Equal Employment Opportunity:

EEOC and State Agencies Did Not Fully Investigate Discrimination Charges

HRD-89-11: Published: Oct 11, 1988. Publicly Released: Oct 11, 1988.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO: (1) reviewed six Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) districts' and five states' fair employment practices agencies' (FEPA) efforts to fully investigate discrimination charges; and (2) assessed how well EEOC monitored state investigative work.

GAO found that, of the charges that EEOC and FEPA closed with no-cause determinations from January through March 1987, the agencies did not: (1) verify critical evidence in 49 to 87 percent of the cases; (2) interview relevant witnesses in at least 20 percent of the investigations in 7 of the 11 offices; or (3) compare charging parties with similarly situated employees in at least 20 percent of the investigations in 5 of the 11 offices. GAO also found that: (1) the percentage of cases with serious deficiencies ranged from 40 percent in one state to 87 percent in another; (2) EEOC did not have enough staff to effectively monitor FEPA; (3) although EEOC and FEPA did not fully investigate filed charges, the size of the backlog almost doubled between 1983 and 1987, leaving more than 118,000 charges awaiting investigation at the end of 1987; (4) EEOC tried various approaches, but could not successfully balance the timely resolution of a large volume of charges with the performance of high-quality investigations; (5) former EEOC officials could not agree on the best strategy for effectively and efficiently dealing with the volume of charges EEOC received; and (6) although the current EEOC Chairman believed that EEOC could fully investigate charges and properly monitor FEPA investigative work with the $20-million increase in EEOC funding, there was no reliable work-load information to support his views.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Matters for Congressional Consideration

    Matter: The Chairmen of the House Committee on Education and Labor and Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources, and the chairmen of other appropriate congressional committees having responsibility for EEOC, should jointly establish a panel of experts to consider the strategy being used to enforce employment discrimination laws. In considering options, the panel should determine the: (1) appropriate roles for EEOC and FEPA in investigating charges; and (2) resources needed to carry out the roles assigned to each entity.

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: According to Shirley Sagawa, Committee staff member, no action has been taken because of other committee priorities.

    Matter: The Chairmen of the House Committee on Education and Labor and Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources, and the chairmen of other appropriate congressional committees having responsibility for EEOC, should jointly establish a panel of experts to consider the strategy being used to enforce employment discrimination laws. In considering options, the panel should determine the: (1) appropriate roles for EEOC and FEPA in investigating charges; and (2) resources needed to carry out the roles assigned to each entity.

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: According to subcommittee staff member Eric Jensen, Subcommittee on Employment Opportunities, there has been no action due to other committee priorities.

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: The Chairman, EEOC, should direct EEOC district offices to monitor the investigations performed by FEPA more closely and not accept FEPA determinations that are based on less than full investigations.

    Agency Affected: Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The EEOC response to this recommendation simply reiterated its present procedures for reviewing FEPA investigations. Further monitoring would require additional unavailable resources.

    Recommendation: The Chairman, EEOC, should conduct a study to determine the: (1) charge case load an individual investigator should be expected to carry annually and fully investigate; and (2) resources EEOC would need to fully investigate charges filed.

    Agency Affected: Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The Chairman, EEOC, indicated that such a study is difficult to conduct and that case-load decisions are left to local managers. The Chairman determines the agency's investigative-resource needs by reviewing annual work-load statistics.

    Recommendation: The Chairman, EEOC, should emphasize the need to obtain all relevant documentary and testimonial evidence and to verify such evidence before reaching a decision on the merits of a charge. When such evidence is not obtained, the charge file should clearly contain reasons for the omissions.

    Agency Affected: House Committee on Education and Labor

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In addition to regular memoranda from headquarters to field staff on evidence, EEOC: (1) added comprehensive training in case development for all field supervisors and managers; and (2) continues to monitor the quality of investigations via charging parties' requests for reviews of their investigations.

    Recommendation: The Chairman, EEOC, should establish an independent group to periodically conduct investigations of a sample of charges filed with EEOC district offices and FEPA and subject them to full investigations. The results of this work should be compared with the overall administrative closure, settlement, cause, and no-cause rates obtained from investigations done by the district offices and FEPA.

    Agency Affected: Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: In the EEOC response to the requirements of 31 U.S.C. 720, the Chairman stated that the Determination Review Program eliminated any need for an independent study, as recommended.

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