Daily Labor Report
Friday, July 13, 2007 Page A-1
House Committee Clears EEOC Budget That Would Eliminate Private Call Center
The House Appropriations Committee July 12 approved a fiscal 2008 spending bill that would provide about $333 million for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, but also eliminate the commission's ability to contract out a national call center to receive discrimination complaints.
By voice vote, the committee approved the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related
Agencies fiscal 2008 appropriations bill (bill number not yet available), which allocates a total of $53.6 billion among the relevant departments and agencies, about $2.3 billion more than President Bush had requested. Although some Republicans on the panel warned the bill could draw a presidential veto for exceeding the administration's request, committee Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.) said that, especially with reference to Department of Justice appropriations, the bill simply restores funds that were cut over the past five years.
The $333 million for EEOC represents a $5 million increase over the administration's
request for fiscal 2008, and a $4 million boost from the agency's fiscal 2007 budget.
Last month, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved a Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies spending bill (S. 1745) that would raise EEOC's budget to $378 million in fiscal 2008, an increase of almost $50 million (125 DLR A-13, 6/29/07).
Both the House and Senate bills also include $9 million for the U.S. Commission on
Civil Rights in fiscal 2008, an increase of $200,000 over the administration's request.
Attacking the Backlog
In a committee report on the House bill, Rep. Alan B. Mollohan (D-W.Va.), the chairman of the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Subcommittee, said the increased funding for EEOC is needed to reduce a backlog of discrimination charges that the commission estimates will grow to more than 67,000 in fiscal 2008.
EEOC has lost 543 employees over the past few years because of attrition and a hiring freeze, and commission Chair Naomi Earp has told Congress most of the departing employees were investigators, attorneys, and enforcement support staff, the report said. The House committee directed that the proposed increase in funding should be used to reduce the backlog. EEOC must report to the committee within two months of the bill's enactment what steps it intends to take to cut the backlog, including the hiring of permanent, front-line field staff and investment in new resources, the committee said.
Call Center Scrapped
The House bill eliminates funding for the National Contact Center (NCC), a call center
for discrimination claims that EEOC has contracted out on a pilot project basis since
2005. The union representing EEOC employees as well as congressional oversight committees have sharply criticized both the commission's decision to delegate that function to a private contractor and the NCC's performance.
The House bill eliminates the $2.5 million in requested funding for the NCC in fiscal
2008. Instead, the committee said it expects EEOC to use those funds to upgrade its
offices' telephone technology and to hire field staff to take calls from the public.
"Alternatively, the savings may be used to establish an in-house call center to be
located in surplus space in EEOC offices," the committee report said.
The Senate appropriations bill also would bar EEOC funding of the private call center.
EEOC has scheduled a July 17 meeting in Washington at which commissioners will discuss the future of the NCC pilot project.