High-Volume Agencies Receiving More Than 50 Requests in FY17
Name and Title of your Agency's Chief FOIA Officer
Carol R. Miaskoff, Associate Legal Counsel
The guiding principle underlying DOJ's FOIA Guidelines is the presumption of openness.
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 FOIA professionals or the personnel at your agency who have FOIA responsibilities attend any substantive FOIA training or conference during the reporting period such as that provided by the Department of Justice?
2. If yes, please provide a brief description of the type of training attended or conducted and the topics covered.
FOIA Litigation Seminar, Annual FOIA Report refresher training, all EEOC employees with substantive FOIA responsibilities met in August at HQ for 2 ½ days of substantive training, including addressing all (7) exemptions, with special focus on exemptions (b)(3), (b)(4), (b)(5), and (b)(6).
3. Provide an estimate of the percentage of your FOIA professionals and staff with FOIA responsibilities who attended substantive FOIA training during this reporting period.
4. 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.
5. 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. The FOIA Public Liaison partnered with the Chief FOIA Officers Council, (CFOC) attending its initial, July 2016 meeting at the White House about the Proactive Disclosure pilot and the Release to All presumption, as well as its two subsequent meetings on September 15, 2016 and July 27, 2017. The EEOC also responded to the Release to All questionnaire. The FOIA Public Liaison met with representatives of the General Services Administration (GSA) and the EEOC's own Office of Information Technology about the FOIA national portal. Finally, the FOIA Public Liaison participated in the EEOC's Washington Field Office Technical Assistance Program (TAPS Program), which involved public outreach to EEOC stakeholders in the community.
The FOIA Public Liaison met with the Director of the Office of Government Information Services and her staff to discuss the interface of FOIA with the statutes EEOC enforces, and how to provide EEOC stakeholders with a clearer understanding of the law.
6. Describe any efforts your agency has undertaken to inform non-FOIA professionals of their obligations under the FOIA.
FOIA Programs conducted training for EEOC's non-FOIA professionals. The training included, among other items, FOIA basics, including the timeframes within which the EEOC must respond to FOIA requests, the definition of "responsive records," and the need to immediately forward all responsive records to EEOC's FOIA Programs Division for processing.
7. If there are any other initiatives undertaken by your agency to ensure that the presumption of openness is being applied, please describe them here.
The EEOC's FOIA Public Liaison and staff provides training and guidance to FOIA and non FOIA professionals concerning the presumption on an ongoing basis and at every opportunity.
DOJ's FOIA Guidelines emphasize 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 2017, 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 2017 Annual FOIA Report.
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. During the reporting period, did your agency conduct a self-assessment of its FOIA program? If so, please describe the methods used, such as reviewing Annual Report data, using active workflows and track management, reviewing and updating processing procedures, etc.
The EEOC conducted a self-assessment of its FOIA Program by reviewing the Annual Report data and various components' work assignments and work flow. Then, the EEOC updated its FOIA processing procedures to assist offices in reducing their backlogs.
•Note: In September 2017, OIP released a FOIA Self-Assessment Toolkit as a resource for agencies conducting a self-assessment of their FOIA program. The Toolkit is available on OIP's website for all agencies to use.
4. The FOIA Improvement Act of 2016 requires additional notification to requesters about the services provided by the agency's FOIA Public Liaison. Please provide an estimate of the number of times requesters sought assistance from your agency's FOIA Public Liaison during FY 2017 (please provide a total number or an estimate of the number).
5. Optional Survey Question: If possible, please provide an estimate of the average number of pages that your agency processes for each request. You may provide estimates for each track.
6. If there are any other steps your agency has undertaken to ensure that your FOIA system operates efficiently and effectively, such as improving search processes, eliminating redundancy, etc., please describe them here.
The Department of Justice has long focused on the need for agencies to work proactively to post information online without waiting for individual requests to be received.
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. Provide examples of material that your agency has proactively disclosed during the past reporting year, including links to the posted material.
EEOC has proactively disclosed material such as its Performance Report found at https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/plan/upload/2017par.pdf; its updated enforcement statistics found at https://www.eeoc.gov/statistics; its federal sector Digest of Equal Employment Opportunity Law found at https://www.eeoc.gov/federal/digest/index.cfm; and its informal discussion letters responding to stakeholder inquiries found at https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/foia/letters/index.cfm.
2. Did your agency use any means to publicize or highlight important proactive disclosures for public awareness? If yes, please describe these efforts.
An example of an EEOC press release issued to publicize the agency's proactive disclosures for public awareness is a press release announcing issuance of the EEOC's FY 17 Performance Report, found at: https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/release/11-15-17a.cfm. The EEOC issued numerous Press Releases during the year, which can be viewed at: https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/index.cfm.
3. Beyond posting new material, is your agency taking steps to make the posted information more useful to the public, especially to the community of individuals who regularly access your agency's website?
EEOC is constantly reviewing and updating our website to make it easier to locate records.
4. If yes, please provide examples of such improvements.
In conformance with DOJ's most recent guidance, and to improve our stakeholders experience, the EEOC fully revised its webpage.
5. If there are any other steps your agency has taken to improve proactive disclosures, please describe them here. For example, has your agency engaged requesters in determining how and what to post? Has your agency used web analytics to inform your proactive disclosures?
