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Now, if you cannot get people or if the employer can get certain people for less money than others, I think that is a separate issue and a tougher issue. I am glad you raised it, because what you are really suggesting is the need for EEOC to have charted the litigation course so that that would not have been one of the early cases to be brought up, because I think had that case been built upon some others that are much simpler, such as the one I have discussed where you have the whole history of Westinghouse and GE, where they admitted having discriminatory rates, and what you look at is if there is discrimination by admission in 1945, what * have been made then, you can build up a much better body of law. I would really investigate that aspect, that only the governmental aspect can begin to build that. This is what happened to the Labor Department with the Equal Pay Act. They carefully selected the cases they brought first. Ms. MEHLsACK. You have mentioned Westinghouse and the GE conciliation. The IUE offered assistance to the Commission and was in fact rejected. Do you have any other instances where IUE or other unions have offered assistance and it has been refused? Mr. NEWMAN. I did not say it was refused. They accepted it and said, “Thank you very much.” The Woodworkers have had problems over filing class action charges. We have met on it and discussed it and we have not been able to file them. Certainly in Westinghouse, where they have had a charge for 5 years and done nothing with it, we filed information there. There is simply never a comeback to us as a charging party. If we give them something, fine. We really do not know what has happened. I do not think they have done anything with the Westinghouse charge. I think you can talk about backlog in a lot of ways. You can talk about taking care of five people obviously a lot more quickly than you can take care of the Westinghouse charge, but the Westinghouse charge involves a lot more people. Ms. MEHLsACK. Did the mandate of the NAS study as to feasibility come from the EEOC or is that the NAS interpretation? Mr. NEwMAN. I have not seen the document that EEOC gave NAS, but I have it here. The NAS documents which state what they are doing and what their charge is from EEOC. And I assume those reports have been presented to EEOC. I know they have been. Ms. MEHLSACK. I have no further questions. Mr. NEWMAN. I can give you those reports if you want them. Mr. HAwkINS. Thank you again, Mr. Newman and Ms. Wilson. We appreciate your testimony. It has been very helpful. Mr. HAwkINs. It is the intent of the Chair to call one additional witness this morning, then to take a recess and reassemble at 1 p.m. this afternoon. The next scheduled witness is Ms. Kathleen Blunt, associate director, Women Employed, Chicago, Ill. She is accompanied by Judith Lichtman, executive director, Women's Legal Defense Fund, Washington, D.C. You are not strangers to us, and we are very delighted to have you as witnesses.
STATEMENT OF KATHLEEN BLUNT, ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR, WOMEN EMPLOYED, CHICAGO, ILL., ACCOMPANIED BY JUDITH LICHTMAN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, WOMEN'S LEGAL DEFENSE FUND, WASHINGTON, D.C.
Ms. BLUNT. My name is Kathleen Blunt; I am the associate director of Women Employed. My testimony today represents the views of both Women Employed and the Women's Legal Defense Fund regarding the performance of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission under the new administration. Judy Lichtman, who is with me today, is the executive director of the fund.
The Women's Legal Defense Fund is a Washington-based, . bono organization of feminist attorneys who for the past 7 years has represented numerous women with a variety of legal problems including women with title VII claims. The employment arena has, in fact, become a major focus for the fund. It works closely with government officials to improve the enforcement efforts of such agencies as the EEOC.
Women Employed is an organization of working women in Chicago's downtown area. Our members work at all levels of employment in banks, insurance companies, stock brokerages, engineering firms, law offices, for the government, and in all types of corporations. Women Employed has a two-fold purpose: (1) Exposing employers' discriminatory practices and seeking appropriate remedies either through direct negotiation or where necessary by filing charges with Government agencies; and (2) monitoring those Government agencies' enforcement activities to insure that working women's rights are protected.
Women Employed has had 5 years of experience with the Chicago district office of the EEOC. Between 1973 and 1976 we assigned dozens of women in filing individual charges of discrimination. We also filed class action charges against several major Chicago corporations and financial institutions. During that period, we saw cases deteriorate in the backlog, investigations bungled and class charges totally ignored. By 1976, we found dealing with the EEOC so frustrating and unproductive that we stopped filing charges altogether.
