Name and Title of your Agency's Chief FOIA Officer:
Peggy R. Mastroianni, Legal Counsel
Please answer the following questions in order to describe the steps your agency has taken to ensure that the presumption of openness is being applied to all decisions involving the FOIA. You may also include any additional information that illustrates how your agency is working to apply the presumption of openness.
1. Did your agency conduct FOIA training during the reporting period for FOIA professionals?
2. If yes, please provide a brief description of the type of training conducted and the topics covered.
In August and September 2015, the EEOC conducted in person FOIA training for all agency FOIA coordinators and processing professionals. The EEOC also conducted training via video conference on May 20, 2015 for all FOIA Disclosure Coordinators and FOIA Specialists. On November 17, 2015, new FOIA personnel received training via video conference on all exemptions utilized by the EEOC. Topics included exemptions (b)(3)(A)(i), (b)(5), (b)(6), (b)(7)(A) and (b)(7)(C).
3. If no, please explain why your agency did not hold training during the reporting period, such as if training offered by other agencies was sufficient for your agency's training needs.
4. Did your FOIA professionals attend any FOIA training or conference during the reporting period such as that provided by the Department of Justice?
Yes. EEOC's Headquarters FOIA staff attended FOIA training and conferences provided by the Department of Justice in addition to in-house training provided by the EEOC. Courses attended include: FOIA for Attorneys and Access Professionals, Introduction to the FOIA, FOIA Litigation Seminar, Continuing FOIA Education and Best Practices: Customer Service and Dispute Resolution.
5. Provide an estimate of the percentage of your FOIA professionals and staff with FOIA responsibilities who attended substantive FOIA training during this reporting period.
We estimate 100%.
6. OIP has directed agencies to "take steps to ensure that all of their FOIA professionals attend substantive FOIA training at least once throughout the year." If your response to the previous question is that less than 80% of your FOIA professionals attended training, please explain your agency's plan to ensure that all FOIA professionals receive or attend substantive FOIA training during the next reporting year.
One hundred percent of FOIA professionals attended substantive FOIA training in FY 15.
7. Did your FOIA professionals engage in any outreach or dialogue with the requester community or open government groups regarding your administration of the FOIA?
Yes, Stephanie D. Garner, Assistant Legal Counsel, in conjunction with the Philadelphia District office, participated in an outreach session to discuss FOIA processing of EEOC records with Pennsylvania State and Local Fair Employment Practices Agencies.
Peggy Mastroianni, Legal Counsel, and Stephanie Garner, Assistant Legal Counsel, met with principals from the Center for Effective Government to receive feedback on revised FOIA webpage and to consider comments and suggestions for further improvement of the webpage.
8. If you did not conduct any outreach during the reporting period, please explain why.
9. Does your agency have a distinct process or system in place to review records for discretionary release?
Yes, all components have a process for discretionary release of documents. A higher level official reviews the initial processor's recommendation concerning both exemption usage and discretionary release. This tiered approach ensures both that discretionary releases occur as frequently as possible, and that exemption usage is both proper and only asserted when disclosure is either prohibited by other legal authorities, or when disclosure will result in foreseeable harm to an EEOC interest.
10. During the reporting period, did your agency make any discretionary releases of information?
11. What exemption(s) would have covered the material released as a matter of discretion? For a discussion of the exemptions that allow for discretionary releases, please see OIP's guidance on implementing the President's and Attorney General's 2009 FOIA Memoranda.
Exemption (b)(5) would have covered the discretionarily closed material.
12. Provide a narrative description, as well as some specific examples, of the types of information that your agency released as a matter of discretion during the reporting year.
With respect to over 17,000 requests for EEOC charge files, EEOC released factual portions of the Investigator's Memorandum, factual portions of the Priority Charge Handling Procedure forms and portions of the Intake Questionnaire.
13. If your agency was not able to make any discretionary releases of information, please explain why. For example, you should note here if your agency did not have an opportunity to make discretionary disclosures because you provided full releases in response to all requests or the only exemptions that were applied were those that do not lend themselves to discretionary release (i.e. Exemptions 1, 3, 4, 6, 7A, 7B, 7C, 7F).
14. Describe any efforts your agency has undertaken to inform non-FOIA professionals of their obligations under the FOIA.
The Chief Human Capital Officer and members of her staff and a Commissioner's Special Assistant were briefed on their responsibilities under the FOIA.
