Chief FOIA Officer Report for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Part I. Steps Taken to Apply the Presumption of Openness
- Describe steps taken to ensure presumption of openness is being applied to all Decisions involving the FOIA:
- Steps Taken
- Training for both field and headquarters FOIA staff was conducted in response to the President's FOIA Memorandum and the Attorney General's FOIA Guidelines; advice regarding the presumption of openness is provided to staff on a routine basis.
- As directed by the Attorney General, all FOIA professionals agency wide were forwarded a copy of the FOIA Guidelines dated March 19, 2009.
- In keeping with Attorney General Holder’s FOIA Guidelines, EEOC began disclosing its Investigative Memoranda (IM) in redacted format. Prior to the issuance of the Holder FOIA Guidelines, EEOC, buttressed by successful litigation holding that the IMs are predecisional and deliberative, routinely withheld Investigative Memoranda in full. Due to the Holder FOIA Guidelines, EEOC has applied the presumption of openness to these records and now release portions of the IM as a matter of administrative discretion.
- Also as a matter of administrative discretion, EEOC also discloses portions of its Charge Detail Inquiry sheet which had previously been withheld under the Fifth Exemption to the FOIA.
- Report whether EEOC shows an increase in the number of requests where records have been released in full or where records have been released in part when compared with those numbers in the previous year’s Annual FOIA Report
- The FY 2009 Annual FOIA Report shows a decrease in the number of requests granted in full in the preceding fiscal year, from 688 to 612.
- The 2009 Annual FOIA Report shows an increase in the number of partial grants/partial denials versus the 2008 Annual FOIA Report from 9,895 to 12,514.
Part II. Steps taken to Ensure that EEOC has an Effective System for Responding to Requests
In order to respond more efficiently to FOIA requests, the EEOC developed an electronic system to facilitate processing, tracking, and responding to requests efficiently. The system, named the FOIA Tracking System, was launched in August 2009, following several training sessions presented to FOIA and IT headquarters and field office staff by the Office of Information Technology (OIT). A dedicated OIT staff person is assigned to the FOIA project. This individual designed and created the FTS and is responsible for taking care of and fixing any problems FOIA staff have with the FTS. Another employee trained on the FTS is assigned as back-up. Both these individuals are backed-up by a knowledgeable supervisor and an off-site hosting company. Finally, to ensure FOIA staff have sufficient IT support, IT specialists on the Help Desk have received FTS training. FOIA staff may contact any of these resources in the event there is a problem with availability, an application, etc.
Part III. Steps Taken To Increase Proactive Disclosures
The overwhelming majority of FOIA requests EEOC receives are for charge files. Due to statutory confidentiality provisions, charge file information is only available to the charging party and/or respondent or counsel. EEOC is prohibited by statute from placing the actual charge file information or the EEO-1 information certain employers are required to provide on the agency website. EEOC does, however, make aggregate charge and employer survey data available to the public on the website.
After a review of available documents for the purpose of increasing proactive disclosures, the EEOC Procurement Contacts and EEOC Government-wide Purchase Cardholders list were added to the website. These two documents are available on the website at http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/doingbusiness/procurement_contacts.cfm. Also available to the public on the EEOC website is a redacted version of Informal Discussion letters written by Commission staff to our stakeholders. Informal Discussion letters are available on the website at http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/foia/index.cfm.
As sections of the EEOC Compliance Manual are revised in electronic format, they are also made available on line. For example, a revised Section 83 of the EEOC Compliance Manual, dealing with file disclosure, was recently posted online. Section 83 is an alternate means for disclosure of private sector investigative charge files. It provides the flexibility of an informal disclosure process. Under Section 83, charging parties and their counsel, respondents and their counsel, aggrieved persons who have a right to sue, and a person, organization or agency filing on behalf of an aggrieved person may request access to investigative charge files. Section 83 has now been revised so that it applies not only to disclosure of charges filed under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Americans with Disabilities Act, but also to charges filed under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Equal Pay Act, and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act. Section 83 can be accessed at http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/foia/section83.cfm.
EEOC continually reviews its records for opportunities to increase transparency through proactive disclosure of EEOC records to the public.
Part IV. Steps Taken To Greater Utilize Technology
- Electronic receipt of requests
- EEOC currently receives requests electronically, via email, by fax and by internet.
- Electronic tracking of requests
- EEOC tracks all requests and appeals electronically in its FOIA Tracking System (FTS).
- Electronic processing of requests
- To the extent possible, the EEOC utilizes technology to process requests. The EEOC FTS contains templates of all letters utilized in the processing of a FOIA request or appeal. Requester information entered into FTS when the request was received can be utilized to create letters electronically in the FTS with the templates. EEOC is in the process of purchasing scanning equipment for all of the field offices. As offices receive the scanning equipment, the charge files will be scanned into the system. Redaction software has been uploaded to all FOIA professionals' computers.
- Electronic Preparation of Annual FOIA Report
- EEOC utilizes technology to prepare the Annual FOIA Report.
Part V. Steps Taken to Reduce Backlogs and Improve Timeliness In Responding to Requests
- Backlog Status
- EEOC had a FOIA backlog at the end of FY 2009 composed of 136 initial FOIA requests and one administrative appeal, compared to a backlog of 347 initial requests at the end of FY 2008. At the end of FY 2008, the EEOC's oldest pending request dated from October 1, 2007. The oldest pending request at the end of FY 2009 dated from July 13, 2009, and the only pending administrative appeal dated from August 29, 2009. A comparison of the 2008 Annual FOIA Report and the 2009 Annual FOIA Report data shows an overall significant decline in both the number and age of initial requests. EEOC far surpassed its FY 2009 backlog reduction goal of 634 by 494, by processing all but 137 FOIAs timely.
- Steps to Improve Timeliness
- EEOC has taken the following steps to improve timeliness in responding to requests and to administrative appeals. Timeliness is stressed in meetings with various offices and in training. The addition of 31 dedicated FOIA staff in the field offices, the creation of the FTS, and the acquisition of redacting software have also improved the Commission's response time.