Early in 1977 Women Employed documented EEOC's failure to even minimally protect the rights of women and minorities. And when Eleanor Holmes Norton announced her reform measures, including the rapid charge processing system, we cautiously welcomed them. We felt it made good management sense to separate new cases from old, individual charges from system iconeds. Wellstructured processes with specific time frames and an emphasis on settlement provided the most feasible way to turn around the agency's poor performance record and lagging credibility.
Our concern, however, was maintaining and protecting the rights of charging parties in the rush to efficiently close cases. Would the EEOC really make the necessary effort to find charging parties and settle cases in the backlog? In handling new cases would the EEOC fail to adequately deal with legitimate charges in order to accumulate large numbers of disposed cases? Would the EEOC be able to effectively juggle its resources between individual case processing and systemic work?
Finally, will the agency be able to handle the new jurisdictions of equal pay and age discrimination enforcement delegated to it next July 1 by President Carter's Reorganization Plan No. 1? These are the questions that Women Employed and the Women's Legal Defense Fund have focused on over the past year. Through Women Employed's job problems counseling service, we have represented numerous women with a wide variety of discrimination charges at both the intake and fact-finding stages of EEOC's rapid charge processing system. Likewise, Women Employed has several cases in the backlog, some dating as far back as 1974, whose resolution we are now tracking through EEOC's new backlog processing system. Six months ago the organization petitioned the EEOC to issue a commissioner's charge against Continental Insurance based on extensive documentation of patterns and practices of race and sex discrimination gathered by Women Employed over the past year. That case is still pending review by the Commission. These cases have provided Women Employed with first-hand knowledge of how the new procedures work and the advantages and disadvantages to charging parties. On a broader scale, both Women Employed and the Women's Legal Defense Fund have been active in working with EEOC officials in planning for the transfer of Equal Pay Act enforcement from the Department of Labor to the EEOC in July 1979. This has occurred through our participation in a special Equal Pay Advisory Committee made up of advocacy organizations set up by Commissioner Norton. That committee has examined a variety of structural, procedural and legal issues involved in the transfer. Last September the EEOC established three model offices in Baltimore, Chicago and Dallas to test the new procedures. Since that time, Women Employed, acting as an advocate organization for charging parties, has worked closely with the Director of the Chicago district office, Marty Slate, pointing out problem areas we encountered and developing recommendations for improvements. In this capacity, Women Employed held its own oversight hearings, a mid-year assessment in June of this year, to evaluate the progress being made by the EEOC as well as several other enforcement agencies. Our evaluations and conclusions pertained to the Chicago office of EEOC, although we understand th: systems are being instituted around the country. We were pleased that your committee staffperson, Susan Grayson, was able to attend our hearings; we provided her with our formal mid-year assessment report several months ago. At our assessment meeting report cards were issued, and the EEOC received an overall grade of B minus. On the one hand, while specific problems still had to be addessed, particularly regarding better protecting the rights of charging parties, it is clear that the reforms made by the EEOC have already had a substantial positive impact. Women Employed believes that over the past year the EEOC has demonstrated the commitment and capability for resolving its past deficiencies in processing individual charges of discrimination. Nearly all of Women Employed's cases have been dealt with in a timely fashion; many have resulted in settlements while a few have suffered from procedureal snags in the new system.
