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Chair Norton, you are an old friend of the chairman and of this committee. I know Congressman Weiss joins me in welcoming you to this subcommittee hearing. Congressman Weiss would like to make a statement. He is on his way here from the airport and will make a statement when he arrives.
We are very pleased to welcome you. You may introduce any other witnesses who accompany you.
STATEMENT OF ELEANOR H. NORTON, CHAIR, EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION, ACCOMPANIED BY DANIEL E. LEACH, VICE CHAIR; ETHEL BENT WALSH, COMMISSIONER; J. CLAY SMITH, COMMISSIONER; ARMANDO M. RODRIGUEZ, COMMISSIONER; AND ABNER W. SIBAL, GENERAL COUNSEL
Chair Norton. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. Indeed, I think the title is appropriate, in your case. I would like to offer my testimony by reading only certain sections of it and summarizing the rest of it. Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, I am pleased to have this opportunity to testify on the changes the Commissioners, the General Counsel and I have been working to bring about since I became Chair of the Commission 16 months ago. This subcommittee took an early interest in the reforms which were proposed when I testified before you on July 27, 1977, hardly 2 months after coming to the agency. Then we discussed candidly the problems that had beset the Commission since its inception in 1965. These were the problems of an agency struggling to fulfill its statutory mandate in the face of mounting workload pressures and internal difficulties, the dimensions of which had not been foreseen when the Commission was formed. I outlined a Commission-approved plan for restructuring the agency and its major operations and systems, which relied heavily on studies and recommendations that had been developed by this subcommittee and by others over the years. We found particularly helpful your exhaustive and excellent staff report on Federal enforcement of equal employment opportunity laws that was issued in December 1976. Throughout the process of reorganization and reform, we relied on many of the suggestions and studies of this subcommittee, and thus in organizing this testimony, I have found it useful to compare what has occurred with the analysis and recommendations of the 1976 Staff Report. As I shall show, we believe we have implemented or are in the process of implementing the major recommendations of that report. To be sure, complete reform of an agency so beset by problems could not be totally accomplished in the period of under a year and a half that we have been designing and applying the improvements recommended by this subcommittee and others. It will take several years to reform an agency with the major management, case processing, and litigation deficiencies you have noted and documented. But an unusually comprehensive reorganization is nearing completion and major reforms affecting every major system in the agency are either complete or well underway. I should first like to formally introduce the Commissioners. As you know, it has been more than 3 years since EEOC enjoyed a full complement of Commissioners. You know Commissioner Daniel E. Leach, who currently is serving with skill and dedication as Vice Chair, and Commissioner Ethel Bent Walsh who as Acting Chair, brought stable and intelligent leadership to the Commission during two particularly difficult periods. Commissioner J. Clay Smith has been with the Commission for 5 weeks following a distinguished legal career, most recently as Associate General Counsel of the Federal Communications Commission. Commissioner Armando M. Rodriguez arrived to take his seat only yesterday, having served with distinction as president of East #. Angeles College. I feel particularly fortunate to have the opportunity to work with a roster of Commissioners who bring to the agency so much in individual ability, demonstrated strong commitment to all those protected under the statute, ability to function well in a collegial body, balance, and common sense. I should also like to introduce the general counsel, Abner W. Sibal, who will make a statement and answer your questions about the Commission's litigation programs. I know that Ab Sibal needs no introduction in this chamber. He served here in the House, and has been general counsel of the Commission since 1975. Mr. Sibal will be leaving at the end of this year, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank him for his years of high dedication and fine service to the cause of equal employment opportunity, and especially for his leadership in helping to carry out one of the most important recommendations of this subcommittee concerning the integration of legal and compliance functions in the field. With your permission I should now like to proceed according to a format which might be of some use to the subcommittee. I would like to discuss the major recommendations that have been made by the subcommittee and report on our progress in implementing them. And I should then like to outline the most important problems that remain, and how we expect to proceed to deal with them in the coming year. Finally, I want to report to you on progress in carrying out Reorganization Plan No. 1 of 1978, which adopted the subcommittee's recommendations for the consolidation of equal employment enforcement responsibilities. I would like to summarize the section beginning at page 4 on field Structure. On January 29, 2 months from now, the revised and expanded field structure will have been implemented. We will go from our present structure to 22 district offices and 37 area offices. The area offices are workload oriented. They will be at places where there has been a demonstrated workload but where there often has been no EEOC present. These offices will have intake, rapid charge processing and backlog. When the backlog is finished in those areas, those offices will be equipped to provide investigative help when systemic cases are brought from the district offices. The district offices will of course contain intake, rapid charge processing and backlog, but they will also have normal systemic units as well as administration and litigation. The strategy of course is that as the backlog diminishes we will be able to move more and more people from those units into the systemic units.
