Equal Employment Opportunity:

Improved Coordination Needed between EEOC and OPM in Leading Federal Workplace EEO

GAO-06-214: Published: Jun 16, 2006. Publicly Released: Jun 16, 2006.

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In April 2005 GAO reported on the EEO policy framework in the federal workplace and the roles of EEOC and OPM. This report, in response to a congressional request, provides information on (1) federal agency EEO and human capital managers' views of the EEO framework requirements; (2) their views on the usefulness of guidance and feedback from EEOC and OPM concerning these requirements; and (3) how and to what extent EEOC and OPM coordinate in developing policy, providing guidance, and exercising oversight.

EEO and human capital officials in federal agencies we surveyed said that some requirements of the EEO framework contribute more than others to achieving EEO, affirmative employment, and workforce diversity, and in influencing human capital policies, practices, and strategic planning. They also said that some requirements are very similar or redundant, such as EEOC's affirmative employment program and OPM's program for recruiting minorities and women. This creates duplication of effort as agencies sometimes have to submit the same information in different reports to EEOC and OPM. Further, the officials said they experienced added administrative burden because of inconsistent requirements. The officials also said that guidance from EEOC on EEO, affirmative employment, and workforce diversity issues was more frequent and more useful than that from OPM. Some officials questioned the usefulness of feedback from EEOC and OPM on their agencies' performance or submitted reports. Less than half reported that the feedback was useful or very useful and a substantial number of respondents reported that they received no feedback from OPM. In addition, EEO and human capital officials expressed the strong view that both OPM and EEOC could be doing more to help their agencies. We found little evidence of coordination at the operating level between EEOC and OPM in developing policy, providing guidance, and exercising oversight, despite overlapping responsibilities in federal workplace EEO. For example, EEOC and OPM officials do not routinely review reports that the other agency receives from federal agencies, even though those reports deal with similar matters. In addition, EEOC and OPM officials do not coordinate with each other when conducting on-site reviews of EEO-related matters at agencies. Good management practice as well as federal statute and executive order call for coordination, and not doing so results in lost opportunity to realize consistency, efficiency, and public value in EEO policy making and oversight. The Office of Management and Budget made a recommendation to OPM in 2005 that it develop a regular/formal working relationship with EEOC with respect to those programs where it shares oversight responsibility with EEOC in order to improve overall government efficiency. Although EEOC officials acknowledged a need to coordinate at the operating level and to develop an institutional coordination process, OPM officials suggested that coordination need not be institutionalized.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: After searching congressional sources, including congressional bills, congressional reports, hearings, the Congressional Record, and congressional documents in CQ and GPO's FDsys databases, we found that no action has been taken on this recommendation in the 111th Congress, or in the 112th Congress as of October 2011.

    Matter: The Congress may wish to require EEOC, in its Annual Report on the Federal Workforce, and OPM, in its annual FEORP report, to include a joint report of actions they have taken or plan to take to (1) increase coordination and communication with each other, (2) consolidate and streamline like requirements of the EEO framework and resolve inconsistencies, and (3) improve guidance and feedback to agencies.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In May 2010, GAO received a joint response from EEOC and OPM signed by the head of each agency, outlining steps the respective agencies have taken to coordinate in the past and that they are committed to improving future coordination. As an example, the agencies reported that they held a joint agency meeting on February 2, 2010, to explore ways to better coordinate on a continuing basis and have assigned responsibilities within the agencies for scheduling future meetings. It is significant to note that within OPM, responsibility for such coordination lies with the Deputy Director who was formerly an EEOC Commissioner. Also, staff from the two agencies met in February 2010 to discuss disability data collection and a governmentwide diversity plan. At the Federal Dispute Resolution Conference in August 2010, the Chair of EEOC and the Deputy Director of OPM both stated that their agencies were committed to continuing coordination and interaction.

    Recommendation: To resolve the issues noted in our report, the Chair of EEOC and the Director of OPM should develop means to communicate and coordinate on a continuing basis, establish collaboration protocols, and work to resolve their disagreements to the maximum extent possible concerning their respective responsibilities in developing policy, providing guidance, and exercising oversight under the EEO framework for the federal workplace.

    Agency Affected: Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In May 2010, GAO received a joint response from EEOC and OPM signed by the head of each agency, outlining steps the respective agencies have taken to coordinate in the past and that they are committed to improving future coordination. As an example, the agencies reported that they held a joint agency meeting on February 2, 2010, to explore ways to better coordinate on a continuing basis and have assigned responsibilities within the agencies for scheduling future meetings. It is significant to note that within OPM, responsibility for such coordination lies with the Deputy Director who was formerly an EEOC Commissioner. Also, staff from the two agencies met in February 2010 to discuss disability data collection and a governmentwide diversity plan. At the Federal Dispute Resolution Conference in August 2010, the Chair of EEOC and the Deputy Director of OPM both stated that their agencies were committed to continuing coordination and interaction.

