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QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS - FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT (FOIA) REQUESTS

(For more detailed information, see the FOIA Reference Guide at http://www.eeoc.gov/foia/handbook.html.)

1. What is the FOIA ?

The FOIA is a federal law that requires federal agencies to disclose agency records to the public, except to the extent that either the record, or a portion of it, is protected from disclosure by one of FOIA’s nine exemptions. The Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) administers the FOIA within EEOC.

2. What are agency records?

EEOC agency records are records that were created by EEOC and/or in the possession or under the control of the EEOC at the time the request is received.

3. Who can make a FOIA request?

Any person may make a FOIA request. This includes any corporation, organization, association, or foreign/state/local government.

4. How do I request records?

A FOIA request must be made in writing and reasonably describe the requested records. You should provide as much information as possible regarding the record, such as the date, location, subject, names, and charge or complaint numbers.

A FOIA request for information must be clearly and prominently identified as a FOIA request. This means that the word “FOIA” should be on the envelope or other cover and in the text of the correspondence making the request.

5. Where do I submit a FOIA request?

You may submit your request for records concerning the four areas immediately below to the District Director responsible for the district, field, area or local office where you believe the records are located. 29 C.F.R. § 1610.7(a):

  • materials in field office investigative files relating to charges filed under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Equal Pay Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, or the Americans with Disabilities Act;
  • agreements between the Commission and Fair Employment Practice Agencies in that district;
  • non confidential statistical data concerning the district; and
  • information about current or former employees of the district office.

(See District Directors at http://www.eeoc.gov/foia/contacts.html.)

Submit all other FOIA requests to: Stephanie D. Garner, Assistant Legal Counsel, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Office of Legal Counsel, FOIA Programs, 131 M Street, N.E., Suite 5NW02E, Washington, D.C. 20507; or by fax to 202-663-4679; or by e-mail to foia@eeoc.gov.

6. When can I make a FOIA request for a copy of my charge file?

A charging party may gain access to his/her charge file after EEOC has completed its investigation and issues a Notice of Right to Sue letter (NRTS). After receiving a NRTS, a charging party has 90 days in which to request a copy of the charge file.

7. Can I make a FOIA request for a copy of my charge file after making a request for the same file under Section 83 of the EEOC Compliance Manual?

Yes. A request for a copy of your charge file under Section 83 does not preclude you from making a request for the same file under the FOIA.

8. How do I check the status of my FOIA request?

You can check the status of the FOIA request by contacting the Requester Service Center (RSC) by telephone at 202-663-4500, or by fax at 202-663-4679, or by contacting the FOIA Programs staff member identified in the acknowledgement letter at the telephone number indicated.

The FOIA RSC is the first place that a FOIA requester should contact to seek information concerning the status of a FOIA request or questions about a FOIA.

9. What is the cost of making a FOIA request?

There is no charge associated with submitting a FOIA request. However, if you are an “other” category requester, as most requesters seeking charge files are, and locating the specific records requested takes more than two hours, a fee for search time beyond the two hours will be charged. A copy of the first 100 pages of records is provided without charge. However, after the 100 “free” pages, you will be charged 15 cents per page.

10. By what format are records disclosed?

Generally, records are disclosed in hard copy by mail. However, requesters may request that records be disclosed in alternate formats, for example, on a CD or by fax or by email, if a CD, fax number or e-mail address is provided. Records will be disclosed in alternate formats if the records are readily reproducible in the requested format.

11. Who duplicates the records for a FOIA request?

Disclosed records are either duplicated in-house by EEOC or sent to a contractor for duplication. Whether your request is sent to a private contractor to copy depends upon the workload of the office, the volume of the request, and your agreement to have the records to be disclosed to you processed by a contractor retained by EEOC.

12. Who can grant or deny a FOIA request?

The District Director or designee in each district office has authority to grant or deny a FOIA request within his/her District.

The Legal Counsel or designees, i.e., the Assistant Legal Counsel, FOIA Programs and the Assistant Legal Counsel, Advice and External Litigation Division, have authority to grant or deny FOIA requests and appeals.

13. How long does EEOC have to respond to a FOIA request?

The FOIA specifies that agencies have 20 working days, excluding Saturdays, Sundays, and federal holidays after receipt of the FOIA request to issue a determination. The 20 working day period does not begin until the FOIA request is received by a FOIA component, an office authorized by the agency to process FOIA requests. A FOIA component has 10 working days to forward a misdirected FOIA request to the correct office.

EEOC may also toll the 20-day response time to obtain clarifying or fee information from the requester. When unusual circumstances prevent EEOC from issuing the determination on your request within the 20 working days, the FOIA permits EEOC to take a 10 working day extension. EEOC will notify you in writing before the expiration of the 20 working days expire should it becomes necessary to toll or extend our response time. If it is not possible to issue a determination within the 10 working day extension period, EEOC will contact you and attempt to negotiate a new due date or to refine the request.

14. What type of records can I inspect and duplicate at EEOC without a FOIA request?

You may view and duplicate EEOC records available in the Public Reading Room located in the library at EEOC Headquarters, 131 M. Street, N.E., Suite 5NW02E, Washington, D.C. 20507 or at any EEOC District Office. (See http://www.eeoc.gov/offices.html for a list of EEOC District Offices). Documents such as the following are available to the public for inspection and copying:

  • Commission budgets submitted to Congress;
  • EEOC annual reports;
  • The Commission’s Compliance Manual and Index;
  • Blank forms relating to the Commission’s procedures as they affect the public; and
  • The Commission’s Orders, Directives and Decisions.

15. What types of EEOC records are not disclosed to the public?

EEOC will not disclose to the public charges of employment discrimination, charge conciliation information and unaggregated EEO survey data. Federal sector complaint files are not discloseable to third parties. Records containing inter or intra agency pre-decisional deliberations, recommendations, analyses and opinions, attorney-client, attorney work-product, information given to EEOC by confidential sources and matters involving the personal privacy and personnel or medical records of a third party will not be disclosed. As examples, EEOC does not disclose the Investigative Memorandum; categorization codes; or the name, telephone number, address, social security number or other personal information concerning a third party.

16. Are there any other requirements for disclosure that must be followed?

A request for EEO-1 data of a particular employer or EEO-4 data of particular state or local government must be accompanied by a copy of a court complaint stamped “Filed,” indicating that the charging party has filed suit under Title VII and/or the ADA against the named respondent.

17. What action can I take if I am dissatisfied with a FOIA determination?

When a request for records has been denied completely or partially, the requester may appeal to the Legal Counsel or designee within 30 calendar days of receipt of the District Director or Assistant Legal Counsel FOIA Programs’ determination letter. The following procedure must be followed:

The appeal must be:

  • in writing;
  • addressed to the Assistant Legal Counsel, Office of Legal Counsel, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 131 M. Street, N.E., Suite 5NW02E, Washington, D.C. 20507;
  • clearly labeled as a “FOIA Appeal” on the envelope or other cover; and
  • include a copy of the District Director’s determination letter. If the District Director’s determination letter is not included with the requester’s appeal, the appeal is not “perfected,” the appeal does not comply with EEOC regulations. Therefore it is not deemed received and will not be processed until the EEOC receives a copy of the determination letter.

Failure to follow EEOC regulations will delay the time within which the appeal will be reviewed and a determination issued.

If you are dissatisfied with the determination on appeal, you have the right to file a civil suit in Federal District Court.

18. Must a FOIA request be made in English?

No, a FOIA request may be made in any language.