Congresswoman Lois Capps

23rd District of California


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                           Contact:        Shannon Lohrmann
May 16, 2005                                                                    202-226-7747


Capps Calls on EEOC to Stop Proposed Changes that would Hurt Women, Minority Victims of Discrimination


WASHINGTON, D.C. - Congresswoman Lois Capps called on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission today to redraft a proposal to downgrade EEOC offices around the country. She also is requesting that the commission give sufficient public notice of any future hearings and the chance for the public to comment on the proposed changes.


A hearing scheduled for today was postponed indefinitely after Commission members received a letter from Congresswoman Capps and 29 other women Members of Congress questioning its plans to downsize staff while suffering from chronic backlogs of charges from women, minorities and others who feel they have been the victims of discrimination in the workforce.


"I am pleased to see that Chair Dominguez canceled the meeting today, recognizing the egregiousness of voting on the restructuring proposal without allowing for public comment," Congresswoman Capps said. "It was especially important for us, as women Members of Congress, to band together in opposition to the restructuring plan because women and minorities are the overwhelming majority of victims of employment discrimination."


Sen. Edward Kennedy authored a similar letter with 26 other Senators.

"I am pleased that Chairwoman Dominguez has heard our concerns about rushing to a vote on restructuring the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission," Kennedy said. "Millions of Americans who face discrimination rely on the EEOC to protect their rights; we cannot allow any change in the agency's structure to weaken those protections."


Currently, call centers are staffed by reliable experienced federal EEOC employees that include mediators, investigators and attorneys. Under the proposed plan, workers would have to rely on the inferior "expertise" of contract employees who would have received only one week of training and read from scripts.


Cari M. Dominguez, the EEOC chairman, announced on May 10 her plans to overhaul the agency's field structure and cut the number of district directors by a third, less than a week before she scheduled today's meeting for the commission to vote on the reorganization. Under her leadership, staffing was already reduced by 15 percent.


In FY 2004, the commission received 28,000 charges of discrimination based on race and 24,000 charges of discrimination based on gender out of 79,000 total claims.



A copy of the letter follows:

The Honorable Cari M. Dominguez
U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
1801 L Street, NW
Washington, DC 20507


Dear Chair Dominguez:

On behalf of thousands of American workers who depend on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which is charged with helping women and men fight back against discrimination in the workplace, we urge you to reconsider your restructuring proposal which would downgrade several EEOC offices around the country, including California, Colorado, Ohio, Texas, Washington, Louisiana, Maryland, Wisconsin, Michigan and Virginia.  The plan also takes away jurisdiction from some states. For instance, EEOC's Florida offices will lose jurisdiction for the Florida panhandle. The cost savings that EEOC claims this plan will bring apparently comes at the expense of starving EEOC's downgraded and smaller offices of much needed staff and resources. Implementation of the EEOC workforce repositioning effort will undercut critical workplace protections and services provided to working women and men and result in resources being diverted from loyal federal employees to a privatized national call center, which is already providing inferior services to victims of employment discrimination.

We are especially concerned that you have called a meeting of the Commission with extremely short notice to vote on the restructuring plan on Monday, May 16, 2005.  And although the restructuring proposal will affect the agency for years to come, and affect EEOC staff throughout the country, you have offered no opportunity for the public to offer comment on this controversial plan.

In Fiscal Year 2004, 24,249 complaints, which amounts to 30% of EEOC's total filings, alleged discrimination based on sex. The only charges of discrimination filed more often than sex are race charges. With EEOC's backlog climbing to over 51,000 by 2006, it can be concluded that women, who are subjected to discrimination based on their sex, will have to wait even longer for justice. The wait is further compounded by the fact that our constituents will now be forced to contact a customer service representative at the National Call Center for information on the EEOC process. 

We are very concerned that, despite reliable experienced federal EEOC employees that include mediators, investigators and attorneys, women and men who feel they have been discriminated against will now be made to rely on the "expertise" of contract employees who have received only one week of training and read from scripts.  Unfortunately, mere scripts cannot address complex questions posed by troubled women and men who seek guidance on employment rights to stop discrimination against them.

According to a 2002 study by Purdue University's Center for Customer-Driven Quality, federal call centers provide better customer service than centers run by state and local agencies or private firms. However, contracting out call centers, particularly call centers established to respond to complicated inquiries about legal rights and protections, can result in inferior service and increased costs.  Downgrading EEOC offices and contracting out work to the lowest bidder in lieu of providing professional one-on-one local counseling will not serve as a deterrent for discrimination against America's workers. 

We must safeguard civil rights by ensuring that all working women and men have access to adequately staffed EEOC offices located in their own communities. The shortage of staffing coupled with the ill conceived call center pilot prevent the agency from effectively investigating all cases, particularly those of wage and sex-based discrimination. 

As our nation's premier institution for enforcing antidiscrimination laws, we are urging the EEOC to reconsider its repositioning effort and make fighting discrimination against women and men in the workplace a priority. 



Shannon Lohrmann
Press Secretary
The Honorable Lois Capps (CA-23)
1707 Longworth House Office Building
, D.C.  20515
202-226-7747 (Phone)
202-225-6513 (Cell)
202-225-5632 (Fax