Name and Title of Chief FOIA Officer: Peggy R. Mastroianni, Legal Counsel
The guiding principle underlying the President's FOIA Memorandum and the Attorney General's FOIA Guidelines is the presumption of openness.
Describe the steps your agency has taken to ensure that the presumption of openness is being applied to all decisions involving the FOIA. To do so, you should answer the questions listed below and then include any additional information you would like to describe how your agency is working to apply the presumption of openness.
Yes. During FY 2013, several FOIA training sessions were conducted via video- conference and teleconference. One training was conducted onsite at a FOIA component during the reporting period.
Six video-conferences, two teleconferences, and one on-site training session were conducted in FY 2013. The conferences covered substantive and nonsubstantive FOIA matters such as those that follow:
Yes. Washington, D.C. based FOIA professionals attended the following Department of Justice training during the reporting period: FOIA Administrative Forum, training on Fees, training on the D.C. Circuit decision in Crew v. FEC, 711 F.3d 180 (D.C. Cir. 2013), the Refresher Training on the Annual FOIA Report, and FOIA for Attorneys and Access Professionals.
We estimate that 85% of EEOC FOIA professionals attended substantive FOIA training this reporting period.
EEOC plans to provide annual FOIA training to its FOIA professionals and FOIA appeal attorneys through an online question and answer power point presentation. FOIA staff will be required to log in and successfully complete the FOIA training by October 15, 2014. Upon successful completion of the training, the trainee will receive a certificate. A copy of the certificate must be submitted to the Chief FOIA Officer or designee.
EEOC conducted one outreach effort early in Fiscal Year 2013. A FOIA appeal attorney made a FOIA presentation to a major segment of our requester community at an American Bar Association employment law program in Florida. The appeal attorney described how FOIA requests for employer and employee access to closed investigation charge files are processed, and dialogued with participants on related issues.
EEOC is formalizing a process to review records for discretionary release. We anticipate that the framework for our process will be completed and piloted during this reporting period. Guidance was issued directing all FOIA components to
review their records for discretionary release. A recent audit of a sampling of processed FOIA requests indicates the need to formalize the review for discretionary release. The formal process will require processors to consider whether they
reasonably foresee that disclosure would harm an interest protected by the exemption utilized and to articulate the harm. When a real harm cannot be articulated, the record or information must be released.
Yes. Some discretionary releases of exempt material were made.
The material disclosed would have been covered by exemption (b)(5).
Typically, EEOC does not consider the administrative judge's hearing decision in federal sector cases to be a final agency decision. The EEOC decision on appeal is considered the final agency decision. EEOC makes the appellate decisions available to the public on the EEOC website.
This reporting year, EEOC determined that the administrative judge hearing decisions could be released in response to a request when the EEOC decision on appeal has been made public. The information EEOC publishes in the appellate decision will be released to the public from hearings decision.
Over 98% of the FOIA requests received by EEOC seek disclosure of investigative charge file material that EEOC and its employees are prohibited from disclosing to the public.
Yes. EEOC did post all of the required quarterly FOIA reports, some in advance of the due date.
We are in the preliminary discussions concerning the development of a FOIA Log for the website that would indicate that a request for a charge file was logged without breaching the confidentiality provisions of the statutes we enforce.
As the Attorney General emphasized in his FOIA Guidelines, "[a]pplication of the proper disclosure standard is only one part of ensuring transparency. Open government requires not just a presumption of disclosure, but also an effective system for responding to FOIA requests." It is essential that agencies effectively manage their FOIA program.
Describe here the steps your agency has taken to ensure that your management of your FOIA program is effective and efficient. To do so, answer the questions below and then include any additional information that you would like to describe how your agency ensures that your FOIA system is efficient and effective.
During Sunshine Week 2012, OPM announced the creation of a new job series entitled the Government Information Series, to address the work performed by FOIA and Privacy Act professionals. Creation of this distinct job series was a key element in recognizing the professional nature of their work.
No. Limited agency resources, a freeze on hiring, and the sequester impeded EEOC's ability to convert its FOIA professional positions to the new Government Information series.
To date, no FOIA personnel have been converted to the new job series.
The recently signed Fiscal Year 2014-2015 budget contains sufficient funding for EEOC to begin the conversion of FOIA professional to the new job series. The plan is to have the new position descriptions created by May 2014. We anticipate that the actual conversions of FOIA professional positions to the new job series will be completed two months thereafter.
Yes. EEOC maintained an average of 6.7 days to adjudicate requests for expedited processing.
