Questions and Answers on EEOC's Final Rule Implementing Revisions to the Commission's FOIA Regulations (29 CFR Part 1610)
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC or Commission) is committed to making its operations transparent and its records available to the public pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). This final rule modifies the regulations regarding EEOC's
disclosure of information (both proactively and upon request) and the procedures the public must use when requesting information from EEOC under FOIA. The following questions and answers provide information on the changes made to the FOIA
regulations in the final rule.
1. What Is the Purpose of 29 CFR Part 1610?
Under FOIA, any person has a right to obtain EEOC records, except to the extent that the records are protected from disclosure under the exemptions set forth in FOIA. The purpose of EEOC's FOIA regulations is to describe EEOC's duties and a
requester's rights under FOIA.
For example, 29 CFR Part 1610:
- describes the information that EEOC will make available proactively (both electronically and in its public reading rooms),
- sets forth the steps a person must follow to make a proper request for information,
- explains how EEOC will process a request for information (including applicable time limits),
- provides information as to the fees associated with FOIA requests,
- discusses information that is exempt from disclosure under FOIA,
- describes how a person can appeal EEOC's initial decision on a FOIA request, and
- identifies the persons within EEOC who are authorized to decide requests and appeals
2. Why is EEOC revising Part 1610?
- To make the regulation consistent with changes EEOC has made to its FOIA policies and procedures as a result of the OPEN Government Act (2007) amendments to FOIA.
- To make the regulation consistent with EEOC's transfer of FOIA responsibilities from its Regional Attorneys to its District Directors.
- To implement more efficient FOIA processing procedures.
- To implement certain procedures permitted by the E-FOIA Act (1996) amendments to FOIA.
- To consolidate EEOC's public reading rooms.
3. Who is required to comply with 29 CFR Part 1610?
Any individual, representative, group, corporation, partnership, association, organization, entity, or non-federal agency that wishes to obtain information from EEOC under FOIA must comply with the procedures set forth in 29 CFR Part 1610.
There are a few exceptions:
- Any person can visit and access the information available on EEOC's public website (www.eeoc.gov).
- A person who wants access to information maintained in EEOC's public reading rooms may visit the appropriate EEOC office during normal business hours.
A charging party who wants a copy of his or her charge file has a choice:
- He or she can follow the procedures under EEOC's FOIA regulation, or
- He or she can request a copy of the charge file pursuant to Section 83, Volume One, of EEOC's Compliance Manual.
4. What changes have been made in response to the OPEN Government Act?
- Definitions for terms defined in the OPEN Government Act (for example, "representative of the news media") have been added. EEOC also has added a few definitions to provide clarity to its final rule (by defining, for example, "fee
waiver"). 29 CFR § 1610.1
- EEOC appellate decisions include contact information for the Office of Government Information Services, which provides mediation services to resolve FOIA disputes. 29 CFR § 1610.11(g).
- A tracking number is assigned to every FOIA request and provided to the requestor. 29 CFR § 1610.9(b).
- A requestor will be given contact information that can be used to inquire about the status of a request. 29 CFR § 1610.9(b).
- A provision has been added addressing a misdirected FOIA request, requiring the receiving EEOC office to forward the request to the correct office within 10 business days. If the request is forwarded beyond this 10-day period, the normal
20-business day limit for EEOC to respond is reduced accordingly. 29 CFR § 1610.9(c).
- A section has been added addressing reports to be issued by the Chief FOIA Officer. 29 CFR § 1610.21(b).
5. What change has been made as a result of the E-FOIA Act?
- The final rule implements a multi-track system for the processing of FOIA requests. Prior to the E-FOIA Act, agencies were required to process FOIA requests on a first-in/first-out basis. Thus, a simple request could not be processed
out of order. This will not be the case under a multi-track system allowing EEOC to process simple requests first. 29 CFR § 1610.9(a).
6. What changes have been made as a result of EEOC's transfer of FOIA authority?
- An initial FOIA request must be submitted to the appropriate District Director (rather than the Regional Attorney, as was the case before the rule was changed). 29 CFR § 1610.7(a).
- An initial request shall be granted or denied by the District Director, or the Director's designee (rather than the Regional Attorney). 29 CFR § 1610.8.
7. What other significant changes have been made?
- EEOC currently consists of its Headquarters office and 53 field offices. Prior to the publication of the final rule, EEOC maintained public reading rooms in each office. For resource based reasons, EEOC has consolidated its public
reading rooms so that only Headquarters and the 15 District Offices maintain public reading rooms. The final rule reflects this consolidation. 29 CFR § 1610.4.
- A charging party can file a request for his or her charge file under FOIA or under Section 83, Volume One, of EEOC's Compliance Manual. So that EEOC can identify the procedure a requester is using, the final rule requires a person making a
FOIA request to "clearly and prominently identify" the request as a FOIA request. 29 CFR § 1610.5(b).
- The EEOC official signing a FOIA decision will include his or her name, title, telephone number and email address. 29 CFR § 1610.10(b)(1).
- EEOC will provide a person filing a FOIA appeal with the name, telephone number, and e-mail address of the staff member assigned to process the appeal. 29 CFR § 1610.10(b)(1).
- The final rule clarifies that, as is the case with an initial FOIA request, a FOIA appeal can be filed by mail, facsimile, e-mail, or through EEOC's public website. 29 CFR § 1610.11(a).
- In most cases, EEOC is prohibited by the statutes it enforces from making public its administrative EEO charge files. One exception to this rule applies if a charging party timely files a civil action regarding the subject matter of the
charge. Too often, a party to the charge makes a request for a charge file without providing a copy of the civil action. Therefore, the final rule contains a new section requiring the requester to provide a copy of the civil action with
the FOIA request. 29 CFR § 1610.5(c).
8. When do the changes to Part 1610 take effect?
On June 19, 2013, the date the final rule is published in the Federal Register.