation is a failure of the administrative process. And the conciliation stage is the last chance to have a successful administrative process, and we hope that that decision will prompt the attorneys in the field to provide more substance to some of the conciliation discussions than we have seen recently.
Now, just a few comments on the NAPA recommendations, specifically the national call center and the electronic charge filing recommendations.
I was delighted this afternoon to hear my good friend Wade Henderson give his testimony on both of those points, because EEAC is in complete agreement with the Leadership Conference on those. We, too, see the potential benefits of both of those proposals in terms of flexibility and cost savings, but we also see that there are some potential dangers in the implementation of that process. The electronic charge processing, for example, I was alluding to earlier, there isn't a month that doesn't go by that EEAC doesn't receive a couple of phone calls or a couple of e-mails from individuals who are attempting to file charges of discrimination. And rest assured we promptly refer them to you, but it does give us--
MR. NORRIS: It does give us a firsthand knowledge as to the type of activities that your intake officers need to deal with. And our heart goes out to you.
MR. NORRIS: It's not an easy process. But it is an important process. It is a very important front-line process.
And so I agree completely with what Wade was saying, that the call center offers great potential for providing information of a general nature about the Commission. We've talked for years about the inconsistency from one field office to another on these very issues. A national call center would tend to provide some consistent responses to these questions that get asked over and over again. But we, too, agree that there is no substitute for human intervention when it comes to counseling a charging party, to determining whether or not there is simply unfairness or there is actual discrimination at play here, and what is the best way to counsel that charging party to proceed.
And so with those few suggestions, I welcome your questions.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Thank you, Mr. Norris.
Madam Vice Chair?
VICE CHAIR EARP: Nothing. Thank you for your testimony.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Commissioner Silverman?
COMMISSIONER SILVERMAN: Mr. Platt, I really, really enjoyed NELA's written statement as well as what you had to say.
MR. PLATT: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER SILVERMAN: However, I noticed in your written statement that you advised against merging or NELA advised against merging offices that were within commuting distance from one another because they're both high-performing offices. And while I agree with your notion of why fix what's not broken, it seems to me that if we have two good-performing offices and they're close together, this would be a win-win, an easy money saver. So I was just wondering if you had any--
MR. PLATT: Well, there was kind of a combination discussion there. I mean, we're not saying that if you have two within the same district--because there's also an issue here about judicial districts, too, which I think gets lost in the process; for example, Newark being the Third Circuit, which is a very different judicial circuit than New York City, even though they're across the river, or, you know, Baltimore and D.C., Baltimore in the Fourth Circuit, which is a whole different universe than the D.C. Circuit here in Washington.
But what I've heard here today doesn't concern me as much. If you're talking about taking, like Jack Rowe said, for example, taking some of the people who are high-performing people in a particular office and spreading them out, or maybe assigning them to work with another office, you've actually done that in some instances with great success. But the way it's been done in the past somewhat has been taking a great regional director, a regional attorney, for example, and putting him in another office where there's a missing regional attorney and try to shake things up, and it does work, detailing a person to a specific office.
So if you're talking about using those resources, maybe keeping them attached as a team, but having them branch out somewhat, we wouldn't be as concerned about it. So I just wanted to clarify it in that sense. I don't know if that answers your question.
COMMISSIONER SILVERMAN: In our regional attorneys' testimony, they seem to indicate that it wouldn't--that circuits wouldn't make a difference for them. It's the courts that they practice in, and that as long as they have familiarity with the local courts, that would be a comfort zone with them. So--
MR. PLATT: Well, as a practicing lawyer, circuits make a great deal of difference to us. And, in fact, what we've seen in places--well, I don't want to get into specifics, but in certain areas where the EEOC doesn't have a strong presence, sometimes it sends the wrong message.
There was one area, a large metropolitan area, not too long ago--about six or seven years ago--the agency was not very active in litigation in that area, and a defense lawyer, who I have a great deal of respect for, who's very active in the ABA, got up at an ABA meeting and told us that in this region that was extremely diverse, that there was no longer a civil rights problem. And the reason that he said that there was a diminishing problem was because the proof of it was the EEOC wasn't filing any more litigation.
And sometimes that--I mean, that's an extreme example. It's probably not going to happen very often. But that's the danger. In some areas in different circuits, it can make a very, very big difference if the agency is not there and doesn't have a visible presence. It sometimes sends the wrong message.
COMMISSIONER SILVERMAN: Thank you.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Commissioner Miller?
COMMISSIONER MILLER: Yes, just a quick question for Mr. Norris. And, again, thank you for both of your comments, and it sort of builds upon the question that I asked of Ms. Olson about sort of business communities' view of all of these multiple offices around the country in lots of different cities and district offices and area offices and local offices.