The EEOC is in the rudimentary stages of determining how and what to proactively post. We expect that web analytics will be used in the future to inform our external and internal stakeholders of our proactive disclosures.
A key component of FOIA administration is using technology to make information more accessible. 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.
1. Has your agency identified any best practices to leverage 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 please describe the best practices, the types of technology used and the impact on your agency's processing.
2. Did your agency successfully post all four quarterly reports for Fiscal Year 2017?
3. 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 2018.
4. The FOIA Improvement Act of 2016 requires all agencies to post the raw statistical data used to compile their Annual FOIA Reports. Please provide the link to this posting for your agency's Fiscal Year 2016 Annual FOIA Report and, if available, for your agency's Fiscal Year 2017 Annual FOIA Report.
FY 16: https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/foia/reports/index.cfm: click on "Raw Data."
5. If there are any other steps your agency has taken to improve use of technology in FOIA, please describe them here.
The EEOC upgraded to FOIAXpress version 10.1 to continue improving its use of technology.
The Department of Justice has 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 2017 Annual FOIA Report and, when applicable, your agency's 2016 Annual FOIA Report.
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.
1. Does your agency utilize a separate track for simple requests?
2. If so, for your agency overall in Fiscal Year 2017, was the average number of days to process simple requests twenty working days or fewer?
3. Please provide the percentage of requests processed by your agency in Fiscal Year 2017 that were placed in your simple track.
4. If your agency does not track simple requests separately, was the average number of days to process all non-expedited requests twenty working days or fewer?
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 2016 and Fiscal Year 2017 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 2017, did that backlog decrease as compared with the backlog reported at the end of Fiscal Year 2016?
6. If not, explain why and describe the causes that contributed to your agency not being able to reduce its backlog. When doing so, please also indicate if any of the following were contributing factors:
Factors contributing to the larger backlog included an increase in the number of incoming requests (from 17,680 (FY 16) to 19,003 (FY 17)). Most EEOC FOIA requests are for individuals' charge files after the EEOC closes its investigation of that charge. In FY 2017, there was an increase in the number of charge files that were closed because the agency reduced its pending charge backlog (from 73,508 (FY 16) to 64,644 (FY 17). This trend is expected to continue in FY 18. In addition, EEOC lost FOIA staff at several offices around the country. Finally, the EEOC received FOIA requests that were increasingly complex (both to its field offices and its HQ offices). This contributed to the backlog.
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 2017.
8. If your agency had a backlog of appeals at the close of Fiscal Year 2017, did that backlog decrease as compared with the backlog reported at the end of Fiscal Year 2016?
The backlog decreased.
9. If not, explain why and describe the causes that contributed to your agency not being able to reduce its backlog. When doing so, please also indicate if any of the following were contributing factors:
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 2017. If your agency did not receive any appeals in Fiscal Year 2017 and/or has no appeal backlog, please answer with "N/A."
.6% backlog of FOIA appeals.
11. In the 2017 guidelines for Chief FOIA Officer Reports, any agency with a backlog of over 1000 requests in Fiscal Year 2016 was asked to provide a plan for achieving backlog reduction in the year ahead. Did your 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 2017?
12. If your agency had a backlog of more than 1,000 requests in Fiscal Year 2017, what is your agency's plan to reduce this backlog during Fiscal Year 2018?
EEOC's backlog reduction plan includes: (1) Implementing triage measures to process the "simplest" of the FOIA requests placed in the simple track; (2) attempting to hire a FOIA/attorney who is also a technology expert to implement better utilization of available technology; (3) utilizing contract employees and EEOC investigators to process the simplest FOIA requests; and (4) enhancing training about how to review these simplest requests.
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 2016 and Fiscal Year 2017 when completing this section of your Chief FOIA Officer Report.
13. In Fiscal Year 2017, did your agency close the ten oldest requests that were reported pending in your Fiscal Year 2016 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 2016 Annual FOIA Report. If you had less than ten total oldest requests to close, please indicate that.
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?
No requests were withdrawn.
16. In Fiscal Year 2017, did your agency close the ten oldest appeals that were reported pending in your Fiscal Year 2016 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 2016 Annual FOIA Report. If you had less than ten total oldest appeals to close, please indicate that.
18. In Fiscal Year 2017, did your agency close the ten oldest consultations that were reported pending in your Fiscal Year 2016 Annual FOIA Report?
N/A- no consultations were reported in FY 16.
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 2016 Annual FOIA Report. If you had less than ten total oldest consultations to close, please indicate that.
20. Briefly explain any obstacles your agency faced in closing its ten oldest requests, appeals, and consultations from Fiscal Year 2017.
EEOC's lack of personnel contributed to its difficulty in closing its ten oldest FOIA requests.
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 2017.
Out of all the activities undertaken by your agency since March 2017 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, OIP will highlight these agency success stories during Sunshine Week. 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.
Due to EEOC's commitment to the success of its FOIA program, funding was secured to bring all FOIA professionals into Washington, DC in August 2017 for a weeklong FOIA and FOIAXpress training. The Directors of OIP, Melanie A. Pustay, and OGIS, Alina M. Semo, made presentations at this training.