EEOC did not have any consultations or referrals with other agencies during Fiscal Year 2013. The Department of Labor (DOL) and EEOC entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) governing the conduct of shared investigations of entities covered by their respective statutes. Included in the MOU is a provision that provides for EEOC to forward records in its possession that originated with DOL to that agency for processing in response to a FOIA request.
Dedicated FOIA email boxes were provided to each EEOC FOIA component approximately two years ago. FOIA email addresses are available on the EEOC website, and on the component's FOIA website. Headquarters and field FOIA components routinely use email and other electronic means such as the Internet to receive, to communicate and to respond to FOIA requests or appeals when this is the medium chosen by the requester.
Yes. Notice of the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) and the services it offers was included in the recent revision to EEOC FOIA regulations and can be found at 29 C.F.R. 1610.11. For more than two years, the OGIS notice suggested by DOJ has been included in EEOC's FOIA appeal determination letters. Additionally, potential requesters who contact either of the EEOC's two Requester Service Centers are advised about OGIS and the services it provides.
EEOC audited its field FOIA components in the three latter months of Fiscal Year 2013. During July, August and September, five of the FOIA components received an email directing them to forward five preselected closed FOIA files to headquarters to be audited. The audits were completed quickly and a report of the audit findings with recommendations for improvement and changes was sent to the Director of the component.
These audits enable EEOC to locate and target those areas where our FOIA professionals would benefit the most from training.
Implementation of Pay.gov during the reporting period will allow requesters to pay assessed fees on line from international and national locations. Payment of fees on Pay.gov is more efficient and customer friendly as requesters can pay fees on line at any time from any location. Pay.gov also ensures that payment checks are not lost or delayed in the mail.
Both the President and Attorney General focused on the need for agencies to work proactively to post information online without waiting for individual requests to be received.
Describe here the steps your agency has taken both to increase the amount of material that is available on your agency website, and the usability of such information, including providing examples of proactive disclosures that have been made during this past reporting period (i.e., from March 2013 to March 2014). In doing so, answer the questions listed below and describe any additional steps taken by your agency to make and improve proactive disclosures of information.
EEOC's system to identify records for proactive disclosures is in the process of being formalized. EEOC currently does not have such a system.
A sampling of records EEOC posted during this reporting period:
Yes. We met with our IT Department to map out strategy for making information posted on the website more useful to the public.
For example, links to tutorials on how to access information most often sought by the community of individuals who regularly use the EEOC website have been added. We plan to make the information provided at certain of these links more helpful.
EEOC did not utilize social media during the reporting period to highlight important proactive disclosures for public awareness. EEOC publicized or highlighted proactive disclosures in the print media and press releases.
As previously stated, restricted resources, staff attrition, a hiring freeze, and the sequester impeded EEOC ability to post other records. EEOC anticipates that it will be able to take some steps this reporting period to make the information posted on the website more customer-friendly and easier to navigate.
No other steps were taken.
A key component of the President's FOIA Memorandum was the direction to "use modern technology to inform citizens about what is known and done by their Government." In addition to using the Internet to make proactive disclosures, agencies should also be exploring ways to utilize technology in responding to requests. Over the past several years, agencies have reported widespread use of technology in receiving and tracking FOIA requests and preparing agency Annual FOIA Reports. For 2014, as we have done over the past years, the questions have been further refined and now address different, more innovative aspects of technology use.
Online tracking of FOIA requests:
Yes. Presently, those requesters who submit their request through the EEOC FOIA Internet site can track the status of their request or appeal electronically.
This tracking function is provided to the requester via an online portal. Each requester who submits a request via the EEOC FOIA Internet site receives a unique confirmation number. That confirmation number may be used to access that portion of the FOIA Tracking System (FTS) that contains information concerning the status of the request. This information is entered into the FTS by the FOIA professional as the requester's FOIA is being processed.
EEOC FOIA professionals provide details about the status of the processing of the request throughout the course of its processing. The requester can access information in the FTS such as the date EEOC received the request, the date the acknowledgement letter was issued, the date and reason the request was tolled to obtain additional information from the requester, that an extension has been taken, that payment of fees is pending, that the documents are being reviewed, and that the response has been submitted to the person authorized to issue the determination for review and signature.
Yes, the acknowledgment letter is completed in the tracking system as the request or appeal is logged into the FTS. Requesters who file via the Internet may access the FTS to view the anticipated completion date of a request or appeal.
Use of technology to facilitate processing of requests:
Yes. EEOC is taking steps to utilize more advanced technology that will facilitate overall FOIA efficiency such as upgrading the FOIA Tracking System initiated in 2009 to the more advanced FOIA software of FOIAXpress. FOIAXpress will permit EEOC to obtain efficiencies tracking, verifying and reconciling data utilized in production of the DOJ annual and quarterly FOIA reports and other EEOC FOIA reports.
