Friday May 28, 2021: EEOC FY 2022 Budget Plan to Emphasize Three Policy Priorities
Sounding a desire to broaden the EEOC into a generalized social services agency dedicated to solving problems beyond workplace discrimination, in her165 page Fiscal Year 2022 Congressional Budget Justification, EEOC Chair Charlotte A. Burrows promised three “broad areas” (in a “Chair’s Message” preceding the Commission’s “Funding” requests) on which the EEOC will focus in the coming Fiscal Year, and then delivered a fourth bonus priority:
- Racial Justice and Systemic Discrimination: Trying to be the OFCCP, the EEOC continues to hanker to expand away from its individual Charge processing mission to dive into the world of “systemic discrimination investigator/prosecutor” President Carter had reserved to OFCCP in creating the OFCCP on October 1, 1978. [EEOC was to take on the individual Charges and OFCCP was to address employment systems and systemic employment discrimination and to conduct spot audits of federal contractors across the country with its resources NOT driven by a Charge or Complaint docket, as was the EEOC].“With this proposed budget, the Commission will provide renewed attention to tackling systemic discrimination in all forms and all bases — including but certainly not limited to racial and sexual harassment. Eliminating systemic barriers to equal opportunity in the workplace will allow the EEOC to leverage its work to achieve the greatest impact. The EEOC has numerous tools to combat racial discrimination, including outreach, technical assistance, and enforcement and will use all of them to achieve change on a broad scale.” (See p. 5 of the EEOC’s Report).
On the educational side of the EEOC’s authority, the Commission is apparently planning more technical assistance of an undescribed type (perhaps corporate training and/or more Q&A’s and/or static web page materials). To give meaning to Chair Burrow’s reference to increased systemic enforcement, her statement implies the renewed use of either Commissioner’s Charges (authorized only pursuant to Title VII, the Americans with Disability Act and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act) and/or Directed Investigations (authorized only as to the Age Discrimination in Employment Act and the Equal Pay Act) to shape the EEOC’s enforcement direction (as opposed to investigating what comes in the door and thus being merely reactive to the Commission’s Charge docket).
- Pay Equity: Citing to “comparable worth” pay statistics (which the SCOTUS struck down in 1981 as not a discrimination theory the Congress had recognized) to justify its concern that “women working full-time all year make only 82 cents to the dollar when compared to white non-Hispanic males” across all job titles in America, Chair Burrows described the EEOC’s Pay Equity direction in FY 2022 as follows:“In addition to traditional outreach and enforcement, including litigation, the Commission will pursue ways to address pay discrimination and unjustified wage gaps through pay data collection, working with the National Academies of Science and stakeholders to help the agency better understand how we can more effectively address discriminatory practices.”Civil Rights Impact of the Pandemic:
“The COVID-19 pandemic has proved to be not only a public health crisis and economic crisis, but also a civil rights crisis. COVID-19 and its economic fallout has disproportionately impacted people of color, women, older workers, individuals with disabilities, and other vulnerable workers.
On April 28, 2021, I convened a public hearing to explore the many ways in which the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted civil rights in the workplace. In addition, the Commission has and will continue to provide numerous resources to assist employers and employees as they grapple with pandemic issues. As the health emergency subsides, increased questions arise surrounding re-entry, vaccinations, and the future of work. The EEOC stands poised to address this dynamic and emerging area of the law with our colleagues throughout the administration.”
- “Strengthening the Agency: “In fiscal year 2020, EEOC’s full-time staffing had dropped to its lowest level in four decades, from over 3,390 employees in 1980 to less than 2,000 employees last year. During that same period, even as the agency’s resources declined, its workload was expanding due to the increase in the U.S. population and passage of important new legislation, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008. Fortunately, Congress’ support in the EEOC’s FY 2021 budget has allowed me to begin rebuilding the agency’s capacity. Early in my tenure in FY 2021, I authorized the hiring of more than 450 new staff throughout the agency — predominately front-line staff (investigators, mediators, attorneys, and administrative staff, among other positions) to help restore our ability to fulfill the agency’s vital role in helping prevent and remedy employment discrimination. The addition of these new employees in mission-critical positions is a down payment on what I hope will be a long-term investment to ensure that the EEOC has resources commensurate with its task. With the President’s mark and robust workforce planning, I plan to continue to invest in hiring and training to empower our staff to enforce the agency’s mission.”
At the same time, the Commission has annually been crowing in Republican and Democrat Administrations about reducing Charge inventories to modern new-time lows and increasing discrimination recoveries—in each and every one of the last four Fiscal Years– with reduced staffs rendered unnecessary through the greater use of managerial efficiency and technological tools:
FY 2017 (inventory down +16%): EEOC Dramatically Reduces Charge Inventory (“…in fiscal year 2017 the EEOC resolved 99,109 charges and reduced the charge workload by 16.2 percent to 61,621, the lowest level of inventory in 10 years. (emphasis added) Additionally, during the fiscal year, the EEOC handled over 540,000 calls to the toll-free number and more than 155,000 contacts about possible charge filing in field offices, resulting in 84,254 charges being filed.” November 9, 2017 EEOC Press Release)
FY 2018 (inventory down 19.5%): EEOC Releases Fiscal Year 2018 Enforcement and Litigation Data “The EEOC resolved 90,558 charges of discrimination. Overall, the EEOC secured $505 million for victims in private sector, state and local government, and federal workplaces. The agency reduced the charge workload by 19.5 percent to 49,607. (emphasis added) It achieved this through deploying new strategies to more efficiently prioritize charges with merit, more quickly resolve investigations, and improve the agency’s digital systems. The agency handled over 519,000 calls to its toll-free number, 34,600 emails and more than 200,000 inquiries in field offices, reflecting the significant public demand for the EEOC’s services.” April 10, 2019 EEOC Press Release reporting FY 2018 Charge and other data.)
FY 2019 (inventory down 5%): Fiscal Year 2019 Agency Financial Report U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission “For example, in the private sector, with a focus on inventory reduction strategies and priority charge handling procedures, along with technological enhancements and the hiring of front-line staff, we were able to reduce the charge workload by 12.1 percent to 43,580. In fiscal year 2019, the EEOC also prioritized reducing the pending inventories in the federal sector, and as a result the agency made progress in reducing both the federal sector hearings and appeals inventories. Through the development and implementation of strategies to increase efficiency, the agency reduced the pending inventory of federal sector hearings by 5 percent and increased its hearing resolutions 22.5 percent in fiscal year 2019. Similarly, through strategic efforts with the pending federal sector appellate inventory, the agency was able to reduce the size of the appellate inventory by 17.4 percent from the beginning of fiscal year 2018.” (emphasis added)
FY 2020 (inventory down 3.7%): EEOC Releases Fiscal Year 2020 Enforcement and Litigation Data “EEOC resolved 70,804 charges in FY 2020 and increased its merit factor resolution rate to 17.4 percent from 15.6 percent the prior year. Merit resolutions refer to charges that are resolved in the agency’s administrative process (pre-litigation) in favor of the individual who filed the charge. The agency responded to over 470,000 calls to its toll-free number and more than 187,000 inquiries in field offices, including 122,775 inquiries through the online intake and appointment scheduling system, reflecting the significant public demand for EEOC’s services. The agency also reduced its inventory of pending charges by 3.7 percent.” (emphasis added)
“EEOC advances opportunity for all of our nation’s workers and plays a critical role in ensuring justice in the American workplace,” said EEOC Chair Charlotte A. Burrows. “Despite an incredibly challenging year, the EEOC’s dedicated workforce advanced the agency’s mission to fight employment discrimination on all fronts.” (emphasis added)