On the one hand, the agency's systemic program has lagged behind expectations. Methods for targeting and investigating corporations for patterns of discrimination have not been fully refined; the issue of the role of organizations like ours in bringing these cases and participating in their resolution has not been resolved; and the staff assigned to systemic work is insufficient to meet the task. Women Employed's years of experience in fighting employment discrimination have clearly shown that if discrimination is ever to be eliminated it must be through broad, comprehensive efforts. We will never solve racial and sexual discrimination one case at a time. Women Employed and the Women's Legal Defense Fund have several specific concerns and recommendations for improvement regarding EEOC's new processing systems. According to figures supplied to Women Employed by the EEOC, the new rapid charge processing and backlog processing systems with their emphasis on early resolution and settlement are increasing the odds that women and minorities will get some redress for the discrimination they suffer. The figures show that under the new rapid charge processing system, 31 percent of all charges filed in the Chicago office resulted in some type of settlement, and $1,130,000 in benefits have been awarded. I would like to interject that yesterday Commissioner Norton mentioned 48 percent of all charges filed in the model offices have resulted in settlement. I would be curious to know if those went to factfinding. In the Chicago district office 50 percent of charges that go to factfinding end up in settlement, but only 31 percent of all charges end up in settlement. Furthermore, the Chicago district office has reviewed and closed 63 percent of all backlogged cases, some of which date back to 1972. Resolution of these cases included 300 settlements and $840,000 in benefits to charging parties. Women Employed's experience with backlog processing indicate that the agency's systematic approach to reducing the caseload is an effective one. In several cases where Women Employed has been involved, the EEOC made extensive efforts to contact the charging party and resolve the case. Unfortunately, class charges in the backlog fare less well. Generally only the case of the individual who signed a class charge is being reviewed thereby limiting the scope of the investigation and any possible remedy. ere are five major components of the new rapid charge processing system: intake, factfinding, extended investigation, predetermination settlement efforts, and litigation. Together they generally form an effective way to handle individual charges. When a woman now goes to the Chicago district office of the EEOC to file a charge of discrimination she can expect to get professional counseling about her rights and how best to frame her charge. She can expect initial action on her case within weeks. And she can expect that her case will be resolved within a matter of months often with some form of settlement. This is a vast improvement over the old system which left charging parties up in the air for years—vulnerable and angry.
Women Employed has occasionally encountered problems with each phase. We have raised these concerns and our recommendations for correcting the problems with EEOC officials. The major problems a charging party may face at intake area: (1) Being discouraged from filing especially when the charge is a complicated one; (2) having the case thrown into the suspension files as an unperfected charge because of the charging party's inability to provide enough facts; and (3) having the intake officer draw up the charge in the most narrow terms, thereby ignoring necessarily class situations. Recently, at Women Employed's urging, the Chicago district office began distributing written material at intake on a complainant's right to file a charge. We also understand that the requirement that charging parties provide comparative evidence has been loosened, resulting in fewer cases dying in the suspension files. Women Employed believes that where narrowing of a charge adversely affects settlement attempts or a finding of cause, that a charging party must have a way to appeal. A major innovation at the EEOC is the fact-finding conference where the employee and the employer meet face to face to argue the facts of the case to an EEOC fact finder. At their best, fact-finding conferences clarify issues and serve as an impetus for settlement. It is at this stage, however, that a charging party can run headlong into a variety of serious problems. Usually a charging party is not represented and finds herself facing her employer who is represented by at least three individuals and often as many as five or six. In this intimidating environment a charging party will sometimes also discover that the EEOC fact finder is not skillful enough to uncover the facts or negotiate an adequate settlement. Moreover, it is usually at this stage that intense pressure is brought to bear on the charging party to settle on almost any terms. Sometimes a hint that the case will be “no-caused,” dismissed, does the trick. Women Employed has seen some fact-finding conferences superbly conducted and others inconceivably mishandled. Several recent conferences that I personally attended have been handled so skillfully that we were able to settle the case that very day. However, one case, involving a women employed at a major Chicago bank, who was denied promotion opportunities while men with less training and experience passed her by, was nearly lost at a fact-finding conference. The fact-finder was unable to grasp the issues involved and in her haste to settle the case told us she would find no cause. It should be noted this was prior to any investigation and that a litigious standard of cause was being used. Because the bank never had to reveal any facts, it felt under little pressure to settle. The result—no back wages and no pay increase. Only when we appealed to the district director, who then stepped into the negotiation, was anything achieved—a promotion to an officer position at the bank. We shudder to think what would have happened to this woman i. she not been represented and had we not gone straight to the irector.