Last week the White House released its proposed budget for the 2018 Fiscal Year which included a proposal to combine the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contractor Compliance Programs (OFCCP). Groups representing employee rights and those representing employer interests are opposed to the merge. The groups agree that though both agencies are focused on protecting employees from discrimination, their purpose is different. OFCCP’s mission is to work with federal contractors to proactively promote equal employment opportunities while the EEOC’s mission is more reactive, investigating individual claims of discrimination.
A letter to Secretary of Labor Acosta and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Mulvaney, signed by over 70 civil rights organizations, requests denial of this merger because they believe it will weaken efforts to fight discrimination. The letter cites required skills and workload as the primary reasons the proposal should be rejected. OFCCP staff have knowledge of the federal procurement process which the EEOC does not, which the writers believe would slow the progress of audits. Citing budget cuts proposed for both agencies, the letter goes on to say the EEOC, with its current backlog of unresolved cases, cannot absorb the unique work of OFCCP and this will inevitably lead to less enforcement of equal employment violations.
Business groups agree cuts could impact the ability to promote equal employment opportunities, but also cite other reasons they believe it could create additional burden for employers. These groups believe that since OFCCP has significant access to data that the EEOC does not, this could allow the EEOC to use its subpoena authority to demand this information when investigating discrimination charges, thus broadening the investigations. And, because OFCCP is involved in federal procurement, EEOC might use OFCCP’s authority to block federal contracts in its negotiations of individual discrimination cases. In addition, OFCCP currently has the authority to conciliate back pay for individuals who have been denied equal opportunity, but not compensatory or punitive damages, which EEOC can apply. Merging of the two organization could increase the types of oversight the Administration is attempting to reduce.
With both sides opposing this recommendation, it will be interesting to watch.