November 22, 2004, Federal Times
EEOC judges, investigators mired in paperwork
By TIM KAUFFMAN
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has slashed its clerical and
administrative staff to help stretch inadequate budgets, managers and union
As a result, investigators spend much of their time filing court documents and
mailing notices to people named in complaints. Besides presiding over hearings
and writing decisions, administrative judges must prepare and send out orders
scheduling the hearings and copy and mail the decisions to affected parties.
Attorneys and mediators also find themselves taking on many clerical duties.
“The agency is very reluctant to hire support staff,” said Michael Davidson,
first vice president of the National Council of EEOC Locals No. 216, which is
affiliated with the American Federation of Government Employees. “The agency has
done well, but they’ve done well on the backs of those employees who are
devoting extra hours to it.”
It’s not just clerical staff that’s been hurt. EEOC has been under a hiring
freeze for most of the three years that Cari Dominguez has been chairwoman.
The agency recently began hiring some investigators and legal clerks, but only
on a temporary basis, said Gabrielle Martin, president of the EEOC union. Those
employees barely are on the job long enough to get fully trained before they’re
shown the door, Martin said.
More than a half-dozen field offices are without permanent directors, so
directors from other offices - in some cases, hundreds of miles away - must
travel back and forth to manage those offices in addition to their own.
Being short-staffed takes a toll on those who are left, said an EEOC manager who
asked not to be identified for fear of retribution.
“If you don’t have enough people, you’re going to take shortcuts. If you’re an
investigator and you’ve got to do clerical work, it takes away from their
investigative work,” the manager said.
The number of cases EEOC prosecutes has remained consistent despite only modest
budget increases, but the manager said those numbers are misleading. With one
month to go in fiscal 2003, investigators had forwarded to the general counsel’s
office about half the number of requests for investigations that the agency had
launched the previous year. Agency leaders instructed investigators to submit
more cases for litigation.
“There was a mad rush to get that number up,” the manager said, adding that some
cases that shouldn’t have been prosecuted might have been swept up in that final
push. “It’s a superficial number. Whether or not the case is a good case or not,
we don’t know.”
The Bush administration requested an 8 percent increase in the EEOC’s budget for
fiscal 2005, or nearly $26 million in new money.
But Congress appears poised to give the EEOC far less: The House voted in July
to give the agency a $10 million increase, while the spending bill pending
before the Senate would increase the budget by only $2.6 million.