EEOC is also continuing to implement technological advancements to receive and store records such as federal sector complaints, and will soon implement a portal that will allow private sector charges to be submitted to the EEOC online. Over 98% of the FOIA requests EEOC receives are for private sector charge files. Having this functionality will facilitate EEOC's ability to process requests for charge file records quicker and more efficiently.
Employing advanced technologies such as those mentioned above in question 5. Would enable EEOC to improve its FOIA administration, and to process its expanding records disclosure workloads more effectively and efficiently, while reducing the need for additional human resources.
The President and the Attorney General have emphasized the importance of improving timeliness in responding to requests. This section addresses both time limits and backlog reduction. Backlog reduction is measured both in terms of numbers of backlogged requests or appeals and by looking at whether agencies closed their ten oldest requests, appeals, and consultations.
For the figures required in this Section, please use those contained in the specified sections of your agency's 2013 Annual FOIA Report and, when applicable, your agency's 2012 Annual FOIA Report.
Simple Track Requests
Yes. EEOC recently implemented multi-tracking of its FOIA requests and appeals. There is a separate track for simple requests. However, EEOC's current FOIA software does not have the capability to track simple request data separately. Consequently, simple request data and complex request data is reported together as simple requests on our annual FOIA reports to DOJ.
If so, for your agency overall, for Fiscal Year 2013, was the average number of days to process simple requests twenty working days or fewer?
Yes. For the agency overall, the average number of days to process simple requests was 18.
The average number of days to process simple and complex requests was 18.
Backlogs and "Ten Oldest" Requests, Appeals and Consultations:
No. The EEOC backlog of requests increased as compared to Fiscal Year 2012.
EEOC did not have a backlog of appeals at the end of Fiscal Year 2013.
Ten Oldest Requests
Yes. The 10 oldest requests pending at the end of Fiscal Year 2012 were closed in Fiscal Year 2013.
Ten Oldest Appeals
EEOC had no administrative appeals pending at the end of Fiscal Year 2012.
Ten Oldest Consultations
EEOC did not have any consultations pending at the end of Fiscal Year 2012.
Reasons for Any Backlogs:
Request and/or Appeal Backlog
The lack of reduction in the request backlog was influenced in part by an increase in the number of incoming requests.
Yes. Loss of staff and a continuing hiring freeze impeded EEOC's ability to reduce its backlog
Many of the requests EEOC received during the reporting period sought complex and/or voluminous amounts of information. Responses to complex and voluminous requests require the commitment of numerous hours of manual search, review, and redaction time.
As paper is the official form of EEOC record, most searches and review of responsive records are conducted manually. Manual search and review of responsive records is a time-consuming process, and a major factor impeding reduction in request backlogs.
EEOC did not face any obstacles closing its ten oldest requests, appeals and consultations in Fiscal Year 2012. As previously stated, EEOC did not have any appeals or consultations pending from Fiscal Year 2012.
EEOC had no consultations in Fiscal Year 2012.
Plans for Closing of Ten Oldest Pending Requests, Appeals, and Consultations and Reducing Backlogs:
Given the importance of these milestones, it is critical that Chief FOIA Officers assess the causes for not achieving success and create plans to address them.
EEOC's backlog of pending requests is well below the threshold requiring the establishment of a remedial plan.
OIP has issued guidance encouraging agencies to make interim releases whenever they are working on requests that involve a voluminous amount of material or require searches in multiple locations. By providing rolling releases to requesters agencies facilitate access to the requested information.
Yes. EEOC has a system in place for making rolling disclosures of records. All FOIA requests that were responded to on a rolling disclosure basis were closed during the Fiscal Year 2013.
Interim responses were not provided for the cases backlogged at the end of Fiscal Year 2013.
In order to increase transparency regarding the use of the FOIA's statutory law enforcement exclusions, which authorize agencies under certain exceptional circumstances to "treat the records as not subject to the requirements of [the FOIA]," 5 U.S.C. § 552(c)(1), (2), (3), please answer the following questions:
No. EEOC did not invoke a statutory exclusion during Fiscal Year 2013.
No response is required.
Out of all the activities undertaken by your agency since March 2013 to increase transparency and improve FOIA administration, please briefly describe here at least one success story that you would like to highlight as emblematic of your agency's efforts. The success story can come from any one of the five key areas. As noted above, these agency success stories will be highlighted during Sunshine Week by OIP. To facilitate this process, all agencies should use bullets to describe their success story and limit their text to a half page. The success story is designed to be a quick summary of a key achievement. A complete description of all your efforts will be contained in the body of your Chief FOIA Officer Report.