Can you still count on the eeoc?

Critics say reorganization may affect handling of discrimination claims

A member of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says the agency’s impending restructuring has been hastily crafted and will have disastrous consequences on its effectiveness in combating workplace discrimination.

EEOC Commissioner Stuart Ishimaru was the lone dissenter in a three-to-one vote to downgrade several district offices. The restructuring will make seven of the commission’s eight district offices into field offices; one district office is being downgraded to an area office. The ramifications of this restructuring, says Ishimaru, are critical and will result in delays, deteriorated service, and local cases receiving less attention from the agency’s national headquarters.

But other EEOC officials say the commission will be able handle its cases more effectively by putting district managers back on the front lines to investigate and resolve workplace discrimination claims. In addition, the commission claims it would save as much as $8.2 million over an eight-year period.

“EEOC is expanding — not reducing — its presence,” says Chairwoman Cari Dominguez. “All current offices will continue to provide a full range of services, and two new offices will be opened in areas that need more service. More staff will be available for daily interactions with the public.”

The EEOC has no plans for layoffs and offices will open in Las Vegas and Mobile, Alabama, two areas where the number of discrimination complaints are skyrocketing.

But according to Ishimaru, the commission has already been scaling back its litigation against companies accused of discrimination. In Atlanta, for example, the commission filed no racial discrimination lawsuits in 2004 and only one was filed in Birmingham, Alabama.

Months before the July 8 vote, the EEOC’s restructuring was a hot-button issue. L. Steven Platt, former president of the National Employment Lawyers Association, expressed concerns. “Reducing the number of offices will certainly reduce the level of service provided.”

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