The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

Section C. EEOC: Declining Processing Time and Inventory for Hearings and Appeals

By federal regulation, the EEOC is not directly involved in the handling of an EEO complaint from a federal employee until the case has been initially processed by the employing agency and a hearing has been requested before an EEOC Administrative Judge or an appeal from a final agency action has been filed.

If a complainant requests a hearing, an EEOC Administrative Judge may oversee discovery between the parties, and hold a hearing or issue a decision on the record. If a hearing is held, the Administrative Judge will hear the testimony of witnesses, review relevant evidence, and make findings of fact and conclusions of law in a decision issued to the parties. In appropriate cases, an Administrative Judge may, in lieu of holding a hearing, procedurally dismiss a case or issue a decision by summary judgment.

EEOC is also responsible for deciding appeals from final actions issued by federal agencies on complaints of employment discrimination. These final actions may involve an agency's decision to procedurally dismiss a complaint, a final decision on the merits of a complaint when complainant has not requested a hearing, or a decision on whether or not to fully implement the decision of an EEOC Administrative Judge. Once appellate decisions are issued, EEOC monitors agency compliance with all orders issued. EEOC's adjudicatory responsibilities also include resolving allegations of a breach of a settlement agreement involving a federal sector EEO complaint, as well as deciding petitions for review on decisions by the Merit Systems Protection Board or which result from a negotiated grievance process where claims of discrimination are raised.

Equally as important as its adjudicatory role, EEOC is vigorously engaged in assisting federal agencies in the proactive prevention of discrimination. EEOC's Office of Federal Operations (OFO) provides outreach, technical assistance and oversight to federal agencies, including conducting program reviews throughout the federal government to evaluate agencies' efforts to develop and maintain model EEO programs. OFO monitors and evaluates agencies' activities to identify and correct barriers to equal opportunity, reasonable accommodation procedures for individuals with disabilities, and alternative dispute resolution programs. OFO also gathers and analyzes data provided by federal agencies on employment trends and EEO complaints processing; issues periodic reports which are publicly available; and works with individual agencies to identify both positive and negative trends in their EEO programs. In addition, through the EEOC's Revolving Fund, OFO also develops and delivers training to federal agencies and other interested parties on a wide variety of federal sector equal employment opportunity topics.

  1. Hearings
    1. Hearings Inventory Reduced

      Hearings inventory fell from 8,467 in FY 2003 to 5,975 in FY 2004, a drop of more than 29.4%. Since FY 2001, the hearings inventory has decreased by nearly 48.8% from a high of 11,659 cases to 5,975 cases. Both efficiency in processing cases and the decrease in hearing requests contribute to this reduction in the hearings inventory.

      Figure 6 - Hearings Inventory FY 2000 - FY 2004

      Figure 6 - Hearings Inventory
    2. Hearing Requests Down

      Hearing requests decreased by 9.0% in FY 2004, from 9,918 hearing requests in FY 2003 to 9,027, and have decreased by 14.0% from FY 2000.

      Figure 7 - Requests for EEOC Hearings FY 2000 - FY 2004

      Figure 7 - Requests for EEOC Hearings
    3. Hearings Closures Outpace Receipts

      During FY 2004, the EEOC's Hearings Program resolved 11,740 cases, including 114 class actions, a 4.0% decrease from the 12,230 cases closed in FY 2003. Of the 11,626 individual cases closed in FY 2004: 1,655 (14.2%) were by decision following a hearing; 3,481 (29.9%) were by decisions on the record; 3,180 (27.3%) were closed by settlements; 1,550 (13.3%) were by procedural dismissal; and 1,760 (15.1%) were withdrawals. By comparison, of the 12,124 individual cases closed in FY 2003: 1,974 (16.3%) were by decision following a hearing; 2,804 (23.1%) were by decisions on the record; 3,951 (32.6%) were closed by settlements; 1,551 (12.8%) were by procedural dismissal; and 1,844 (15.2%) were withdrawals.

      Figure 8 - Hearings Program Closures FY 2000 - FY 2004

      Figure 8 - Hearings Program Closures
    4. Average Processing Time Drops for Hearings

      The average processing time for hearings fell to 355 days in FY 2004, after holding steady between FY 2002 and FY 2003. The average age of the opened pending inventory also declined in FY 2004 from 296 days to 183 days.

      Figure 9 - Average Processing Days for Hearings FY 2000 - FY 2004

      Figure 9 - Average Processing Days for Hearings
    5. Agencies Challenge Findings of Discrimination

      EEOC Administrative Judges issued 329 decisions finding discrimination in FY 2004, 6.4% of all decisions on the merits of complaints. Agencies may either fully implement an Administrative Judge's final decision or appeal the Administrative Judge's decision to EEOC's Office of Federal Operations. In FY 2004, agencies appealed only 2.2% of all Administrative Judge decisions; however they appealed 28.7% of the cases where an Administrative Judge found discrimination.

      Table 18 - Agency Actions on Administrative Judge Decisions FY 2000 - FY 2004
      FY Finding Discrimination(13) Finding No Discrimination Totals
      Implemented Appealed Implemented Appealed Implemented Appealed
      # % # % # % # % # % # %
      2000 143 73.0% 53 27.0% 3,935 99.6% 14 0.4% 4,078 98.4% 67 1.6%
      2001 194 71.3% 78 28.7% 3,636 98.8% 44 1.2% 3,830 96.9% 122 3.1%
      2002 197 65.0% 106 35.0% 3,644 100% 0 0% 3,841 97.3% 106 2.7%
      2003 159 63.3% 92 36.7% 3,639 99.9% 3 0.1% 3,798 97.6% 95 2.4%
      2004 124 71.3% 50 28.7% 4,515 98.7% 59 .31% 4,639 97.8% 109 2.2%
    6. Monetary Benefits Decrease at Hearings

      In FY 2004, Administrative Judge decisions and settlements at the hearings stage awarded $45.9 million in benefits to complainants, below the $52.4 million in FY 2003. Monetary benefits at the hearing stage have decreased the past two years. Note that benefits at the hearings stage are preliminary, pending a decision on implementation by the agency or appeal.