EEOC is in the process of having OIP's FOIA for all Federal Employees Learning module converted into an on-line exam that all non-FOIA professionals can be required to take annually. OIP's FOIA training for Senior Executives briefing video will be made available later in the year to those senior executives who have either not received a personal FOIA briefing, or who request to see the video.
15. If there are any other initiatives undertaken by your agency to ensure that the presumption of openness is being applied, please describe them here.
At every opportunity, EEOC FOIA professionals are reminded of their responsibility to review each document with an eye toward disclosure. It is emphasized that records should be redacted wherever possible, not withheld in full. EEOC has also provided substantive training to FOIA professionals on exemption (b)(5) to help instill the requirement to review each record with an eye toward making discretionary releases and to only withhold records when there is a "real" harm to an EEOC interest.
The Attorney General's 2009 FOIA Guidelines emphasized that "[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.
Please answer the following questions to describe the steps your agency has taken to ensure that the management of your FOIA program is effective and efficient. You should also include any additional information that that describes your agency's efforts in this area.
1. For Fiscal Year 2015, what was the average number of days your agency reported for adjudicating requests for expedited processing? Please see Section VIII.A. of your agency's Fiscal Year 2015 Annual FOIA Report.
The EEOC's average number of days to adjudicate requests for expedited processing was 2.64.
2. If your agency's average number of days to adjudicate requests for expedited processing was above ten calendar days, please describe the steps your agency will take to ensure that requests for expedited processing are adjudicated within ten calendar days or less.
3. If your agency has a decentralized FOIA process, has your agency taken steps to make the routing of misdirected requests within your agency more efficient? If so, please describe those steps.
Misdirected requests are electronically forwarded to the appropriate office within 10 days of receipt.
4. On July 2, 2015, OIP issued new guidance to agencies on the proper procedures to be used in the event an agency has a reason to inquire whether a requester is still interested in the processing of his or her request. Please confirm here that to the extent your agency may have had occasion to send a "still interested" inquiry, it has done so in accordance with the new guidelines for doing so, including affording requesters thirty working days to respond.
EEOC has not sent any "still interested" inquiries to requesters.
5. Agency FOIA Requester Service Centers and FOIA Public Liaisons serve as the face and voice of an agency. In this capacity they provide a very important service for requesters, informing them about how the FOIA process works and providing specific details on the handling of their individual requests. The FOIA also calls on agency FOIA Requester Service Centers and FOIA Public Liaisons to assist requesters in resolving disputes. Please explain here any steps your agency has taken to strengthen these services to better inform requesters about their requests and to prevent or resolve FOIA disputes.
The EEOC has established two FOIA Requester Service Centers, one in Washington, DC and one in our Los Angeles District Office, to serve requesters. EEOC has one FOIA Public Liaison located in Washington, DC. In Fiscal Year 2015, some FOIA Liaison duties such as responding to requester telephone calls and written communications were distributed among FOIA Programs staff to ensure a rapid response to all questions and/or concerns. However, all requesters may continue to contact the FOIA Public Liaison directly for assistance.
6. If there are any other steps your agency has undertaken to ensure that your FOIA system operates efficiently and effectively, such as conducting self-assessments to find greater efficiencies, improving search processes, eliminating redundancy, etc., please describe them here.
We have not taken any other such steps.
Please answer the following questions to describe the steps your agency has taken to increase the amount of material that is available on your agency websites. In addition to the questions below, you should also describe any additional steps taken by your agency to make and improve proactive disclosures of information.
1.Describe your agency's process or system for identifying "frequently requested" records required to be posted online under Subsection (a)(2) of the FOIA. For example, does your agency monitor its FOIA logs or is there some other system in place to identify these records for posting.
EEOC monitors non-charge file FOIA requests. If the same material has been requested three times or has been requested two times with a strong likelihood of a third request, the material is posted on-line.
2. Does your agency have a distinct process or system in place to identify other records for proactive disclosure? If so, please describe your agency's process or system.
Almost 99% of the almost 18,000 FOIA requests and 7,000 Section 83 of Volume I the EEOC Compliance Manual requests EEOC receives annually are for investigative charge files. Three of the statutes the EEOC enforces -- Title VII, the ADA, and GINA -- contain confidentiality provisions that prohibit the EEOC, its officers, and employees from making charge information public under penalty of arrest, fine, and jail. Consequently, EEOC cannot make discretionary releases of this information to the public. However, EEOC does make aggregated annual statistical data concerning employment discrimination charges available on its website, and discloses non-confidential statistical data arrays requested by the public. EEOC also made its first quarterly FOIA log available on its FOIA page.
