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Statement of James Lee, Deputy General Counsel U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

Meeting of July 8, 2005, Washington D.C. on Field Repositioning

I wish to thank the Office of the Chair and the Office of Field Programs for the consideration shown to the program responsibilities of the Office of General Counsel in the development of the Chair’s repositioning proposal.

In order for the litigation program to operate as effectively as possible, it is essential that a decision be made by the Commission on the Chair’s proposal. Based on my discussions with the Regional Attorneys and many others, attorneys in our field offices, despite assurances, have felt uncertain about the future. Your decision will permit our attorneys to know how the agency will be positioned for the future and be free to concentrate their enforcement efforts.

Our commitment as an agency must be to the public we serve. We must ensure that we vigorously enforce the laws and make the best use of the resources that are available. I realize that those who look back on our accomplishments say: given how well we have done why change? But the Chair’s plan is not about the past. It, as it must, looks forward in order to position our agency for the future with a structure that reflects the new reality.

The plan will enable us to provide effective oversight to the litigation program at the same time providing greater resources and flexibility to Regional Attorneys. Parity with District Directors will ensure effective legal enforcement interaction. It will enable the Office of General Counsel to better utilize its resources. And it will enable us to increase our front line effectiveness.

We, as an agency, will be better able to meet our obligation to enforce civil rights in the workplace. While recognizing the organizational improvements that will be brought by the plan, we in the Office of General Counsel recognize the personal impact on some of our colleagues. We will work with them to ensure that their talents will be fully utilized by the agency.

The first field restructuring I experienced was Chair Norton’s. I was one of many trial attorneys who were RIFed. That the Chair’s plan moves the agency forward without the RIFs, office closures, and forced relocations that have recently occurred at other agencies, and at EEOC in the past, is extraordinary.

During the comment period we worked with our Regional Attorneys both on the changes to the plan itself, as well as a strategy for implementation. The modifications to Order 110 clearly spell out the authority of Regional Attorneys over all legal operations within the District and their reporting line to the General Counsel. Language was added to make clear that lawyers may be stationed in any EEOC office. As we go forward the Office of General Counsel is committed to fully utilizing the talents of all of our lawyers.

OGC is confident that the Chair’s plan will position us to be able to vigorously enforce the statutes well into future.

This page was last modified on November 14, 2005.