      Figure 10 - Monetary Benefits Awarded from Hearings (In Millions of Dollars)
      FY 2000 - FY 2004

      Figure 10 - Monetary Benefits Awarded from Hearings (In Millions of Dollars)
  2. Appeals
    1. Appeals Inventory Steadily Declines

      OFO's appellate inventory declined in FY 2004 to 3,634, a 5.1% reduction from the 3,831 case inventory at the close of FY 2003. The appellate inventory has fallen 69.5% from the inventory high of 11,918 appeals in January 2000.

      Figure 11 - Appellate Inventory FY 2000 - FY 2004

      Figure 11 - Appellate Inventory
    2. Appeals Receipts On the Rise Again

      OFO received 7,831 appeals in FY 2004, a 11.3% increase from the 7,035 appeals filed in FY 2003. This reversed a three-year downward trend from FY 2000 through FY 2003.

      Figure 12 - Appeals Receipts FY 2000 - FY 2004

      Figure 12 - Appeals Receipts
    3. Appeals Closures Steady

      OFO closed a total of 8,028 cases in FY 2004, of which 6,224 were Title VII cases (77.5% of the total); 2,046 appeals involved the Rehabilitation Act (25.5% of the total); 2,093 appeals alleged violations of the ADEA (26.1% of the total); and 4 appeals involved the Equal Pay Act of 1963 (0.1% of the total).

      Figure 13 - Appeals Closures FY 2000 - FY 2004

      Figure 13 - Appeals Closures

      Table 19 below, provides a breakdown by appeal type of all FY 2004 receipts and closures.

      Table 19 - Types of Receipts and Appeals FY 2004
      Types of Appeals Receipts Closures
      # % of Total # % of Total
      Initial Appeals from Complainants 6,195 79.1% 6,283 78.3%
      Initial Appeals from Agencies 139 1.8% 183 2.3%
      Petitions to Review MSPB Decisions 146 1.9% 133 1.7%
      Appeals from a Grievance/Arbitration of FLRA Decisions 12 0.2% 10 0.1%
      Petitions for Enforcement 47 0.6% 49 0.6%
      Requests for Reconsiderations 1,292 16.5% 1,370 17.1%
      Total 7,831 100.0% 8028 100.0%
    4. Appeals Average Processing Time Decreased

      The average processing time for appeals in FY 2004 fell to 207 days from 285 days in FY 2003. OFO resolved 4,059 (51.8%) of the 7,831 appeals received in FY 2004, within 180 days. The average age of an open appeal in the inventory at the end of FY 2004 was 171 days - a 10.0% reduction from the 190-day average age at the end of FY 2003 and a 56.8% reduction from the 396-day average age of the open inventory at the end of FY 2000.

      Figure 14 - Average Processing Days on Appeal
      FY 2000 - FY 2004

      Figure 14 - Average Processing Days on Appeal
    5. Appeals Findings of Discrimination Remain Steady

      In FY 2004, OFO closed 3,451 appeals addressing the merits of the underlying discrimination claims, and made a total of 226 findings of discrimination or 6.5% of the total. This was the same percentage as in FY 2003. Reprisal, disability, and race (Black) were the most prevalent bases of discrimination in the findings OFO issued in FY 2004.

    6. Monetary Benefits Awarded in Appellate Process Increases

      In FY 2004, the $22.1 million in monetary benefits awarded in compliance with appellate decisions (including settlement agreements resolving appeals), increased by 5% from the $20.9 million awarded in FY 2003 and increased 84% from the $12.0 million awarded in FY 2000.

      Figure 15 - Monetary Benefits Awarded from Appeals(14)
      FY 2000 - FY 2004 (In Millions of Dollars)

      Figure 15 - Monetary Benefits Awarded from Appeals
  3. The Commission's Outreach and Training Activities Reach Thousands

    In FY 2004, EEOC staff members reached a record number of federal employees, informing them of their rights and responsibilities under the EEO process, affirmative employment programs and laws which the Commission enforces. EEOC's proactive prevention activities targeted multiple agencies who provided their managers and supervisors the opportunity to understand how to prevent employment discrimination within their workplace. These training sessions were provided by staff members from the Office of Federal Operations and various EEOC district offices throughout the country.

    Specifically, staff members conducted 207 training sessions reaching 7,922 federal employees. Federal employees trained included 276 new EEO counselors, 224 new EEO investigators and 616 EEO professionals in affirmative employment programs. Additionally, staff members participated in 50 outreach sessions reaching another 4,214 individuals.

    EEOC staff members also responded to 2,114 requests for technical assistance with reporting requirements, 1,566 requests for technical assistance with affirmative employment programs and more than 7,987 calls regarding the EEO complaint/appeals process, providing the federal sector EEO community and employees with timely information.

    The Commission's training and outreach information can be found at

13. These numbers do not parallel Administrative Judge findings of discrimination because agencies may not take final action in the same fiscal year as the decision was issued or may settle a complaint where the Administrative Judge has found discrimination.

14. Note: Hearings Benefits should not be added to Appeals Benefits for a grand total as Hearings Benefits are only preliminary.

This page was last modified on April 19, 2005.

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