With regard to the remaining 1% of FOIAs, EEOC is proactively disclosing as much of the requested material as is permitted. Examples of some of the proactive disclosures on our website include informal discussion letters, Fair Employment Practice contracts, and aggregated EEO-1 data predating November 1, 1996, when agencies were required to make records available in electronic as well as paper format.
During FOIA Staff meetings, individuals identify unusual FOIA requests and/or similar requests. These requests are reviewed to determine whether the records requested should be posted online. Another means of identifying frequently requested records arises when compiling the FOIA request log and reviewing the records requested.
3. When making proactive disclosures of records, are your agency's FOIA professionals involved in coding the records for Section 508 compliance or otherwise preparing them for posting? If so, provide an estimate of how much time is involved for each of your FOIA professionals and your agency overall.
No. EEOC FOIA Professionals are not involved in coding the records for Section 508 compliance.
4. Has your agency encountered challenges that make it difficult to post records you otherwise would like to post?
5. If so, please briefly explain those challenges.
The limited number of IT staff increases the amount of time needed to post records.
6. Provide examples of material that your agency has proactively disclosed during the past reporting year, including links to the posted material.
FOIA logs: http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/foia/logs.cfm and 2013 FEPA/TERO Contracts: http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/doingbusiness/contracts/fepa_tero.cfm. Informal discussion letters: http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/foia/letters/index.cfm and the Federal Sector Digests are also accessible from our FOIA Library, http://www.eeoc.gov/federal/digest/index.cfm.
7. Did your agency use any means to publicize or highlight important proactive disclosures for public awareness? If yes, please describe those efforts.
Yes. The EEOC issued a press release about our revised FOIA webpage.
8. If there are any other steps your agency has taken to increase proactive disclosures, please describe them here.
No further 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.
Please answer the following questions to describe how your agency is utilizing technology to improve its FOIA administration and the public's access to information. You should also include any additional information that that describes your agency's efforts in this area.
Making Material Posted Online More Usable:
1. Beyond posting new material, is your agency taking steps to make the posted information more useable to the public, especially to the community of individuals who regularly access your agency's website?
Yes. See Twitter and other items on EEOC home page, such as EEOC's Press releases. The EEOC is also in the process of working to update both the FOIA website and the EEOC's website to include Spanish versions of the posted materials.
2. If yes, please provide examples of such improvements.
EEOC's website is now more user- friendly, and its Twitter feed includes tweets from other agencies. EEOC also launched a new service, Direct Video Acccess, which enables individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing whose primary language is American Sign Language (ASL) to communicate directly with agency staff about issues of discrimination they may be facing. EEOC information intake representatives who are fluent in ASL will be available to answer questions and guide callers through the process of filing a charge of discrimination using videophones. Previously, individuals who were deaf and or hard of hearing relied on an interpreter using relay services when they contacted EEOC. This new system provides direct access to an EEOC employee who can answer the caller's question in ASL over a videophone. EEOC is only the third federal agency-after the Federal Communications Commission and the Small Business Administration-to provide this direct access to the public.
3. Have your agency's FOIA professionals interacted with other agency staff (such as technology specialists or public affairs or communications professionals) in order to identify if there are any new ways to post agency information online?
Yes. FOIA professionals interacted with other agency staff in the revision and update of the FOIA page.
Use of Technology to Facilitate Processing of Requests:
4. Did your agency conduct training for FOIA staff on any new processing tools during the reporting period, such as for a new case management system, or for search, redaction, or other processing tools.
Please note that this question is focused on training provided to your FOIA professionals for the use of technology and IT tools that assist them in their day-to-day work of processing requests. Your agency's efforts to provide substantive training on the FOIA itself and the requirements of the law should be addressed in response to Question 1 of Section I of your Chief FOIA Officer Report.
Yes. In August 2015 the EEOC conducted agency wide training on FOIAXpress, the agency's new processing tool.
5. Beyond using technology to redact documents, is your agency taking steps to use more advanced technology to facilitate overall FOIA efficiency, such as improving record search capabilities, utilizing document sharing platforms for consultations and referrals, or employing software that can sort and de-duplicate documents? If yes, describe the technological improvements being made.
We are not taking such steps at this time.
6. Are there additional tools that could be utilized by your agency to create further efficiencies?
The EEOC is looking at purchasing de-duplicating equipment. The EEOC is also considering whether moving to electronic processing of charge files is feasible. Electronic processing of charge files would reduce response time by removing the need for an individual to scan the charge file into FOIAXpress to be processed.
