EEOC RESTRUCTURING AND CLOSURE OF OFFICES
Madam Chairwoman, a number of serious questions have been raised about the possible restructuring and closure of EEOC offices. As you know, many of these concerns stem, in part, from a series of recommendations contained in a report that you commissioned from the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) last year. There seems to be considerable confusion and consternation - both within and outside the Commission - about what reorganization ideas are under consideration and the scope of any possible office closures. In the Conference Report on the FY 2004 Consolidated Appropriations Act, the Subcommittee very clearly asked you to report back to us on this issue before moving forward precisely to avoid the confusion that now seems to be present. It is crucial that you set forward a clear and understandable plan that explains the process you expect to use to make decisions about the Commission’s structure and organization.
The Subcommittee is concerned that, as of March 25, 2004, the EEOC has failed to submit the reorganization plan, although you appear to be proceeding with implementing portions of it. When do you intend to forward the reorganization plan to the Subcommittee?
· Some public reports have suggested that you are interested in reducing the current structure of 51 offices to a much smaller number of offices, similar to recommendations found in the NAPA report? Is it your goal to cut the current number of offices, and if so, by how many?
· What criteria will you use to decide whether or not to close an office, or to change the current structure of a particular office?
· To what extent have you taken steps to assess the unique needs of local communities before contemplating any restructuring of local offices? Do you have any plans for undertaking such assessments before making any structural changes to offices? If so, will you be preparing a report with your conclusions?
· To what extent have you made any efforts to reach out to those who would be affected by changes to office locations/structures in local communities to determine how best to meet their needs? If so, what have been the results? Was this type of outreach done prior to the release of the NAPA recommendations suggesting that offices be closed?
· Have you developed a plan for how any changes in local offices organization will be communicated to local communities?
· Many have noted that as much as 25% of the EEOC’s staff is located at the main headquarters in Washington, in a building located in a very expensive area of the city. Do you have plans to restructure the staffing and/or location of your headquarters?
· Will you commit to a public comment process before any changes are finalized?
· Do you plan to pilot your restructuring program before making a complete change? If “yes,” how? If “no,” what are your plans and timeframe?
· Do you think having broad staff “buy-in” is essential to a successful restructuring and do you think you currently have “buy-in” from EEOC staff? In other words, do you believe there is internal support for closing and/or restructuring EEOC offices, and do you believe such support is necessary before moving forward?
· EEOC’s FY 05 Budget Estimates indicate that almost $2 million is already being spent this year, FY 04, on "workforce repositioning." What specifically is this money being spent on?
· Could you please describe a project by project breakdown of what EEOC is spending this $1,979,000 repositioning money on in FY 04?
· For FY 2005 EEOC is requesting $5 million for "Workforce Repositioning (including a National Contact Center )." What is the estimated cost of the proposed National Contact Center for FY 2005 and for each successive year?
· What progress has the Agency made in knowing how much this endeavor will cost? What are the hidden costs, like EEOC staff time to prepare scripts, train staff, and talk down frustrated callers who have been subjected to an extra layer of transfers and potentially incorrect information when speaking to a contract operator?
· At September 8, 2003, public meeting Ms. Pierre, in acknowledging the 30% turnover of contract operators stated that "-- 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." By doing so she implied this would lessen the turnover rate and the cost of training.
· How much does requiring this more specialized background for contact center agents drive up the price tag?
· If the idea would be to have trained EEO staff answering the telephones, would it not make more sense to use EEOC’s own staff and invest in improved technology and hiring additional employees?
· Is it correct that the proposed National Contact Center will receive calls presently being handled by EEOC employees?
· Does the EEOC intend to conduct a competition which includes consideration of in-house performance? If not, why not?
· Has the EEOC obtained an A-76 Waiver from OMB?
· Why is the EEOC privatizing this work without any formal consideration of in-house performance, in violation of A-76's prohibition against direct conversions absent OMB approval?
· Isn’t a direct conversion absent OMB approval a violation of the A-76 circular?
· If the EEOC moves forward with its workforce repositioning plans, EEOC employees, who presently handle public inquiries, may lose their jobs when offices are closed, relocated or downsized. Doesn’t failing to consider in-house performance deny tax payers the benefits of real competition and deprive EEOC employees the opportunity to compete in defense of their work?
· Isn’t it true that the NAPA report, which recommended the establishment of a national customer service center, did not call for a privatized center?
· Is it the EEOC’s intent to privatize the call center work driven by a determination to adhere to a self-imposed arbitrary personnel ceiling that automatically prevents the agency from ever investing in its own workforce?
· Purdue’s Government Call Centers Performance Benchmark Report conducted a year-long study, which, found that the quality of service provided by 100 government centers was better than service provided by industry centers. Customer satisfaction scores for government call centers were 10 percent higher than those for business-to-business call centers, and 30 percent higher than scores for business-to-consumer centers. Are you familiar with this report?
