Congresswoman Lois Capps
23rd District of California
Capps Calls on EEOC to Stop Proposed Changes that would Hurt Women, Minority Victims of Discrimination
A hearing scheduled for today was postponed indefinitely after Commission members received a letter from Congresswoman Capps and 29 other women Members of Congress questioning its plans to downsize staff while suffering from chronic backlogs of charges from women, minorities and others who feel they have been the victims of discrimination in the workforce.
"I am pleased to see that Chair Dominguez canceled the meeting today, recognizing the egregiousness of voting on the restructuring proposal without allowing for public comment," Congresswoman Capps said. "It was especially important for us, as women Members of Congress, to band together in opposition to the restructuring plan because women and minorities are the overwhelming majority of victims of employment discrimination."
Sen. Edward Kennedy authored a similar letter with 26 other Senators.
"I am pleased that Chairwoman Dominguez has heard our concerns about rushing to a vote on restructuring the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission," Kennedy said. "Millions of Americans who face discrimination rely on the EEOC to protect their rights; we cannot allow any change in the agency's structure to weaken those protections."
Currently, call centers are staffed by reliable experienced federal EEOC employees that include mediators, investigators and attorneys. Under the proposed plan, workers would have to rely on the inferior "expertise" of contract employees who would have received only one week of training and read from scripts.
Cari M. Dominguez, the EEOC chairman, announced on May 10 her plans to overhaul the agency's field structure and cut the number of district directors by a third, less than a week before she scheduled today's meeting for the commission to vote on the reorganization. Under her leadership, staffing was already reduced by 15 percent.
In FY 2004, the commission received 28,000 charges of discrimination based on race and 24,000 charges of discrimination based on gender out of 79,000 total claims.
A copy of the letter follows:
The Honorable Cari M. Dominguez
Dear Chair Dominguez:
On behalf of
thousands of American workers who depend on the Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission (EEOC), which is charged with helping women and men fight back
against discrimination in the workplace, we urge you to reconsider your
restructuring proposal which would downgrade several EEOC offices around the
country, including California, Colorado, Ohio, Texas, Washington, Louisiana,
Maryland, Wisconsin, Michigan and Virginia. The plan also takes away
jurisdiction from some states. For instance, EEOC's
We are especially concerned that you have called a meeting of the Commission with extremely short notice to vote on the restructuring plan on
In Fiscal Year 2004, 24,249 complaints, which amounts to 30% of EEOC's total filings, alleged discrimination based on sex. The only charges of discrimination filed more often than sex are race charges. With EEOC's backlog climbing to over 51,000 by 2006, it can be concluded that women, who are subjected to discrimination based on their sex, will have to wait even longer for justice. The wait is further compounded by the fact that our constituents will now be forced to contact a customer service representative at the
We are very concerned that, despite reliable experienced federal EEOC employees that include mediators, investigators and attorneys, women and men who feel they have been discriminated against will now be made to rely on the "expertise" of contract employees who have received only one week of training and read from scripts. Unfortunately, mere scripts cannot address complex questions posed by troubled women and men who seek guidance on employment rights to stop discrimination against them.
According to a 2002 study by Purdue University's Center for Customer-Driven Quality, federal call centers provide better customer service than centers run by state and local agencies or private firms. However, contracting out call centers, particularly call centers established to respond to complicated inquiries about legal rights and protections, can result in inferior service and increased costs. Downgrading EEOC offices and contracting out work to the lowest bidder in lieu of providing professional one-on-one local counseling will not serve as a deterrent for discrimination against
We must safeguard civil rights by ensuring that all working women and men have access to adequately staffed EEOC offices located in their own communities. The shortage of staffing coupled with the ill conceived call center pilot prevent the agency from effectively investigating all cases, particularly those of wage and sex-based discrimination.
As our nation's premier institution for enforcing antidiscrimination laws, we are urging the EEOC to reconsider its repositioning effort and make fighting discrimination against women and men in the workplace a priority.
The Honorable Lois Capps (CA-23)