216 Notes


Article 7 of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) created a Labor-Management Council (LMC) that is comprised of four members designated by the Union and four by EEOC management.   After the February, 2000 Bush Executive Order, which dismantled Partnership, the Union believed a succeeding forum was necessary to continue some form of dialogue.  As a result, the CBA provision adopted the LMC.  Previously LMC meetings took place in September, 2003 and May, 2004.

The LMC met in EEOC Headquarters on November 16 and 17, 2004.  Michael Davidson (Chicago) led the Union team and the other members of the team were Rachel Shonfield (Miami), Regina Andrew (Baltimore) and Pamela Edwards (Houston).  Participating for EEOC Management was Joanne Riggs, of the Partnership, Policy and Workforce Team in OHR, Angelica Ibarguen, Chief Human Capitol Officer, Jim Lee, (Deputy General Counsel), Rueben Daniels (Charlotte District Director) and Sandra Hobson, of the Chair’s office.  On selected topics, resource people made presentations, answered questions and participated in the discussions.

Inevitably, topics for these meetings reflect the “hot-button” issues within the EEOC.  The Union’s topics included a presentation and discussion of Support Staff issues, the Call Center, Cost Accounting procedures, a breakdown of the current proposed budget, the status of EEOC’s Restructuring Plans, EEOC’s Federal Sector reform proposal and the agency’s reviewing and updating of Position Descriptions, Production Standards and Case Management, Training, Overtime, Promotions, Hiring, and Promotions.  Also briefly touched upon was Telecommuting, Transportation Benefits, Awards and EEOC’s technology improvement plans.  The agency’s agenda included the mystery item “FLSA.”

In preparation for these meetings, as in the past, the Union team conducted telephonic town hall conference calls with about ten field offices.  These calls provided specific information that was useful to the Union team in preparation for the LMC meetings.  The calls also seem popular with field offices.  We anticipate that these calls will occur prior to any future meetings.  We will try to include offices that have not previously participated.

The following is a synopsis of the topics addressed by the LMC:


Support Staff

Union member Pamela Edwards[1] made a passionate presentation of Support Staff issues.  Those issues included the limited upward career mobility, working outside of the Position Description, absence of recognition of the contributions they make to the office and agency, lack of training or the time to participate in training, the level of pay and feeling that their respective jobs are in jeopardy because support jobs are on the EEOC’s FAIR Inventory[2].  The effect is low morale among Support Staff.  The EEOC LMC team acknowledged the problems and stated that the Agency sees a need for Support Staff.  In response to these issues, Management explained the hiring hierarchy. Staffing needs, with Investigator and Attorney positions, is the highest priority. Budget, also plays a significant role in hiring.  There was discussion about how to recognize the contributions of Support Staff.  The agency attempted to placate us by indicating that E-Learning and the Staff Development and Enhancement Program (SDEP) are ways in which the agency tries to provide some means of training and a possibility of upward mobility.  The Union team noted that these were starts but there were problems with both of those: notably, the fact that employees were not allowed time at work to participate in E-Learning and that the SDEP provided such a limited number of positions and still was not up and running.


Jeff Smith, Chief Financial Officer (CFO) made a budget presentation to the LMC.  There was no approved appropriations bill at the time, so Smith noted the difference between the amount sought by EEOC ($351m) and the lower Senate ($327m) and higher House ($335m) recommendations.  He explained at the lower level, there was a potential furlough in EEOC’s future; with the higher level, a furlough would not occur.  However, Smith admitted that EEOC’s budget request to Congress represented a game.  Despite the request to hire 100 employees, those hires would not occur, because it was unlikely that the agency would receive the full $351 million request.  Smith noted the declining number of employees and broke down agency expenses.  He was not optimistic about the prospects of the number of employees ever climbing.  In fact, Smith outlined the agency’s plan to “rightsize” offices, in other words shrink office space to reflect the smaller staff that has resulted from the hiring freeze.  Smith noted EEOC’s progress toward achieving the goals of the president’s Presidential Management Agenda (PMA), which include outsourcing.  Smith repeated his refrain that the agency’s biggest fixed costs were salary and compensation and rent and associated costs.  The Union team pointed out to Smith that his breakdown of FY 2004 expenses failed to show that the agency paid Pearson $700,000 in September as a down payment on the Contact Center Contract.   After discussion, the Union team concluded that under virtually all budget scenarios, the Contact Center was going forward, regardless of lack of funds for hiring or other in-house operating expenses.