Is this something--and we heard from Mr. Henderson, we heard from a number of other people, that the value of the presence for workers and for people who come and file charges--I'm really interested in the value of this office structure, if any, in your opinion, from the business community standpoint.
MR. NORRIS: Well, quite frankly, I don't think the business community, certainly the large employers that belong to EEAC, are as concerned about the location of your offices. If you need to get a hold of us, you will find us, no matter where we are and no matter where you are.
I do agree, however, that the offices should be located in an area that is going to maximize accessibility for charging parties. And I also agree that the issue of accessibility may vary depending upon the nature of the employee, that we are not all equally capable of filing charges electronically or using the Internet. And I also agree that there are some locations where it will be necessary for there to be a presence. Whether that means a real estate in a certain area I'm not so sure. There have been some recommendations about attorneys or investigators riding circuit.
You need to be available, but I think the physical location is not as important as it used to be, and I don't think it's as important to use as has been expressed by others today.
COMMISSIONER MILLER: Thank you.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Thank you both very much.
Just an observation, Mr. Platt. I did look at those cause finding rates when I first joined the Commission, and they do vary from year to year. But I was very surprised to learn that at one point in the history of the Commission there had also been fixed percentages, that the field was required--
MR. PLATT: No, no. If I made that implication, I apologize. No, there were no fixed percentages. The emphasis was on trying to use the charge processing system to spend more resources on the cases that merited it. As a result, because they were not doing full investigations, which really sapped everybody, they were able to fully investigate the cases that merited investigation. So the cause percentages on national average went up to about 7 percent. There was no mandate from headquarters about a specific percentage, and that would be a very bad idea. I didn't mean to suggest that by any means.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Okay. Thank you. Thank you both very much.
Well, I want to again express our appreciation to all of the speakers and all of you for being with us today. We've had a very full but a very productive day today.
Let me reiterate that at this time there is no definitive plan or timetable to implement or announce any specific measures that may be taken. We continue to listen and we continue to develop ideas.
The record of this meeting is going to remain open for ten days, should anyone still wish to contribute official comments. And after that date, we will continue to work with all of our stakeholders and our EEOC staff members in advancing our decisionmaking process. And when that occurs, we will certainly inform you of the next steps.
I think the task before us, however, is to take these ideas and information and decide how in the public's best interest we should use it to reposition EEOC, because it is the public's interest that we serve and not any particular interest. So that is the hard part of public policymaking, to try to get all these sometimes divergent, sometimes consistent views and meld it all into a policy that advances all of the interests of the working men and women of our nation.
So thank you very much for coming, and with that, I'll allow our Commissioners to have closing remarks. Madam Vice Chair?
VICE CHAIR EARP: My goal for today was to have us go beyond just mere words and hopefully have us listen intently and perhaps truly hear, maybe in a few cases for the first time, what some of the parties are actually saying.
From my perspective, I think today was successful. If we start with Clay Johnson's framework for successful change, committed top management, clear definition of the change required, accountability for the action plan, and an aggressive, non-conditional plan, then I think that we still have some work to do. Even Mr. Henderson mentioned establishing criteria, analyzing that criteria, and then developing, in his submitted words, a concrete plan.
I look forward to being involved in helping to reposition the Commission. I look forward to exploring these ideas in more detail. And I would urge all of us to try to consider the next steps from the framework that Mr. Johnson, OMB has laid out for us.
I think that we can find a shared but transcendent vision for where EEOC needs to go next. Thank you.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER MILLER: Thank you. I want to thank all of the speakers and the members of the public and our EEOC employees, both here and on closed-captioned TV and the telephone, who have sat through with us and participated passively listening, but I know that this information sort of loops around and makes them active participants.
We have been given a lot of food for thought today, and I think the challenge that's facing us now, as both the Chair and the Vice Chair have said, is where do we go from here and how do we move--where do we go from here.
I look forward to working with my Commissioner colleagues and the EEOC staff and other stakeholders, both those who have presented comments today and those who may not have had that opportunity. And, again, I applaud the Chair for her leadership and look forward to working with her and my other Commissioners as we begin to address these challenges facing the agency, given its enforcement mission into the future.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER SILVERMAN: Lastly, I want to thank everybody again for coming, and we appreciate your input. And I just want to think back on the comments of my fellow Commissioners. It is food for thought, and we will consider everything that everybody said. So thank you.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Thank you.
There being no further business, do I hear a motion to adjourn?
COMMISSIONER MILLER: I'll move to adjourn the meeting.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Is there a second?
VICE CHAIR EARP: Second.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: All in favor?
[A chorus of ayes.]
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Opposed?
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: The ayes have it. The motion carries, and the meeting is adjourned. Have a good evening.
[Whereupon, at 5:03 p.m., the meeting was adjourned.]
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