Labor Report No. 124
Tuesday, June 29, 2004 Page A-2
House Appropriations Measure Restricts
EEOC Action on Call Center, Restructuring
Pushed by a Democratic House member who was formerly an EEOC trial
attorney, the House Appropriations Committee recently agreed to rein in
the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's pending reorganization
plan--one of Chair Cari Dominguez's major goals at the agency.
The Commerce, Justice, State, the Judiciary, and Related Agencies
Appropriations bill, approved by the committee June 23, would restrict a
pending reorganization plan by requiring the civil rights enforcement
agency to notify Congress before either opening a national call center
or closing field offices.
However, in a June 28 memo to employees, Dominguez said the agency
intends to move forward with plans for the nationwide call center with
hopes of launching the program by early 2005.
Language incorporated in the appropriations legislation (unnumbered)
would prohibit EEOC "from taking action to implement any workforce
repositioning, restructuring, or reorganization unless the committee has
been notified in advance of such proposals."
In regard to the proposed call center, a report accompanying the
legislation states that funding only would be made available "subject to
the submission of a spending plan." The report also calls for EEOC to
submit quarterly status reports "on projected and actual spending
levels, by function, for repositioning."
The measure provides EEOC with a total budget authority of $335 million
for fiscal 1995--$10 million above the current funding level and $16
million less than the amount requested by President Bush (21 DLR AA-2,
No Senate action has been taken on the appropriations measure.
Critique from Former Employee
The language restricting the reorganization was incorporated in the
legislation at the urging of Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-Ohio), who
worked as a trial attorney at EEOC in Cleveland during the late 1970s
and early 1980s.
In a June 8 letter to the chairman and ranking member of the House
appropriations subcommittee with EEOC jurisdiction, Tubbs Jones urged
the panel to reject any funding for "a workplace repositioning effort,
which would be used to establish a privatized national customer service
center as well as close and consolidate field offices."
A total of 101 House Democrats signed the letter calling for EEOC to
keep its advice-giving mission within the agency, rather than
contracting it out to a private company.
"Federal employees are high performers when it comes to staffing call
centers," the legislators said, in citing a 2002 study by Purdue
University's Center for Customer-Driven Quality, which found that
federal call centers provided better services than centers run by state
or local agencies or private firms.
"On the other hand, 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," the letter continued.
Addressing any potential office closings, the lawmakers noted that the
2003 EEOC reorganization analysis by the National Academy of Public
Administration, as well as a subsequent internal report by EEOC
recommended closing and consolidating field offices. "We believe that
these proposals could diminish the ability of EEOC to perform its
mission," Tubbs Jones and her colleagues said in urging the restrictions
in the appropriations measure.
EEOC Moving Forward
The call center is one of the first steps of a planned agencywide
restructuring program that would implement the recommendations of the
NAPA report (38 DLR A-1, 2/26/03). EEOC Chair Dominguez has called the
call center a top priority and said in a June 28 memo to commission
employees that she is moving forward to implement the plans.
In the memo, Dominguez said the agency received outside proposals on
the call center in April and is "continuing to move toward
implementation of this very important project," according to an agency
spokeswoman. Pending approval by the commission, Dominguez also said
that the projected launch date for the call center is early 2005.
At an appropriations subcommittee meeting earlier this year, however,
Chairman Frank Wolf (R-Va.) and Ranking Democrat Jose Serrano (D-N.Y.)
both chided Dominguez for moving forward with the call center plans
without first notifying the committee. Dominguez said that operating the
call center in-house would cost the agency $12 million, while it could
be run by a private contractor for as little as $2 million a year. She
said no staff jobs would be eliminated if an outside contractor was
engaged (58 DLR A-8, 3/26/04).
By Nancy Montwieler