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Redoubling Efforts in Education, Outreach, and Technical Assistance

Throughout the 1990s, the Commission consistent with strategies developed since its inception continued to recognize the importance of education, outreach, and technical assistance. Indeed, the Commission took additional steps to make information on EEO rights and obligations more accessible and understandable. New programs reached out to under-served constituents and aided voluntary compliance. Initially, these efforts expanded in response to Congressional mandates under the ADA and the Civil Rights Act of 1991, as well the Commission's approach in its new NEP. Further expansion in 1998 and 1999 included special initiatives to assist low wage earners and small businesses.

In the 1990s, EEOC conducted almost 16,000 outreach events, with more than 900,000 people attending. In FY 1999 alone, EEOC conducted 2,550 outreach events, reaching nearly 207,000 people an all time annual record. Events included speeches, seminars, workshops, training programs, expanded presence visits, cultural expositions, conferences, and community group meetings. In recent years, EEOC staff also made increasing media presentations, including appearances on radio and television programs in languages in addition to English, providing information to uncounted thousands of people. Congress underscored the importance of such training by including in the Civil Rights Act of 1991 a directive for the Commission to establish a training institute to assist employers and others in understanding the requirements of the laws. To ensure that funds for outreach and technical assistance would be available without regard to the vagaries of the budgeting process, EEOC created in 1992 a revolving fund to be supported by payments received from the recipients of technical assistance training. The revolving fund continues to operate successfully in providing training to a broad range of audiences.

In 1997, EEOC entered the information age and established an internet website to provide greater access to agency materials. Revised and expanded in 1999, EEOC's website www.eeoc.gov now provides quick access to the texts of EEOC's laws, regulations, and guidances, fact sheets, and other information in easy-to-understand formats. It also lists addresses and phone numbers for all of the agency's 50 field offices. The website has received wide praise and is heavily used.

Reminiscent of the open houses held in EEOC's very early years, the Commission in 1999 sought input from civil rights organizations and employer groups by hosting Commission meetings throughout the country on current employment issues. For example, a Commission meeting held in Philadelphia focused on pay equity and wage discrimination. Another Commission meeting in Houston focused on bias against low-wage workers. This meeting heard extensive testimony on egregious discrimination practices affecting minorities and women, and "double" and "triple" discrimination faced by minorities and women with disabilities. Finally, a Commission meeting in Chicago focused on language rights and national origin discrimination. Following these meetings, EEOC developed additional educational and enforcement initiatives. For example, national and regional task forces were created to deal with national origin discrimination and low wage earner issues. In addition, the Commission issued policy guidance on the remedies available to undocumented workers under federal employment discrimination laws. This guidance explained that unauthorized workers are entitled to the same remedies as other workers, except in limited situations where a particular remedy would conflict with the purposes of immigration laws.

Finally, as part of its continuing outreach efforts, the Commission launched a major small business initiative in 1999, responding to problems voiced by representatives of this constituency. The purpose of the initiative was to improve customer service and expand outreach and technical assistance to the small business community to encourage voluntary compliance. In each district office, an EEOC staffer was designated as the small business liaison to answer questions and provide direct responses to inquiries. In addition, information about how EEOC's laws affect small businesses was posted on the agency's website. Significantly, the small business initiative marked a new beginning for EEOC in that it required the Commission to engage for the first time in an on-going, constructive dialogue with this crucial stakeholder group.

Next: The 2000s

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