Virtually all studies have criticized the separation of administration in regional offices from field offices as costly and awkward. Many problems in the district offices flow from communication filtered through regional offices. The regional offices have become virtually lightning rods of criticism. This is not the fault of the personnel but we believe is inherent in the structure. The regional offices did not serve the purpose of effective quality control in the field, either. In fact, many in the field believe that the regional offices did just the opposite, that they contributed greatly to the lack of uniformity in the field. We have replaced the regional office structure with a field services structure located at headquarters. This is part of our attempt to make headquarters a service-oriented part of the Agency, opposed to the headquarters part which is often seen as dominant and the field part often seen as an appendix to headquarters instead of the opposite way around. Whereas there had been wholesale complaints from the district offices about the regional office system, field personnel have been laudatory of the field services concept. This is because field services is in fact oriented to serve the field in such matters as, for example, turn-around time, on the many, many detailed questions that arise in case processing, so that a district director can get an answer usually within 24 hours to a query. The field services, of course, offers affirmative guides and shares information that often was not shared across regional and district office lines. Thus we have sought to replace the atomized leadership often resented in the regional offices with strong, clear headquarters instructions through the field services offices. As to regional litigation centers I know I do not need to lay out for this subcommittee the rationale for moving lawyers to the offices where complaints are taken and processed, which was one of your major recommendations. Whatever logic there may have been in setting up regional litigation centers at some prior point, this concept had long ago ceased to be justifiable. The regional litigation center notion, in effect separating lawyers from complainants as well as from investigators, had adverse effect upon our own litigation potential, and of course upon case processing. In locating the new field office structure we devised a formula that would be objective in placing the new offices. Roughly, the formula embodies the capacity of the FEP agency, if any, in the area; the capacity of our own office in the area; population, the standard metropolitan figure; systemic potential; and minority population. A central ingredient of course, was the workload potential of our own district offices as compared with the FEP agency. We have developed a work-sharing agreement with every FEP agency we fund for charge resolution. This means that these offices have agreed to waive the processing of cases in certain areas so that we can work on a part of the workload while they work on a separate part of the workload. It is, of course, designed to get the cases early and process them rapidly. Your own report emphasized the need to get the greatest use out of the FEP agencies so that in placing offices we were careful not to duplicate offices in areas where there was a large or significant FEP operation. Thus the Northeast had the greatest number of effective FEP agencies. For example, in New England more than 75 percent of the new charges filed with the EEOC were initially filed with the State agency and thus we have sought through the deferral mechanism to strengthen the State agencies there rather than duplicate their work with our own offices. We are pleased that in the internal reorganization, which will be completed on January 29, there will be virtually no dislocation. The lawyers, of course, are the exception because there was no way to integrate lawyers with investigators without moving lawyers from where they are to the 22 district offices. We signed an agreement which we regard as especially progressive with our union that in any case would soften the effect of dislocation, and will in the case of the lawyers be covered by that agreement as well. I would like to turn to page 7 of my testimony. I do not think I would save time here by summarizing. Among its recommendations, the staff report placed a priority on case processing, identifying the “compliance process” as the “most serious weakness in the Commission's ability to enforce the law.” It cited “an engulfing inventory of charges which threatens to keep the EEOC from becoming a law enforcement agency . . .” and noted “the inability of the Commission to resolve the steadily increasing backlog of charges.” It found that “the number of charges received annually is increasing at a faster rate than the number of charges . It criticized an emphasis on charge resolution without sufficient regard for remedy or the rights of charging parties, noting that “in fiscal 1976, 73.9 percent of all resolutions were either administratively closed or no cause determinations.” It noted the “apparently beneficial results” from the use of predetermination settlements, finding this procedure beneficial to potentially both the charging party and the respondent if “careful[ly] monitorsed] . . . to protect the affected parties.” The report cited evidence that as many as one-third of EE charges in some areas were outside of the jurisdiction of title VII, and that many other charges were frivolous on their face, a result of intake procedures that did not provide for screening. The staff report made four recommendations concerning charge processing by EEOC on a timely, efficient, and fair basis: “EEOC should improve charge intake procedures to prevent processing of nonjurisdictional and frivolous charges. “Where possible, EEOC should develop standardized forms and procedures for investigating certain categories of cases. “EEOC should issue right-to-sue notices upon . any time after filing if investigation within 180 days is unlikely; charging parties should be notified periodically after 180 days of private litigation rights under title VII.” These recommendations have all been implemented. In my testimony before you in July 1977, I went into great detail concerning the new case-processing approach and techniques we proposed to implement. And, Mr. Chairman, I know that you and the staff have requested information on our systems from time to time, and have been reviewing our periodic performance reports. Thus I do not need to spell out how the rapid charge processing and the backlog charge processing systems work. Field tests for a full year of these new case processing systems, we believe, definitely demonstrate their effectiveness, as measured by objective statistics as well as by the feedback from civil rights and women's groups, citizens, business groups, and respondents who actually use the systems. We believe these systems give the Commission the capacity to process individual cases so rapidly and at such a high rate of benefits that the agency can now move to allocate increasingly more of its resources to pattern and practice work, my priority for the coming year. We have now accumulated data from a full year of operation for the model offices and 9 months for the other field offices. In the model offices, new charges are being closed, on the average, in 65 days. Settlements and conciliations have increased from 14 percent under the old systems in fiscal year 1977, to 48 percent under the new systems in fiscal year 1978. Almost four times as many people received dollar benefits in these offices—691 in fiscal year 1977 as compared to 2,523 in fiscal year 1978. Dollar benefits for complainants (rapid charge processing and backlog charge processing) almost quadrupled from $1,092,000 in fiscal year 1977 to $4,208,639 in fiscal year 1978. Mr. HAwkINs. In giving these statistics are you including the model as well as the nonmodel offices? Chair Norton. These are the three model offices. Mr. HAwkINs. These are only the model offices? Chair Norton. Yes, sir. Mr. HAwKINs. Do you have similar statistics for the nonmodel ones as well? Chair Norton. The nonmodel office statistics are being taken manually. There is a greater lag in nonmodel office statistics and we do indicate some of those in our testimony. We will get for you information on their dollar benefits as well. Mr. HAwkINs. Not only that but the charges and settlements? Chair Norton. Yes. Mr. HAwkINs. If you will do that, it will help the committee. Chair Norton. I think your staff has a report on closures, settlements and the like in the nonmodel offices but not a full year report. [The information referred to above follows:]