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

Comments of James L. Stowe, President
International Association of Official Human Rights Agencies,
Executive Director, Columbus [Ohio]
Human Relations Department

Madame Chair Dominguez; Members of the US Equal Opportunity Commission;

My name is Jim Stowe. I serve as the President of the International Association of Official Human Rights Agencies (IAOHRA). I also serve as the Executive Director of the Columbus (Ohio) Human Relations Department, a non-contract Fair Employment Practices Agency (FEPA).

Established in 1949, IAOHRA's 143 member agencies work on the frontline of the battle to enforce municipal, county and state anti-discrimination laws and the equal opportunity statutes of the Canadian provinces, Bermuda and Ghana. IAOHRA's member agencies have missions that include:

  1. Ensuring equal opportunity in the areas of employment, housing, access to public accommodations and conveniences, credit and education;
  2. Providing technical assistance to respondents (e.g. the development and compliance monitoring of affirmative action plans, the development of sexual harassment policies and conducting work force training, diversity training, etc.); and,
  3. Conducting education and out reach activities on agency jurisdictions and enforcement procedures.

EEOC/FEPA Relationship

Throughout EEOC's existence, IAOHRA has valued and relied upon the resources, leadership and presence of EEOC as a partner in our common endeavor to establish "equal opportunity" as the norm accepted by employers and expected by American workers.

EEOC's operations and procedures shape FEPA operations and procedures through our charge processing contracts. The location of EEOC offices and the manner of Charge Intake directly influences the behavior of citizens seeking redress for employment discrimination claims in FEPA jurisdictions.

In our long history, IAOHRA member agencies seldom duplicate any efforts of EEOC. This is because:

  1. With regard to enforcement activities, where EEOC and FEPA jurisdictions overlap there are statutory and contract provisions that assure no duplication;
  2. With regard to technical assistance and education and outreach activities, the needs of our respective constituents exceed the combined capacities of Federal, state and local agencies to meet them.

Most IAOHRA member agencies, in varying degree, have conducted and continue to conduct work force analysis to appropriately align their processes to mission. Some IAOHRA member agencies rely upon performance-based management and many are utilizing technology in new ways to achieve these goals.

Wise stewardship of scarce public resources requires streamlined organizational structures and the strategic use of human and financial resources. All IAOHRA member agencies are required to be wise stewards of the limited taxpayer dollars allocated to achieve their missions.

IAOHRA concurs with the recommendation of the NAPA Report to factor in the locations and capacities of FEPAs in re- configuring a network of EEOC lead offices.

While IAOHRA has reservations about a national call center, we are ready to provide the national call center with appropriate information on FEPA operations and services, jurisdictions, protected classes, statutes of limitations, and remedies to allow quality referrals for employment discrimination charges not within the purview of Title VII.

We submit however that the data in FEPA charge inventories is essential to the thoughtful development of regional and national enforcement and litigation strategies and baseline metrics for certain industries, nationwide firms, or geographic areas. The current information technology (IT) system does not allow for these considerations to take place. We believe it would be more cost efficient to plan an IT system with this need in mind than it will be to retrofit it later.

We stand ready to partner with you on all aspects of the NAPA Report and not merely the location of EEOC lead offices. This expanded EEOC/IAOHRA partnership would provide EEOC an opportunity to build upon IAOHRA's experiences, to replicate our best practices and to pilot test new approaches in a comprehensive manner prior to national implementation.

EEOC/FEPA partnerships have proven, historically, to be cost effective and a sound investment of time and human resources.

Case Processing Contracts

In the area of employment discrimination enforcement efforts, 71% of the contracting and non- contracting FEPAs are IAOHRA member agencies. This comprises most of IAOHRA's member agencies. In FY 2002 more than 60,000 new charges of discrimination alleged nationally against employers with 15 or more employees were received and processed by contracting IAOHRA/FEPAs. This represents 43% of all cases filed with the EEOC. This is in addition to the thousands of allegations of employment discrimination annually processed by contract and non-contract FEPAs against employers with less than 15 employees.

The nominal contract payment of $500 per case is less than the average cost per charge handled by Federal enforcement personnel. The payment however constitutes a vital revenue stream for FEPAs.

Many FEPAs have experienced, skilled and knowledgeable staff with a capacity to process more charges. More federal enforcement resources could be redirected to the unfunded portions of EEOC's expanded mission if the deferral process is fully utilized. In those jurisdictions where FEPAs have the capacity to process all employment discrimination charges occurring within their jurisdictions, the Work Sharing Agreement should designate those FEPAs as the agency to initially process all such charges filed with the EEOC, regardless of which agency receives the case first.

Contract Mediation Services

The nascent EEOC/FEPA contract mediation pilot program also provides cost efficient and psychologically satisfying resolutions for charging parties as well as respondents. Again, the $800 fee per charge represents a sound investment of limited enforcement resources.

EEOC should assess the performance and capacities of the 9 FEPAs participating in the pilot mediation program. Where performance meets or exceeds standards and capacity exists more cases should be directed to this program. EEOC should expand this program to other FEPAs.

Public Education and Outreach Activities

EEOC/IAOHRA partnerships in public education and outreach activities would provide comprehensive information to business and industry managers on their equal employment opportunity duties and responsibilities. For potential complainants our partnership would provide comprehensive information on all relevant enforcement procedures and enforcement options. This "one stop" customer service provided to complainants and respondents is a wise use of limited federal, state and local taxpayer dollars.

In the area of public education and outreach there also exists dormant but tremendous potential to more effectively allocate limited enforcement dollars. IAOHRA member agencies have as a part of their primary mission the prevention of discrimination and are required to engage in education and outreach activities designed to prevent discrimination from occurring.

IAOHRA members have developed and have field-tested a variety of training modules, power point presentations, training videos and other training materials on civil rights enforcement and other related topics. IAOHRA member agencies, both FEPA and non-FEPA have longstanding relationships with underserved populations in their jurisdictions. Often, they are the first to be aware of and to respond to emerging trends and practices within their jurisdictions.

Again, IAOHRA offers its standing army of knowledgeable, community connected, competent, and experienced FEPA trainers. A resource that can be leveraged to supplement the services provided by lead EEOC offices and to garner more resources for EEOC to pursue those strategies that can best, or only, be pursued by federal enforcement activities.

A survey of IAOHRA member agency's education and outreach practices and activities could help EEOC in identifying the skill sets necessary for EEOC to develop and manage what we regard as a pivotal aspect of our work to prevent discrimination in the work place.

We respectfully offer the collective experience, judgment and resources of IAOHRA, in your considerations and implementation of the NAPA Report recommendations.

We respectfully request that IAOHRA be included in every aspect of the communication systems that emerge and are utilized as the NAPA Report recommendations evolve into standard operating procedures at EEOC.

Change is good. But change can be difficult and painful for some. IAOHRA's experience is that change is inevitable if we are to fulfill the public expectations of responsive and efficient government. IAOHRA commends you for undertaking this important task. Please know that IAOHRA stands ready to assist you in this endeavor.

Thank you for this opportunity to provide written comments for the record. We look forward to providing future comments and discussion as needed.

This page was last modified on September 8, 2003.

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