· In an American Immigration Lawyers Association survey released in late August, 79 percent of the 515 lawyers, representatives of community organizations and members of the general public who responded said they were unhappy with their experience with the call center. More than 60 percent gave the toll-free number an overall rating of 1 on a scale of 1 to 5, where 5 indicates the highest level of satisfaction. Survey respondents were particularly dissatisfied with the lack of "meaningful assistance" provided by call center employees. More than 60 percent said that a call to the toll-free number had not resulted in any useful information." Are you familiar with this survey?
· According to the testimony at the EEOC’s public hearing on September 8, 2003, even with the current hiring freeze, "three-fourths of District Directors believe- continue to believe that calls from the public are being quite adequately handled with the current staff." Did you take this into consideration before proceeding with the Pre-Solicitation Notice?
· Similarly, in their follow up remarks to the meeting, the Regional Attorneys urged that, "more effort should be made to put resources into the systems that we know work, like fully staffed offices, rather than investing millions into unproven schemes." Was this taken into consideration?
· Inview of these studies and the concerns of the District Directors and Regional Attorneys, how can the EEOC justify that an outside contractor can respond to public inquiries better than experienced and knowledgeable EEOC staff?
· According to "Analysis of Telephone Calls from the Public," dated June 4, 2003, the majority of EEOC calls are currently handled by GS-12's, i.e., senior Federal investigators. The Executive Summary assessing a National Contact Center states that Agents will go live after only 3-4 weeks of training. How will customer service be improved by having calls from the public answered by private contract operators with short term training, rather than experienced EEOC personnel? Isn’t it fair to expect that more experienced personnel are more likely to be able to resolve a caller’s issue without transfer?
· Isn’t the area of employment discrimination fraught with complex issues that might not be readily discerned as such? For example, will a contract operator, with three weeks training, be able to apply the Agency’s policy guidance (EEOC Compliance Manual, "Threshold Issues," No. 915.003) explaining Supreme Court caselaw, to understand the court’s definition of an employee?
· Will a contractor understand to ask about integrated employers, joint employers, successor employers?
· If a potential charging party does not file a charge within a certain time frame, s/he will lose this statutory right, correct? While Title VII provides 180 days, doesn’t it expand to 300 days if there is a work-share agreement? Aren’t there overlapping state and county protections that provide a full year to file a charge? What if a contract operator provides incorrect information regarding filing times on the waning days of his or her right to file a charge?
· Aren’t you concerned that it will frustrate and deter callers if they do not receive a meaningful answer from the Contact Center and have to be routed back to the Agency, thus adding a layer to the inquiry process?
· How much does the EEOC intend to spend on office relocation costs?
· Which offices, if any, does EEOC plan to relocate in FY 05?
· Is any of this money going to be used to close any EEOC office? Which offices? Milwaukee, Oakland, Newark?
· Is the money intended to be used to downsize offices? Which ones?
· Does the Agency intend a reduction in force (RIF) in FY 05 to eliminate staff in downsized offices? Which positions?
· As you know, this year we will mark the 40th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Can you identify for us the specific enforcement issues that you will be focusing on this year to ensure vigorous Title VII enforcement? How will the funds that you are requesting be used to accomplish these goals? In short, what results should we expect with the funds that you are requesting?
· Forty years after the passage of the Civil Rights Act, the majority of the charges received by the Commission still allege race discrimination, followed by sex discrimination. Are there specific steps that you plan to pursue this year to tackle race-based and/or gender-based discriminatory practices in particular industries or job categories?
· Are you focusing on quantity or quality? The number of cases filed in court annually remains steady but are they managed so that they are filed fairly evenly in each month or quarter?
· About one-third of your cases are class action suits. How many persons must be affected in order for the case to be classified as a “class?”
· Do you have a plan for pursuing systemic litigation say in a particular industry or job group, or geographic area, e.g., where workers are vulnerable such as a high immigrant population or entry-level workers?
· One of the main workplace problems voiced by many women deals with equal pay for equal work. Too many women believe that they are not being paid fairly for the work that they do, particularly when compared to their male counterparts. This is not simply a women’s issue but a family issue - in today’s economy, many families depend on the earnings of both women and men to make ends meet. For many years, the Commission has filed only a minimal number of Equal Pay Act cases each year. Do you have plans to pursue more Equal Pay Act cases in this upcoming fiscal year?
· EEOC recently issued a report about the Glass Ceiling and the status of women in management in the private sector (based on the categories in the EEO-1 reporting form.) It shows that while women represent an average of almost 50 percent of total employment of the job groups reported on, they only represent a little over one-third of the officials and managers category. If you look at higher wage jobs, and data on women of color, the percentage of women in these higher-level jobs is even smaller. What strategies are you pursuing to ensure that women are treated fairly when seeking these high level jobs? What strategies are you pursuing to remove discriminatory barriers that may be hindering the progress of women in obtaining these upper management jobs?