Equal Employment Opportunity Commission:

Sharing Promising Practices and Fully Implementing Strategic Human Capital Planning Can Improve Management of Growing Workload

GAO-08-589: Published: Jun 23, 2008. Publicly Released: Jun 23, 2008.

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George A. Scott
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The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), created by title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, promotes equal opportunity in the workplace and enforces federal laws that prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of race, sex, color, religion, national origin, age, and disability. As the nation's primary enforcer of civil rights employment laws, EEOC investigates charges of employment discrimination from the public, litigates major cases, and reaches out to federal agencies and the public to educate and prevent discrimination. EEOC serves every industry, every segment of the population, and every part of the country. While its core mission has not changed since the agency was established more than 40 years ago, EEOC continues to face a range of new challenges in the 21st century, including long-term fiscal constraints, changing demographics, and rapid advances in technology. The federal government overall faces significant human capital challenges, including a retirement wave that will lead to the loss of leadership and institutional knowledge at all levels. EEOC is not immune from this trend. EEOC estimates that within 4 years, all of its current senior executives and senior managers will be retirement eligible, if they have not already retired by that time. Moreover, between 2000 and 2007, EEOC lost nearly one-quarter of its full-time-equivalent staff, from approximately 2,850 to about 2,150. In view of EEOC's human capital management challenges and the growing demand for its services, we examined (1) national trends in EEOC's private sector enforcement workload and the factors that contribute to them, (2) how EEOC offices manage their workload, and (3) EEOC actions to address its future workforce needs.

Over the last 4 years, EEOC's private sector workload has increased by 10 percent. Factors that have contributed to the growing workload include the growth in the number of new discrimination charges, which have become increasingly resource intensive, and a decrease in the number of investigators. Over the same period, the number of total charges handled per investigator increased by 22 percent, the average number of days taken to close a charge increased by 34 days, and the number of open charges at the end of the fiscal year increased by 82 percent. EEOC's mediations and lawsuits for its private sector charges showed modest increases over the last 4 years. In 2007, the average number of days taken to close a charge, the percentage of charges closed, and the average number of total charges handled per investigator varied significantly by office. At the same time, we found that key measures--such as the average number of total charges per investigator and the percentage of new resource-intensive charges--are not correlated with an office's ability to manage workload in a timely manner. With varying levels of success, the EEOC offices we visited use a variety of techniques to manage their workload. However, EEOC lacks a systematic process to identify promising management practices. Specifically, EEOC's efforts to develop, communicate, and implement a strategic human capital plan are incomplete after 4 years. In addition, the critical skills that are necessary to achieve EEOC's current and future programmatic results have not been assessed, and current strategies to address gaps and sustain critical skills are not based on identified skill gaps. Furthermore, building support, such as with technology, for EEOC's workforce planning strategies has posed challenges for the agency. Finally, EEOC's progress toward achieving its human capital goals is not directly measurable or linked to its programmatic results. In conclusion, EEOC's mandate to promote equal opportunity in the workplace and enforce federal employment antidiscrimination laws could be compromised if EEOC cannot keep pace with its growing private sector workload. EEOC could identify processes used by those offices that achieve quality outcomes while resolving cases in a timely manner despite the burden of heavy workloads. Such promising practices could be used to help other offices meet EEOC's performance goals. In addition, EEOC could make better use of the strategic planning processes to develop a strategic human capital plan that addresses gaps in knowledge, skills, and abilities in its current and future workforce.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: To implement the recommendation, EEOC's Office of Field Programs held numerous meetings and conference calls with key managers of field offices, including district directors, deputy district directors, field office directors, and enforcement managers, to systematically discuss in depth promising or best practices to manage the agency's growing workload of private sector charges. Additionally, the agency established a work group of field managers and headquarters staff to review the promising practices identified and distill the best ones, which were disseminated to all field staff. The practices identified include the use of Management Review Groups to assess charges and expedite their resolution; a Pre-Determination Interview, which provides charging parties with an opportunity to rebut evidence that tends to disprove their claims before dismissing their charges; and issuing, along with the notice to respondents that a charge of employment discrimination has been filed against them, a one page explanation clearly describing the type of information and documentation that EEOC expects them to include in their replies to the allegations in those charges. The agency also used information from the 13 Technical Assistance Visits conducted in fiscal year 2009 to discuss with field managers best practices in customer service during intake of charges. EEOC has discussed these and other best practices in depth and with all levels of field management to assist in managing the agency's private sector charge workload.

    Recommendation: To help improve EEOC's ability to meet its current and future needs for a critically skilled workforce, the Chair of EEOC should develop criteria for identifying offices that ensure quality outcomes in a timely manner and evaluate and share promising practices across the agency.

    Agency Affected: Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: EEOC finalized its strategic Human Capital Plan for FY 2012 -2016 and posted it to the agency's Human Resources web page. The plan incorporates the Human Capital Assessment and Accountability Framework, which is based on strategic alignment, leadership and knowledge management, results-oriented performance culture, talent management, and accountability. EEOC also developed an Implementation and Communication Plan, which describes the steps EEOC will take to implement and communicate the Human Capital Plan's goals and objectives to stakeholders. Specifically, the Plan outlines the objectives, timelines, and responsible parties for specific activities and tasks designed to support and communicate the Human Capital Plan.

    Recommendation: To help improve EEOC's ability to meet its current and future needs for a critically skilled workforce, the Chair of EEOC should finalize the strategic human capital plan, on the basis of skills and competencies assessments, and develop an implementation plan for the strategies identified in the plan with stakeholder input that identifies necessary resources, responsible parties, timelines for completion, and milestones to measure progress.

    Agency Affected: Equal Employment Opportunity Commission


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