7. Did your agency successfully post all four quarterly reports for Fiscal Year 2015?
Yes. The EEOC successfully posted all four quarterly reports.
8. If your agency did not successfully post all quarterly reports, with information appearing on FOIA.gov, please explain why and provide your agency's plan for ensuring that such reporting is successful in Fiscal Year 2016.
9. Do your agency's FOIA professionals use e-mail or other electronic means to communicate with requesters whenever feasible? See OIP Guidance, "The Importance of Good Communication with FOIA Requesters 2.0: Improving Both the Means and the Content of Requester Communications." (Nov. 22, 2013) If yes, what are the different types of electronic means that are utilized by your agency to communicate with requesters?
EEOC communicates with requesters electronically by e-mail, fax, and Internet. Each FOIA component has its own FOIA e-mail address that is published on the EEOC website.
10. If your agency does not communicate electronically with requests as a default, are there any limitations or restrictions for the use of such means? If yes, does your agency inform requesters about such limitations? See id.
The EEOC communicates with requesters electronically.
The President's FOIA Memorandum and the Attorney General's 2009 FOIA Guidelines have emphasized the importance of improving timeliness in responding to requests. This section of your Chief FOIA Officer Report 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 the numbers contained in the specified sections of your agency's 2015 Annual FOIA Report and, when applicable, your agency's 2014 Annual FOIA Report.
Simple Track: Section VII.A of your agency's Annual FOIA Report, entitled "FOIA Requests - Response Time for All Processed Requests," includes figures that show your agency's average response times for processed requests. For agencies utilizing a multi-track system to process requests, there is a category for "simple" requests, which are those requests that are placed in the agency's fastest (non-expedited) track, based on the low volume and/or simplicity of the records requested.
Yes. The EEOC transferred to a multi -track system in late September, 2015. Prior to the transfer the EEOC utilized two tracks: simple and expedited. Therefore, the overwhelming majority of its FOIA requests were placed on the simple track system.
One hundred percent of EEOC's non-expedited requests were placed in our simple track.
Backlogs: Section XII.A of your agency's Annual FOIA Report, entitled "Backlogs of FOIA Requests and Administrative Appeals" shows the numbers of any backlogged requests or appeals from the fiscal year. You should refer to these numbers from your Annual FOIA Reports for both Fiscal Year 2014 and Fiscal Year 2015 when completing this section of your Chief FOIA Officer Report.
5. If your agency had a backlog of requests at the close of Fiscal Year 2015, did that backlog decrease as compared with the backlog reported at the end of Fiscal Year 2014?
No. The Fiscal Year 2015 backlog increased.
6. If not, explain why and describe the causes that contributed to your agency not being able reduce its backlog. When doing so, please also indicate if any of the following were contributing factors:
The backlog increased for the following reasons: increase in the number of incoming requests, loss of staff, and transitioning to FOIAXpress. All of the FOIA professionals attended training in Washington, D.C. and have experienced issues arising from placing a new system on the computers.
7. If you had a request backlog please report the percentage of requests that make up the backlog out of the total number of requests received by your agency in Fiscal Year 2015.
To calculate your agency's percentage, you must divide the number of backlogged requests reported in Section XII.A. of your Fiscal Year 2015 Annual FOIA Report by the number of requests received in Fiscal Year 2015, which can be found in Section V.A. of your Annual FOIA Report. Once divided, you can multiply that number by 100 to get the percentage.
EEOC's request backlog equals 2.52% of the total number of requests received in Fiscal year 2015.
8. If your agency had a backlog of appeals at the close of Fiscal Year 2015, did that backlog decrease as compared with the backlog reported at the end of Fiscal Year 2014?
No. The appeal backlog remained the same.
9. If not, explain why and describe the causes that contributed to your agency not being able reduce backlog. When doing so, please also indicate if any of the following were contributing factors:
The backlog remained the same due to the appeals' complexity and the transition to FOIAXpress.
10. If you had an appeal backlog please report the percentage of appeals that make up the backlog out of the total number of appeals received by your agency in Fiscal Year 2015. If your agency did not receive any appeals in Fiscal Year 2015 and/or has no appeal backlog, please answer with "N/A."
Our appeal backlog equals 1.1% of the total number of appeals received in Fiscal year 2015.
