The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

Meeting of September 8, 2003, Washington D.C. on Repositioning for New Realities: Securing EEOC's Continued Effectiveness

Remarks of Al Ressler, Chair
National Academy of Public Administration Project Panel
for the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

Good morning, I am Al Ressler, Director of the Center for Human Resources Management at the National Academy of Public Administratiion. I am sitting in for Ms. Singleton McAllister, a Fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration who was the chair of the Academy Panel that studied the Commission's organization and structure. She was scheduled to make this presentation but an emergency over the weekend has required her to be out of town today. I am pleased to have this opportunity to address the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on the critical topic of EEOC's organizational structure.

The National Academy of Public Administration is an independent, nonprofit organization chartered by Congress to provide “trusted advice” - advice that is objective, timely and actionable; and to improve governance at all levels: local, regional, state, national, and international. The Academy's membership of more than 500 Fellows includes public managers, scholars, business executives and labor leaders, current and former cabinet officers, members of Congress, governors, mayors, state legislators, and diplomats. Since its establishment in 1967, the Academy has assisted hundreds of federal agencies, congressional committees, state and local governments, civic organizations, and institutions overseas through problem solving, objective research, rigorous analysis, information sharing, developing strategies for change, and connecting people and ideas.

It was a great pleasure of the Academy to have the opportunity to review the organization and structure at the nation's premier civil rights enforcement agency. The Academy's project team conducted structured interviews with 60 individuals or groups in both the headquarters and field offices. We visited a sample of district, area, and local EEOC offices; and interviewed representatives of a number of stakeholder organizations, as well as community representatives. My remarks today reflect the Panel's significant findings and recommendations that were included in a comprehensive report that was completed and submitted to you earlier this year.

The Panel's fundamental conclusion is that EEOC's current structure, which was designed for twentieth century programs and technology, does not permit it to meet all aspects of its current mission, which now emphasizes prevention and mediation in addition to enforcement, or to take maximum advantage of technology advances. Despite beneficial streamlining of processes that has already been introduced, changes are not sufficient to align EEOC's structure and workflow with its budget and broadened mission which is to prevent and eradicate employment discrimination and enforce civil rights. The Commission needs more fundamental changes to enable it to provide its diverse, far-ranging customers with the level and quality of services they need.

In its written report to EEOC, the Academy Panel made a series of recommendations to address a number of interrelated issues to include: organizational structure; budget realignment; technology; human capital management; and performance management. The Academy Panel believes these changes are necessary to help lower costs, improve organizational and individual performance levels, and meet the challenges facing the Commission.

Our recommendations address five major areas:

Because my time today is limited and the Academy's recommendations totaled over fifty, I will restrict my comments to key issues in each of the five previously outlined areas. The other findings and recommendations of the Academy Panel are contained in the final report that was issued in March of this year.


The Academy concluded that the EEOC structure of widespread field offices and a headquarters Office of Field Programs (OFP) that guides policy implementation and program focus for most work done in the field has worked reasonably well for its 35-year history. However, this approach was more appropriate when most business was done face-to-face and paper-based methods were the only means available for processing complaints, interacting with respondents, or communicating with federal agencies. It was also designed when most headquarters and field functions were geared to enforcement. Today the EEOC emphasizes prevention to a much larger degree than it did previously. The Panel believes the highest-priority recommendations in the area of aligning mission and functions are those that address the following:


EEOC has established funding priorities to use technology to increase agency productivity and make information more easily available to its employees, customers, and stakeholders. Although EEOC has focused on developing its technological resources, there is still work to be done to use IT capabilities to meet mission needs. In the short term, EEOC will benefit from enhancing its analytical capabilities and addressing operational technology needs. Specifically, the Panel recommends that EEOC enhance its analytical capabilities by acquiring software that will allow it to access and analyze data from its multiple systems to improve its strategic decision making. To become more strategic in its information use, the agency must be able to access its data across technology systems. For example, EEOC must be able to assess its workload statistics against workforce data. It also needs to be able to analyze industry and demographic trends in terms of how they affect the agency's work and the overall field of employment discrimination. EEOC will then be more able to assess how the agency should optimize the deployment of its resources to combat these issues and problems. Further, these improvements should greatly support the achievement of performance-based management in EEOC.

