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Meeting of July 18, 2012 – Public Input into the Development of EEOC's Strategic Enforcement Plan

Written Testimony of James Lee, SES Advisory Council

The SES Advisory Council was formed in 2009 to express the views of senior executives at the EEOC on issues at the Commission. It grew out of a workgroup in 2008 which had the task of making a proposal as to how the agency could continue to remain relevant in the coming years. We saw difficult times ahead for EEOC both in terms of the budget we could expect to receive as well as our ability to maintain staffing levels. Unfortunately, our view of the coming years was correct. Staffing is well below previous levels and the budget has been tight to say the least. We thought then and think today that only by taking a strategic approach to our enforcement efforts can we hope to eradicate discrimination in the workplace. We welcome the Commission’s commitment to a Strategic Enforcement Plan that updates and refines EEOC’s National Enforcement Plan and serves to focus the efforts of all of us at the agency.

The SES Advisory Council has previously urged the following: 1) that the Commission’s resources be concentrated on systemic enforcement and litigation. 2)that litigation efforts be concentrated on high impact litigation that would bring relief to the greatest number of victims and that 3) the burgeoning charge inventory should be addressed by invigorating the Priority Charge Handling Procedures (PCHP). We note that considerable work has been done in furtherance of these recommendations in the intervening years. We continue to believe that this approach is critical to mission success and should be an integral part of the Commission’s Strategic Enforcement Plan.

The original National Enforcement Plan was born out the reform efforts of the mid-90s. These were bottom up efforts initiated by EEOC employees with the objective of clearing away agency imposed impediments to a vigorous enforcement program. These impediments came from a top heavy headquarters operation that required the field to comply with rigid “one size fits all” processing requirements and from a “full enforcement policy” that resulted in anything but strategic litigation. There are those who in their comments call for a return to such policies. In the interest of the public we serve, we ask that you reject such a return to the past. The SEP should set the Commission’s enforcement priorities. This will assure the most effective use of the Commission’s resources by seeing that available funds are devoted to those efforts that most effectively advance equal employment opportunity. Managers need the flexibility to use the process tools and the human and fiscal resources available to them as the situation demands in order to meet those priorities. The SEP should not devolve into an attempt to proscribe how investigations are conducted but rather set forth those issues which the Commission believes should receive maximum enforcement effort. We ask for a plan that is effective and that leverages the capacity of the agency in these difficult times.

We note that part of the planning process for the SEP is the matter of “integration”. It may be that the meaning of that term lies in the eye of the beholder. To some it is a basis for restructuring various parts of the agency, to others the need for dual reporting lines, and to others an end to legal – enforcement interaction. We believe that such changes, even if desirable (and most of the proposed changes are emphatically not helpful), should not be the subject of this process. As demonstrated by the last field reorganization, organizational change is quite disruptive. Such change coupled with new priorities would hamper effective pursuit of those goals.

On behalf of the senior executives, I wish to thank you for asking for our thoughts on a new Strategic Enforcement Plan and we look forward to working closely with the Commission on the development of the plan and its implementation.