In acknowledgement of the increasing number of sexual harassment claims filed in the U.S., Congress included a $15 million increase in the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s appropriations in the FY18 budget bill signed into law March 23.
The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws concerning all types of discrimination, such as race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability or genetic information. However, according to the president of the National Council of EEOC Locals No. 216, Gabrielle Martin, the #MeToo movement has placed increased emphasis on issues of sexual assault in the workplace.
“The #MeToo movement highlights EEOC’s important work and leads people to our door,” Martin said. “Congress has shown its commitment to civil rights with this budget. Now EEOC must show that it is up to the task of deterring discrimination that robs workers of the American dream. EEOC must not squander this budget and must ensure desperately needed front-line assistance for the public.”
Members of the House Administration Committee examined changes to the Congressional Accountability Act and sexual harassment reporting process that would reduce the “cooling off” time required and create a victims’ advocate to offer currently-absent support to those reporting harassment.
Of the EEOC’s $379.5 million total budget, $29.5 million must go to state and local “enforcement agencies,” while the rest will go to EEOC salaries and expenses.
The American Federation of Government Employees’ National Council of EEOC Locals released a list of four priorities for that remaining funding:
- Restore front-line staffing, such as investigator support assistants, investigators, mediators, administrative judges, information intake representatives and support staff.
- Change the supervisor to employee ratio by reducing the layers of management that don’t engage with the public.
- Invest in IT to improve the charge and appointment digital system.
- Stop the employee turnover at EEOC.
“The union is sharing this wish list because we are on the front lines and know what would make a difference in more efficient service and help for those experiencing discrimination, including sexual harassment, and to prevent it in the first place,” Martin said. “EEOC must use the funding to help workers, rather than squander funding on case closure schemes that focus on quotas or inefficient micromanagement.”
Martin has previously been critical of the sharp drop in backlogged cases at the EEOC, from 73,508 in 2016 to 61,621 a year later, as a result of a performance management policy that included processing quotas in EEOC employee evaluations.
Martin characterized the move as “speeding up the conveyor belt” without guarantee that the cases will be processed with due consideration.
However, AFGE suggestions for improving case processing through staffing changes may take a while to implement, as “the Commission may take no action to implement any workforce repositioning, restructuring or reorganization until such time as the Committees on Appropriations of the House of Representatives and the Senate have been notified of such proposals” under the appropriations bill.