Cost Accounting

The procedures and problems attendant with cost accounting were discussed and included: instructions to employees to only account for 80 hours in a pay period and not to include any hours that are worked beyond tours of duty; employees being directed to only report hours in the categories associated with their position titles whether or not they did work within the scope of other position titles.  We noted that requiring employees to account for their time in this matter placed employees in the position of either being insubordinate if they did not follow instructions not to report all hours worked or, more critically, falsifying official documents.  The EEOC team and Ed Elkins, Project Manager, recognized that problems existed that need to be addressed.  Elkins stated that he would be sending out a follow-up e-mail to all agency staff to clarify issues raised.


Contact Center

Edward Elkins, standing in for Cynthia Pierre, addressed this topic.  He reported that EEOC was working with Pearson, the Contractor, in reviewing applications for the 36 Contact Center operators.  He announced that a “limited” 3 office pilot would begin in late February, 2005 and a nation-wide pilot would follow in late March, 2005.  Elkins related that “substantive” 6-7 day long training of Contact Center operators would be done by EEOC and Pearson would conduct other training (e.g. how to talk to upset callers).  Elkins acknowledged that filed offices would receive calls from the call center when appropriate.  Offices will get neither additional staff nor technology upgrades.  Each district office will have a dedicated line for “warm transfers”.  These lines will be staffed by District Director secretaries and other non-bargaining unit employees.  Elkins also reported that Pearson would do the job interviews; the Center would be located in Lawrence, Kansas, which has “a high level of higher education”; that EEOC wants a diverse workforce; that EEOC will hire another contractor to assist with quality control of the Center; that time spent with a caller was not a criteria; that field offices “800" number would not go to the field office but to the Center; that the hours of Center operation would be 8:00 am to 8:00 EST (which provides no extended calling times on the west coast); that the Pearson contract bid was “not the highest; not the lowest”; that none of the other bidders appealed the Pearson selection.  The Union team asked a myriad of questions and requested a copy of the Pearson contract.  Management denied the Union’s request for a copy of the contract.  The Council is pursing other avenues to obtain this document.


Lea Guarria, COO, Budget, Restructuring, Federal Sector and the Future

On the afternoon of the first day of the LMC meetings, Lee Guarria, Chief Operating Officer (COO) addressed the body.  After some initial comments by Guarria, the Union asked her to address the rumor of the imminent departure of Chair Dominguez.  Guarria stated that she and the Chair were here “for the foreseeable future.”  Guarria went on to say that, she and the Chair anticipated no furloughs and no RIF’s; that the EEOC would operate in all places where it presently exists and is looking to expand its presence in keeping with the President’s PMA.  However, she stated that not all offices would look like they look now.  Also, jobs may shift and employees may be retrained.  Guarria stated that the EEOC goal was to become a more “Citizencentric” organization, more streamlined in accord with the EEOC’s Strategic Plan and the Five Point Plan to enforce the civil rights laws.  Guarria also stated that EEOC goals were dependent on the budget situation; that she was optimistic with respect to the budget that the agency would get the $335 million recommended by the House[3]; that a Restructuring Plan was not as yet determined but may present a plan within the next six months; that a work group led by Commission Ishimaru will be examine where and how the Federal Sector may be changed because the Chair sees the need to streamline the Federal Sector; that some jobs will shift and some retraining may take place; that the pairing of offices will continue, i.e., directors of field offices overseeing the operation of other field offices; and, that more award money would be provided (i.e. Cash-in-your-Account) for the coming year.


Production Standards

The Union team noted that Productions Standards did exist but that it was EEOC that approached the National Council years ago to do away with Production Standards.  Since that point, Production Standards have been impermissible.  The Union team stated that production standards were continuing in field offices in various forms.  The EEOC team agreed that production standards were impermissible.  The teams then attempted to define what a production standard was and distinguish that from what a Supervisor might legitimately require.  The Union team considered this an on-going problem (it has been discussed at each of the previous two LMC meetings).  The EEOC team stated that it routinely sends that message to District Directors.  The Union team’s conclusion was that it was either being ignored or not filtering down to Supervisors.  The EEOC team asked that the Union identify offices where this is occurring.


Production Management Update

The progress of this work group’s effort to develop a new evaluation instrument was reported on by Ernestine Jones, Office of Human Resources.  This work group includes National Council President Gabrielle Martin and Council Chief Negotiator Levi Morrow.  A discussion yielded some ideas for the work group to grapple with, such as the ambiguity of certain rating criteria.  The team will be meeting the week of December 6-10 to continue its work.