    Recommendation: To resolve the issues noted in our report, the Chair of EEOC and the Director of OPM should develop means to communicate and coordinate on a continuing basis, establish collaboration protocols, and work to resolve their disagreements to the maximum extent possible concerning their respective responsibilities in developing policy, providing guidance, and exercising oversight under the EEO framework for the federal workplace.

    Agency Affected: Office of Personnel Management

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In March 2010, EEOC and OPM issued a joint memorandum prescribing use of an EEOC form for demographic information on job applicants, and in August 2010 OPM gave notice of its intent to include this form in its USAJOBS online job application process. At the Federal Dispute Resolution Conference in August 2010, the Deputy Director of OPM said that OPM has asked federal agencies to submit the reports required by OPM under the Federal Equal Opportunity Recruitment Program and by EEOC under Management Directive 715 to OPM, which has not been done in the past. Both agencies will jointly review the submissions and work on refining the reporting requirements.

    Recommendation: To resolve the issues noted in our report, the Chair of EEOC and the Director of OPM should explore opportunities to consolidate and streamline similar and redundant requirements and resolve inconsistencies within the EEO framework, including reporting requirements, in a manner that could lead to a single report to fulfill the needs of both EEOC and OPM, particularly related to requirements under MD-715 and FEORP. Where both EEOC and OPM believe that a statute or an executive order is an impediment to streamlining or resolving inconsistencies, the agencies could jointly recommend appropriate action to Congress or the President.

    Agency Affected: Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In March 2010, EEOC and OPM issued a joint memorandum prescribing use of an EEOC form for demographic information on job applicants, and in August 2010 OPM gave notice of its intent to include this form in its USAJOBS online job application process. At the Federal Dispute Resolution Conference in August 2010, the Deputy Director of OPM said that OPM has asked federal agencies to submit the reports required by OPM under the Federal Equal Opportunity Recruitment Program and by EEOC under Management Directive 715 to OPM, which has not been done in the past. Both agencies will jointly review the submissions and work on refining the reporting requirements.

    Recommendation: To resolve the issues noted in our report, the Chair of EEOC and the Director of OPM should explore opportunities to consolidate and streamline similar and redundant requirements and resolve inconsistencies within the EEO framework, including reporting requirements, in a manner that could lead to a single report to fulfill the needs of both EEOC and OPM, particularly related to requirements under MD-715 and FEORP. Where both EEOC and OPM believe that a statute or an executive order is an impediment to streamlining or resolving inconsistencies, the agencies could jointly recommend appropriate action to Congress or the President.

    Agency Affected: Office of Personnel Management

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In March 2010, EEOC and OPM issued a joint memorandum prescribing use of an EEOC form for demographic information on job applicants, and in August 2010 OPM gave notice of its intent to include this form in its USAJOBS online job application process. At the Federal Dispute Resolution Conference in August 2010, the Deputy Director of OPM said that OPM has asked federal agencies to submit the reports required by OPM under the Federal Equal Opportunity Recruitment Program and by EEOC under Management Directive 715 to OPM, which has not been done in the past. Both agencies will jointly review the submissions and work on refining the reporting requirements.

    Recommendation: To resolve the issues noted in our report, the Chair of EEOC and the Director of OPM should explore opportunities to consolidate and streamline similar and redundant requirements and resolve inconsistencies within the EEO framework, including reporting requirements, in a manner that could lead to a single report to fulfill the needs of both EEOC and OPM, particularly related to requirements under MD-715 and FEORP. Where both EEOC and OPM believe that a statute or an executive order is an impediment to streamlining or resolving inconsistencies, the agencies could jointly recommend appropriate action to Congress or the President.

    Agency Affected: Office of Personnel Management

  6. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In their joint response to GAO in May 2010, EEOC and OPM reported that EEOC has raised this issue of guidance with EEO Directors and that OPM plans to raise it with the Chief Human Capital Officers and to develop a mechanism to involve EEOC in matters that require feedback. In addition, OPM reports that it has created an interagency working group to develop a governmentwide strategic plan and recommendations on diversity in the Federal Government, and that EEOC has detailed a professional staff member to work with the OPM Deputy Director, who was formerly an EEOC Commissioner, in coordinating this process. OPM reported that it is working with EEOC and other federal agencies to create a governmentwide policy for diversity and inclusion.

    Recommendation: To resolve the issues noted in our report, the Chair of EEOC and the Director of OPM should work together to improve their collective guidance, feedback, and assistance to other agencies on EEO.

    Agency Affected: Office of Personnel Management

  7. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In their joint response to GAO in May 2010, EEOC and OPM reported that EEOC has raised this issue of guidance with EEO Directors and that OPM plans to raise it with the Chief Human Capital Officers and to develop a mechanism to involve EEOC in matters that require feedback. In addition, OPM reports that it has created an interagency working group to develop a governmentwide strategic plan and recommendations on diversity in the Federal Government, and that EEOC has detailed a professional staff member to work with the OPM Deputy Director, who was formerly an EEOC Commissioner, in coordinating this process. OPM reported that it is working with EEOC and other federal agencies to create a governmentwide policy for diversity and inclusion.

