Senators Murray and Warren look for answers on EEOC spending cuts
Monday, March 2, 2020

Senators Murray and Warren look for answers on EEOC spending cuts

By Pamela Wolf, J.D.

The senators are alarmed at the Commission’s FY 2021 budget request for a 10 percent reduction in staff, saying it would represent the lowest staffing level "in at least 40 years" and a loss of 186 jobs.

Cutting staff while funding increases. Senators Patty Murray (D-Wash.), ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), HELP Committee Member, are pressing EEOC Chairwoman Janet Dhillon to explain why the agency is cutting critical staff, namely attorneys in its Office of General Counsel and field investigators, despite receiving increased funding from Congress "for the express purpose of bolstering front-line and investigative staff."

Funding in "MeToo" era. In a February 27 letter to Dhillon, Murray and Warren noted that on a bipartisan basis, Congress has agreed that the Commission needs more funding to carry out its mission to enforce workers’ rights to a discrimination- and harassment-free workplace. "In particular, Congress has made it a significant bipartisan priority to ensure EEOC is equipped with appropriate funding to handle the upsurge in workplace harassment cases as workers come forward in the wake of the #MeToo movement," the senators wrote. "To that end, Congress provided EEOC with a historic, bipartisan funding increase for 2018, and maintained that increase again for 2019."

Front-line, investigative staff cuts. Last year, when Congress gave the EEOC an additional funding boost for 2020, "it expressly directed the agency to use the additional funding to increase front-line and investigative staff," the letter observes. Yet the Commission is reporting a staff reduction of 7 percent in FY 2020. Murray and Warren said that they are deeply worried that these personnel cuts threaten the EEOC’s ability to meet the demand for its services and to provide the crucial protections to which workers are entitled under federal law.

"It is therefore alarming that in its FY 2021 budget request, the agency inexplicably requests a significant cut in funding and a further 10 percent reduction in staff," the senators wrote. "If enacted, this would represent the lowest staffing level at the agency in at least 40 years and a loss of 186 additional jobs."

Questions. Murray and Warren asked the EEOC Chairwoman to answer several questions including:

  • To explain how the EEOC’s plan for FY 2020 spending, including reducing staff by nearly 7 percent, aligns with Congress’ express intent that the agency use its additional funding to increase front-line and investigative staff.
  • In light of "The Chair’s Priorities for 2020," which did not include increasing staff, to explain how the agency is executing on the Chair’s commitment to "continuing to provide excellent customer service" by "supporting EEOC’s front-line employees," stated in Priority #1.
  • To explain why Priority #4, which outlines the Chair’s commitment to "strategically allocating commission resources" to activities that "will have the maximum impact on fulfilling our mission," does not include retaining and hiring staff.
  • Given the EEOC’s FY 2021 Budget Justification requests of a $27 million decrease from its FY 2020 enacted budget, including an even further reduction in full-time staff of 10 percent, to explain how the agency will meet its stated priorities and goals and continue to do its critical work with fewer staff.

Two vacancies on the Commission. Notably, the five-member Commission currently has two vacancies. In January 2019, the agency lost a quorum after Senate Republicans stalled a Democratic nomination for more than a year, Murray and Warren observed in a press release. Despite longstanding practice to confirm minority party nominees to independent agencies, and Senate Democrats’ request to return to this norm, "Republicans jammed through Chair Dhillon over Democratic objections in May 2019, and have refused for over a year to nominate and confirm a Democratic nominee."

News: AgencyNews Discrimination SexualHarassment GCNNews

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