The Panel concluded the top priorities should be on balancing technology with customer service, creating the tools needed to make the workforce more mobile, and expanding the Commission's telework resources. The Panel recommends that secure technology tools for electronic filing be designed so that customer service is user-friendly, staff routinely follow up on Internet-filed charges with phone or in-person interviews, and information is promptly provided to those whose queries or submissions do not involve employment discrimination. The Academy Panel acknowledged that the e-filing system is a critical infrastructure component that, combined with mobile outreach to underserved communities, will allow the agency to reach a substantially larger audience and to break away from having solely a traditional bricks-and-mortar workplace structure.


In any organization, human capital strategies must be directly linked to organizational mission, goals, and objectives. Given the breadth of the Panel's recommended restructuring, staff realignment is essential. However, before it begins realignment, the Commission needs to have its leadership structure in place and its comprehensive workforce planning methodology well underway. These should be the Commission's top three priorities as it develops its Strategic Human Capital Plan: (1) staff realignment, (2) leadership structure, and (3) workforce planning methodology.

In considering its staff management and realignment, the Academy Panel recommends that EEOC:

All EEOC executives, managers, and staff that the Academy study team interviewed were dedicated to eradicating employment discrimination, most even passionate about it. However, there is no well-understood model of what successful leadership looks like in the organization, nor is there an established approach to developing strong managers and effective leaders. The Academy Panel recommends that EEOC build a model of leadership that integrates achieving results, leveraging resources, maintaining accountability, and improving the organizational culture.

At the time the Academy delivered its final report, EEOC did not yet have a workforce plan, but was working with outside consultants to develop one. Workforce planning provides the opportunity to link an organization's mission with its best resource -- its people-the human resources of the organization. The Academy Panel recommends that EEOC expedite its workforce planning effort and link it to the planning and budget processes.


EEOC has done a great deal to assess and improve its operations, such as its charge-handling task force review that led to the Priority Charge Handling Process, and its review of best EEO practices of private sector employers. As EEOC processes charges of discrimination faster, its work may have made more of a difference in the lives of charging parties. It is harder to document EEOC's impact on reducing discrimination overall. The Academy Panel recommends that EEOC develop methods to demonstrate the impact its work has on reducing employment discrimination in the workplace. This would be a multi-phased process, including:


Organizational transformation demands leadership and the involvement of all the organization's stakeholders - political and career leaders, managers, supervisors, individual employees, unions and interest groups, as well as the OPM, OMB and congressional committees and staff who provide oversight and assistance to the EEOC. With the commitment and involvement of these individuals and groups, the agency will have a powerful coalition of supporters who can assist its transformation and modernization efforts.

The Academy panel recommends that the EEOC develop an implementation strategy and detailed implementation plan for the changes it decides to make and use the plan to manage the implementation process. As part of the implementation strategy the EEOC should:

A critical first step in successful change is to announce that the Chair, the Commissioners, and the EEOC executive staff are the champions of these recommendations and committed to implementing them. Among your most important tasks is to explain the impact, within and outside the organization, that you expect the changes to have. This meeting today is an important first step in the Commission's communication and implementation strategy and we commend you for your efforts to gather input from a wide range of stakeholders, government reform experts and EEOC employees from field and headquarters officers.

Again, thank you for the opportunity to share the Academy's perspectives and recommendations.


September 9, 2003

The Honorable Cari Dominguez, Chair
U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
1801 L Street, NW
Washington, DC 20507

Dear Madam Chair:

On September 8th we provided a presentation highlighting the recommendations of a report by a Panel of Fellows from the National Academy of Public Administration. During the question and answer period following the presentations, I was asked a question by Commissioner Paul Steven Miller that I was unable to answer.

After a discussion with the study team leader I am now responding to the following question:

Q: When the study group and the Academy Panel looked at the structure of the Commission, what was the reason we started with the field, where the change flow is located, rather than at the agency headquarters, where the majority of the enforcement work is done?

A: The Academy Panel study team began the initiative by going to the field first because that is where most of the resources, clients and infrastructure are located and where most of the work originates. Discussions with staff about the organization of work did take place at the headquarters as well. Since a major function of HQ organizations is to provide support and staff assistance to the field, it seemed logical to begin the study in the field activities.

Should you have any further questions about our recommendations please don’t hesitate to call on us. We at the National Academy of Public Administration are ready, willing and able to assist you as you proceed with the next steps of change management and transformation of our nation’s premier civil rights enforcement and discrimination prevention agency. I respectfully request that you provide this response to the other EEOC Commissioners.


Al Ressler
Center for Human Resources Management

This page was last modified on September 12, 2003.

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