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FY 2016 EEOC MANAGEMENT CHALLENGES

MANAGEMENT CHALLENGES

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) faces significant obstacles to succeed in its mission to “stop and remedy unlawful employment discrimination.” Despite flat funding for fiscal year 2016, EEOC made strides towards overcoming the management challenges we identified in fiscal year 2016, including its success in resolving the Data Security: Multifactor Authentication for Network and System Access challenge. However, to continue its progress in

fiscal year 2017, EEOC needs to make major improvements in mission critical areas. In our view, it should consider focusing on three areas: 1) strategic performance management—notably developing the next strategic plan; 2) management of the private-sector charge inventory; and 3) data collection, analysis, and use.

Strategic Performance Management

In fiscal year 2016, the agency made progress in meeting the performance targets in its strategic plan but faces a significant challenge in developing a new strategic plan. EEOC also made progress on other fronts, including beginning to implement its Research and Data Plan.

Strategic plans are critical in setting priorities for the agency to pursue and communicate those priorities, and associated progress, to stakeholders. This year, as in fiscal year 2015, the agency enjoyed mixed success in meeting its strategic plan performance targets (seven targets met, six partially met). In developing the new strategic plan (fiscal year 2018-fiscal year 2022), EEOC should ensure that its strategic priorities are reflected and contain meaningful goals, and that corresponding outcome-based measures are adopted.

As we stated in last year’s Management Challenges (https://oig.eeoc.gov/oig-managementchallenges-performance-and-accountabi...), we believe EEOC can best meet strategic plan goals by adopting outcome-based performance measures, and incorporating such measures into the next strategic plan. Our March 2013 evaluation of the strategic plan’s performance measures (https://oig.eeoc.gov/reports/audit/2012-010-pmev) stated, “the current measures do not cover the nation’s progress towards achieving the [EEOC’s] overarching goal: to reduce employment discrimination in the United States.” The report also concluded that many of these measures were not outcome-based. Regardless of the goals EEOC adopts in the new strategic plan, it is critical that EEOC begin to track progress toward reducing employment discrimination in the United States. Developing and tracking certain outcome measures is not easy (e.g., buy-in on wording of measures may be problematic and data may be difficult to obtain), but it is well worth the investment if it enables EEOC to use its resources to gain improved results in reducing employment discrimination.  The agency, in its Research and Data Plan, recognizes that measuring employment discrimination is a worthy effort. However, EEOC is not currently developing a measure for national employment discrimination. EEOC deems the effort to develop such a measure as a medium/long term research goal.

As our 2013 performance measure evaluation points out, EEOC has limited control over reducing national employment discrimination levels. However, given EEOC’s mission, measurement of national employment discrimination is important. Indeed, other federal agencies (e.g., Department of Transportation) track performance towards outcomes (such as commercial air carrier fatalities) over which they have limited control.

Our 2013 performance measure evaluation provides other potential performance measures that meet key criteria. In addition, our recent reports on EEOC’s litigation activities, and its outreach and education program (https://oig.eeoc.gov/reports/audit/2015-001-lit and https://oig.eeoc.gov/reports/audit/2014-003-oe) point to the need for measuring program effectiveness. Therefore, EEOC should also consider developing performance measures in those areas for inclusion in the 2018-2022 Strategic Plan. EEOC would be well served to have begun developing the 2018-2022 Strategic Plan. However,  the agency has not begun developing the strategic plan. This creates a tight timeline to build an effective document because the draft strategic plan is due to the Office of Management and Budget on June 2, 2017. By immediately devoting significant resources for the development of a new strategic plan, EEOC may still be able to create a strategic plan that corrects weaknesses in its current plan.

Management of the Private-Sector Charge Inventory

As in previous years, reducing the private-sector charge inventory while improving the quality of charge processing continues to present a major challenge to EEOC. Given the steady demand for EEOC services and continuing sizeable inventory, EEOC needs to find innovative methods to reduce the inventory.

