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Report 2015-001-LIT - An Exploratory Evaluation of EEOC’s Litigation Activities

Fiscal Year: 
2015
Executive Summary: 

This report provides the Urban Institute’s findings and recommendations from its brief examination of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) litigation activities. The Office of Inspector General (OIG) asked us to undertake a broad, rather than in-depth, examination of the EEOC’s litigation function. This was an exploratory effort. It was not a program evaluation. Our work focused on issues relating to planning, management and performance. Early in our work, we found that a proper assessment of the EEOC’s litigation work must also examine several aspects of the EEOC’s enforcement activities as they relate to the prioritization and investigation of charges considered strategically significant and which might result in litigation if the charges fail conciliation.

The scope of our work did not include important litigation elements such as: an examination of litigation quality, impact or success; the EEOC’s appellate court activities, or issues relating to the relationship of the EEOC to state and local Fair Employment Practices Agencies.

Our findings are based on two forms of data collection: (1) a review of numerous documents (see appendix A), and (2) interviews with officials at EEOC headquarters and with leadership in the district offices, including regional attorneys and district directors (see appendix B). The study was not intended to provide statistical information but was designed to provide an overview of litigation-related activities that would likely benefit from further EEOC attention.

An overarching finding of our study is that litigation and enforcement activities, while under completely separate organizational offices, are linked closely together—you can’t have one without the other. Our overall recommendation here is to further strengthen the EEOC’s performance partnerships in the districts between the Office of Field Programs (OFP) and the Office of General Counsel (OGC) —members of the same team working toward a common goal. The agency and offices involved recognize the importance of collaboration between OFP and OGC. Indeed, the EEOC’s Strategic Objective I, “combat employment discrimination through strategic law enforcement,” includes “investigation, conciliation, and litigation” as responsible for achieving this objective. All the 2013 District Complement Plans contain a section on “Strategies for Collaboration.”

Our interviews indicated that attorneys often provide advice in many phases of the charge handling process. Similarly, the work of investigators plays a major role in the work of attorneys. Weak investigations can result in the EEOC not being able to pursue litigation or lead to resolutions that are less favorable than could have been achieved with a stronger investigation. A number of our specific recommendations identify actions toward strengthening this partnership.

We group our findings and recommendations under the following topics: (1) priority setting, vital for allocating resources effectively given the number of charges each district receives and to conducting investigations and internal evaluations of cases that have been prioritized for potential litigation if they are not resolved through conciliation; (2) relationships and collaborations; (3) issues of performance management, performance measurement, and data analysis; and (4) outstanding administrative issues.

The recommendations that follow represent the most compelling results from our evaluation. A full set of recommendations is provided in appendix F.