Backlog Reduction Plans:
11. In the 2015 guidelines for Chief FOIA Officer Reports, any agency with a backlog of over 1,000 requests in Fiscal Year 2014 was asked to provide a plan for achieving backlog reduction in the year ahead. Did you agency implement a backlog reduction plan last year? If so, describe your agency's efforts in implementing this plan and note if your agency was able to achieve backlog reduction in Fiscal Year 2015.
The EEOC did not have a backlog of over 1,000 requests in Fiscal Year 2014 and therefore did not implement a backlog reduction plan in Fiscal Year 2015.
12. If your agency had a backlog of more than 1,000 requests in Fiscal Year 2015, what is your agency's plan to reduce this backlog during Fiscal Year 2016?
The EEOC did not have a backlog of over 1,000 requests in Fiscal Year 2015.
Status of Ten Oldest Requests, Appeals, and Consultations: Section VII.E, entitled "Pending Requests - Ten Oldest Pending Requests," Section VI.C.(5), entitled "Ten Oldest Pending Administrative Appeals," and Section XII.C., entitled "Consultations on FOIA Requests - Ten Oldest Consultations Received from Other Agencies and Pending at Your Agency," show the ten oldest pending requests, appeals, and consultations. You should refer to these numbers from your Annual FOIA Reports for both Fiscal Year 2014 and Fiscal Year 2015 when completing this section of your Chief FOIA Officer Report.
TEN OLDEST REQUESTS
13. In Fiscal Year 2015, did your agency close the ten oldest requests that were reported pending in your Fiscal Year 2014 Annual FOIA Report?
14. If no, please provide the number of these requests your agency was able to close by the end of the fiscal year, as listed in Section VII.E of your Fiscal Year 2014 Annual FOIA Report. If you had less than ten total oldest requests to close, please indicate that.
For example, if you only had seven requests listed as part of your "ten oldest" in Section VII.E. and you closed six of them, you should note that you closed six out of seven "oldest" requests.
15. Of the requests your agency was able to close from your ten oldest, please indicate how many of these were closed because the request was withdrawn by the requester. If any were closed because the request was withdrawn, did you provide any interim responses prior to the withdrawal?
16. In Fiscal Year 2015, did your agency close the ten oldest appeals that were reported pending in your Fiscal Year 2014 Annual FOIA Report?
17. If no, please provide the number of these appeals your agency was able to close by the end of the fiscal year, as listed in Section VII.C.(5) of your Fiscal Year 2014 Annual FOIA Report. If you had less than ten total oldest appeals to close, please indicate that.
The EEOC closed its ten oldest appeals.
18. In Fiscal Year 2015, did your agency close the ten oldest consultations that were reported pending in your Fiscal Year 2014 Annual FOIA Report?
There were no pending consultations at the end of FY 15..
19. If no, please provide the number of these consultations your agency was able to close by the end of the fiscal year, as listed in Section XII.C. of your Fiscal Year 2014 Annual FOIA Report. If you had less than ten total oldest consultations to close, please indicate that.
Additional Information on Ten Oldest Requests, Appeals, and Consultations & Plans:
20. Briefly explain any obstacles your agency faced in closing its ten oldest requests, appeals, and consultations from Fiscal Year 2014.
A staff shortage.
21. If your agency was unable to close any of its ten oldest requests because you were waiting to hear back from other agencies on consultations you sent, please provide the date the request was initially received by your agency, the date when your agency sent the consultation, and the date when you last contacted the agency where the consultation was pending.
22. If your agency did not close its ten oldest pending requests, appeals, or consultations, please provide a plan describing how your agency intends to close those "ten oldest" requests, appeals, and consultations during Fiscal Year 2016.
The EEOC closed its ten oldest pending requests, appeals and consultations.
23. Does your agency have a system in place to provide interim responses to requesters when appropriate? See OIP Guidance, "The Importance of Good Communication with FOIA Requesters." (Mar. 1, 2010)
Yes, the EEOC provides responses on an on-going basis as responsive records are received and reviewed.
24. If your agency had a backlog in Fiscal Year 2015, please provide an estimate of the number or percentage of cases in the backlog where a substantive, interim response was provided during the fiscal year, even though the request was not finally closed.
One hundred percent.
Use of the FOIA's Law Enforcement Exclusions
Did your agency invoke a statutory exclusion, 5 U.S.C. § 552(c)(1), (2), (3), during Fiscal Year 2015?
2. If so, please provide the total number of times exclusions were invoked.
Out of all the activities undertaken by your agency since March 2015 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 key achievements. A complete description of all your efforts will be contained in the body of your Chief FOIA Officer Report.