Mara Lopez, one of EEOC’s trainers, stated that E-Learning was underutilized.  Reasons for this included lack of awareness of its existence.  EEOC had disseminated information but the LMC speculated that the information was not filtering down to bargaining unit employees.  Discussion revealed that there were instances where employees were told that they could not take work time to take job related courses despite a contractual provision to that effect.  Lopez provided additional information: that interested employees could browse the course catalog without having to register; that “help” was available; that a “search” could be done to locate particular types of courses; that e-courses were consistent with the Presidential initiative of “getting to green.”  Lopez also stated that she was coming up with lists of relevant courses for each job description, which are referred to as “competency mapping.”  The ensuing discussion brought out additional points: that the employee needed to take some initiative; that if an employee registers but does not utilize the E-Learning, that would limit other employees from enrolling; that Supervisors need to be more encouraging; that learning in this way could be more related to the employee’s Individual Development Plan (IDP).  The discussion attempted to address the problems intrinsic to E-Learning and plan remedies.


Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) Contracted Study

The Union learned that in these tight times, EEOC paid to retain Gene Merlot & Associates to study whether, under the FLSA, all Mediators (GS12 and 13)  GS-9, 11 and 12 Investigators, were exempt from overtime pay.  The contractors were also to reconfirm that Trial Attorneys were exempt.   Representatives from Gene Merlot & Associates presented to the meeting the method used in the study.  They explained, for example, that their study looked solely at the Position Descriptions as written, presuming that these were the actual duties.  The study began in April 2004 and concluded in about June, 2004.  The contractors concluded that the Mediator and Investigator positions should be “Exempt”.  If the agency were successful in reclassifying the positions, it would mean that those titles would not be eligible for overtime pay (if such ever became available) and could only receive comp time.  The contractors admitted that investigator series 1810 are exempt in some other agencies and that the EEOC had previously considered the investigator and mediator GS 12 & 13 positions exempt.  The EEOC stated that its intention was to review all positions in the agency.  The EEOC team would not reveal to the Union the cost of this study nor would they agree to provide a copy of the study to the Union.  When and if the EEOC decides to pursue the Merlot recommendation it would so inform the Union.  Obviously, if the agency pursues this agenda, the Union will fight the change in status. The Union team expressed to management its sentiment that the agency paid for this study because with the decreases in staff that have resulted from the hiring freeze the only way the work can get done is by making employees work longer hours.  However, since the agency seldom has overtime funds available they need a solution where they do not have to pay for the extra hours.  So, there is no benevolence forthcoming from this agency.


Overtime, Production Standards, GS-13 Investigator, Etc.

A number of topics lent themselves to discussion at several junctures.  Those topics included Production Standards, Overtime, hiring, promotions.  The overtime discussion referenced that this was still an issue in that, across the country, bargaining unit employees were working beyond their tours of duty that was not pre-approved and, thus, not “official” overtime; that Supervisors were aware of it but either did nothing to discourage it or did nothing that was effective in dissuading employees from it.  Union suggestions included, finding effective means to curtail this unofficial overtime and making it perfectly clear that Investigators, for example, are advised that they would be evaluated on work in reasonable amount that could be performed within an 80 hour pay period.  The EEOC team agreed that this was a problem and would consider all suggestions to address it.  The Union urges employees to track suffered and permitted overtime hours, using the form provided at the Counsel’s website www.council216.org.


Finally, the GS13 for Investigators is still in limbo.  The Document Management System, which has as its goal getting the agency to be paperless is proceeding.  A last topic was a review of the actions the LMC meeting agreed would be undertaken and who would have the responsibility for each action.


The next Labor Management Council meeting is scheduled for May, 2005.


Lobbying Efforts:

On Thursday, October 18, 2004, members of the LMC went on the hill to lobby.  We met with many of the appropriators.   Our goal was to prevent the call center from being funded.  As you know, the appropriations bill gave EEOC some additional money, but not sufficient money, to fund the call center beyond the $700, 000, except at the cost of hiring, raises, promotions, etc.  The Council is in the process of clarifying the appropriations language requiring that staffing levels be retained in FY05.  But it is clear that if left to the Chair, the Call center takes precedence over everything else, including furloughs.  So, when you hear from us asking you to contact your representatives, it is against the backdrop of having few to no employees to do the work, and only a few to try to answer the phones.


[1]Pamela Edwards, presently an Investigator, started as a Support Staff employee and rose through the ranks.

[2]This is an annual listing required of every federal agency that lists jobs the agency believes can be privatized.  This year, 358 EEOC support jobs are on the Inventory.

[3] In fact, the Omnibus bill released after the LMC meeting did not authorize the full amount recommended by the House, but rather $331 million.  This figure is exactly in between the House mark and the Senate mark.  Recall that CFO Smith stated that at the amount of the Senate mark the EEOC would have to furlough all employees.  It is unknown how this compromise figure will impact operations.