    Recommendation: To resolve the issues noted in our report, the Chair of EEOC and the Director of OPM should work together to improve their collective guidance, feedback, and assistance to other agencies on EEO.

    Agency Affected: Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

  8. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In OPM's response to GAO in 2012, OPM reported that it had implemented several actions in its ongoing coordination with the EEOC and federal agency EEO directors to address the issue of quality of feedback and guidance. According to OPM, in January 2010, the agency created an interagency work group on diversity consisting of approximately 30 agencies, including EEOC that discussed how OPM and EEOC could provide better guidance and feedback that would help the agencies develop fair, equitable, and inclusive workplaces. In May 2010, this workgroup developed a draft government-wide strategic plan for creating diverse and inclusive workplaces that led to the development of OPM's government-wide Office of Diversity and Inclusion. In addition, to comply with Executive Order 13853 that charged OPM, EEOC, OMB, and the President's Management Council to develop a government-wide diversity and inclusion strategic plan, OPM collaborated with the agencies to develop and implement the plan. On November 17, 2011, OPM, EEOC, and OMB delivered and posted the strategic plan and also posted associated guidance in the OPM web site. On March 16, 2012, agencies submitted their diversity plans to OPM and OPM, EEOC, and OMB reviewed these plans and provided the agencies with feedback and guidance. These feedback sesssions began in July 2012, and consisted of roundtable meetings with representatives from OPM's Office of Diveristy and Inclusion, OPM's Human Capital Officers, EEOC, and OMB. A three-phase approach will guide the meetings and focus on: (1) successes and barriers to implementing the diversity plans; (2) conference calls and visits to discuss agencies' progress; and (3) dashboard comparisons of the agencies' progress based on common metrics. Finally, OPM, EEOC, and OMB continue to collaborate and provide agencies with additional information such as: (1) guidance and review of agencies' disability action plans; (2) a symposium on maximizing worklife effectiveness; and (3) joint Equal Employment Opportunity and Human Resources manager training.

    Recommendation: To resolve the issues noted in our report, the Chair of EEOC and the Director of OPM should determine from agency-level EEO and human capital managers what additional guidance they need in carrying out their responsibilities, how to make their feedback more useful, and what more EEOC and OPM can do to help agencies to ensure EEO in the workplace and achieve workforce diversity objectives.

    Agency Affected: Office of Personnel Management

  9. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In their joint response to GAO in May 2010, OPM and EEOC reported that OPM and EEOC have consulted regularly in the recent past on matters such as data collection and policy development. They also reported that OPM has been a keynote presenter at EEOC conferences with agency EEO directors, and that for the past couple of years, EEOC has invited the OPM director to be a presenter at its training conference for EEO and HR professionals, which both agencies view as a vehicle to announce areas of collaboration and partnership between the two agencies. In addition, OPM noted that the Chief Human Capital Officers Council offers an opportunity to share best practices on common human capital issues and OPM plans to ask the Chair of EEOC to participate in future meetings of the Council. At the August 2010 Federal Dispute Resolution Conference, OPM and EEOC announced their intention to hold a joint meeting to prepare guidance on hiring persons with disabilities in the federal workforce, and that OPM also plans to coordinate with EEOC on a new workgroup on Hispanic federal employment.

    Recommendation: To resolve the issues noted in our report, the Chair of EEOC and the Director of OPM should work together to convene regular meetings of senior federal workplace EEO/civil rights officials and chief human capital officers in order to further integrate EEO and human capital.

    Agency Affected: Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

  10. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In their joint response to GAO in May 2010, OPM and EEOC reported that OPM and EEOC have consulted regularly in the recent past on matters such as data collection and policy development. They also reported that OPM has been a keynote presenter at EEOC conferences with agency EEO directors, and that for the past couple of years, EEOC has invited the OPM director to be a presenter at its training conference for EEO and HR professionals, which both agencies view as a vehicle to announce areas of collaboration and partnership between the two agencies. In addition, OPM noted that the Chief Human Capital Officers Council offers an opportunity to share best practices on common human capital issues and OPM plans to ask the Chair of EEOC to participate in future meetings of the Council. At the August 2010 Federal Dispute Resolution Conference, OPM and EEOC announced their intention to hold a joint meeting to prepare guidance on hiring persons with disabilities in the federal workforce, and that OPM also plans to coordinate with EEOC on a new workgroup on Hispanic federal employment.

    Recommendation: To resolve the issues noted in our report, the Chair of EEOC and the Director of OPM should work together to convene regular meetings of senior federal workplace EEO/civil rights officials and chief human capital officers in order to further integrate EEO and human capital.

    Agency Affected: Office of Personnel Management

 

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