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Highlights

Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's (EEOC) complaint caseload, focusing on: (1) trends in the size of inventories and the age of cases in inventory at various stages of the EEO complaint process; (2) trends in the number of complaints filed by federal employees and the time taken by agencies and EEOC to process them; and (3) implications of these trends and how future caseloads may be affected by EEOC's regulatory changes to the complaint process.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission To provide Congress with a clear picture of future caseload trends and the resources that are needed to deal with current backlogs, as well as the volume of cases expected in the future, the Chairman, EEOC, should take steps to develop estimates of the effects of the forthcoming changes in program regulations and procedures on agencies' and EEOC's caseloads.
Closed - Implemented
In the agency's comment on GAO's report, EEOC said that it would develop estimates (at the end of calendar 2001) of the effects of changes in program regulations and procedures, once EEOC has had one full fiscal year of experience with the revised regulations (which implemented in November 1999). The Chairwoman's letter pursuant to 31 U.S.C. 720 said that EEOC would provide estimates of resources EEOC would need to comply with timeframes in the new regulations. The fiscal year 2001 budget proposal contained judgmental estimates of the effect of the revised regulations on EEOC's hearings and appeals workload but no estimates of resources needed to meet regulatory processing timeframes. In addition, EEOC has not prepared estimates of the effects of changes in program regulations and procedures on agencies' caseloads. With the regulations implemented, EEOC was able to get a sense of their effect on the hearings and appeals caseloads, as reflected in projections contained in the FY 2002 performance plan. EEOC also asked for and received information from agencies that would enable it to assess the effect of the regulations on agencies' complaint volume.
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission To provide Congress with a clear picture of future caseload trends and the resources that are needed to deal with current backlogs, as well as the volume of cases expected in the future, the Chairman, EEOC, should complete development of measures and indicators to track and assess the impact of these revisions on caseload trends.
Closed - Implemented
In the agency's comment on GAO's report, EEOC said that it would develop estimates (at the end of calendar 2001) of the effects of changes in program regulations and procedures, once EEOC has had one full fiscal year of experience with the revised regulations (which implemented in November 1999). The Chairwoman's letter pursuant to 31 U.S.C. 720 said that EEOC would provide estimates of resources EEOC would need to comply with timeframes in the new regulations. The fiscal year 2001 budget proposal contained judgmental estimates of the effect of the revised regulations on EEOC's hearings and appeals workload but no estimates of resources needed to meet regulatory processing timeframes. In addition, EEOC has not prepared estimates of the effects of changes in program regulations and procedures on agencies' caseloads. With the regulations implemented, EEOC was able to get a sense of their effect on the hearings and appeals caseloads, as reflected in projections contained in the FY 2002 performance plan. EEOC also asked for and received information from agencies that would enable it to assess the effect of the regulations on agencies' complaint volume.
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission The Chairman, EEOC, should establish a policy of an acceptable level of timeliness for processing appeals and develop estimates, under various timeframes, of the resources needed to reduce its average appeals processing time to meet this standard.
Closed - Implemented
In responding to a draft of the report, the EEOC Chairwoman said that 180 days is an appropriate goal for the processing of appeals but did not indicate how the goal would be operationalized. GAO suggested that for such a goal to carry more significance and accountability, it be included in EEOC's Annual Performance Plan. EEOC's fiscal year 2001 Performance Plan included a measure that 25 percent of appeals received in FY2001 would be resolved in 180 days. Also, in her letter pursuant to 31 U.S.C. 720, the Chairwoman said future budgets would identify resources needed to process appeals in a timely manner, in accordance with GAO's recommendation. As of September 2001, the 180-day timeframe for the processing of EEOC appeals has become a de facto standard through its continuing inclusion as a measure in the agency's annual performance plans required under GPRA. At the beginning of FY 2001, to help achieve more timely processing of appeals and reduce inventories, EEOC implemented the Federal Appellate Inventory Review (FAIR) Project. This project will provide for an early assessment of an appeal, expedite the consolidation of appeals from the same complainant, and provide for a priority scheme. Heretofore, EEOC did not have a cleary defined and transparent appeals case managment policy. However, the performance plan does spell out the resources that would be required, under various timeframes, to reduce the inventory and process appeals within the 180-day timeframe, as GAO had recommended.
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission The Chairman, EEOC, should use these data to develop estimates, under various time frames, of the resources needed to reduce its average hearings processing time to meet the 180-day requirement in regulations.
Closed - Implemented
In her letter pursuant to 31 U.S.C. 720, the Chairwoman said future budgets would identify resources needed to comply with timeframes in regulations. Although not identifying resources needed, EEOC's FY 2001 Performance Plan included a measure that 20 percent of hearing requests received in FY2001 would be resolved in the 180 days required by regulations. Although EEOC has developed projections of new cases expected and inventory backlog that consider the effect of the new regualtions, the agency has not, as of September 2001, spelled out the resources it would take, under various timeframes, to reduce the backlog and meet the 180-day requirement.

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