The inventory data show that the inventory increased 3.9% over the last four years. The inventory increased by less than 1 percent in fiscal year 2013, to 70,781. In fiscal year 2014, it increased 6.9 percent, to 75,658. In fiscal year 2015, inventory increased 1.4 percent, to 76,408.  In fiscal year 2016, inventory decreased 3.7% to 73,559 (agency estimate).

In previous Management Challenges, we have encouraged EEOC to develop new methods for improving its resolution of charges of discrimination. EEOC has made no fundamental improvements in this area since the implementation of Priority Charge Handling Process (PCHP) in 1995.

However, in fiscal year 2016, EEOC, under Chair Yang, began a major strategic effort that may lead to reduced inventory through more efficient charge processing. In order to focus more resources on cases that will have strategic impact (such as eliminating barriers in recruitment and hiring), EEOC is implementing strategies and tactics to reduce inventory in two ways. One of the proposed tactics involves the use of intake interviews. Consistently conducting effective intake interviews will better identify certain types of very important charges and, at the same time, better identify charges with little merit. The second area targeted for charge inventory reduction is improved and more timely investigation efforts following the offer of mediation to the parties.

In fiscal year 2016, EEOC tested these tactics by conducting a pilot in two District Offices. The pilot effort took place in the Los Angeles and Memphis District Offices, with the Los Angeles District Office significantly reducing charges received by conducting more intake interviews, thereby improving the screening of complaints lacking merit. In Memphis, which had a history of conducting intake interviews on incoming charges prior to participating in the pilot program, charge levels were about the same. EEOC plans to achieve nationwide inventory reductions by adopting the piloted tactics in all field offices. EEOC management should periodically evaluate the results.

Data Collection, Analysis, and Use

EEOC faces major challenges in how it collects, analyzes, and uses data to more efficiently and effectively perform its mission. Improved data analytics is vital so that EEOC can determine agency efforts are effective in deterring, detecting, and stopping employment discrimination, as well as where and how EEOC should efficiently place its resources. Over the past five years, OIG has issued several reports identifying critical issues and weaknesses associated with EEOC’s strategies and tactics in data collection (information EEOC needs in order to better identify trends in private and public sector workforce discrimination) and data analysis and use (data which is already available to EEOC, but is not fully analyzed and/or used by EEOC).

In September 2015, EEOC adopted the Research and Data Plan for fiscal years 2016–2019. The plan outlines several highly useful activities, including compiling an inventory of EEOC data, improving survey collection, and tracking and reporting data. In fiscal year 2016, the agency made progress in several of the areas of the plan. Areas of significant progress include:

  • Beginning a comprehensive inventory of data collection processes and data usage
  • Studying practices adopted to remedy discrimination (such as injunctive relief and conciliation agreements)

Developing the Research and Data Plan was a significant step forward. However, the plan lacks the strategic foresight and direction necessary to propel EEOC effectively in the key areas of data collection, data analysis, and use. For example, the plan does not include hiring plans to support the increased data analytics capabilities.  As EEOC continues to seek ways to accomplish its mission (most likely without major funding increases), it needs to expand opportunities for collecting, analyzing and using data more effectively and efficiently. Progress in the following areas we identified in our work products would take EEOC a significant distance on its path to better data capabilities and use:

Data collection

  • Estimate the level of employment discrimination on the national level and how it is changing over time
  • Investigate the merits of expanding the information EEOC obtains related to employee hiring

Data analysis and use

  • Develop the number of pending charges and complaints at a specified point of time broken out by priority
  • Develop the performance measure for the number of discrimination victims awarded monetary benefits
  • Provide commissioners and managers with easy access to relevant disaggregation of the outcome measure values. Outcome data would be broken out by such characteristics as priority level, industry, and key characteristics of the charging parties
  • Expand the Strategic Enforcement Plan’s (SEP) requirement for quarterly reviews to include not only SEP progress but also progress reflected in the latest EEOC performance reports, focusing on reviewing the latest performance information on both process and outcome measures
  • Provide additional analytical help to District Offices to examine charge data in order to identify trends