EEOC Struggles With Huge Workload, Diminished Staff

By Steve Vogel
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, February 2, 2009; 6:21 PM

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, charged with enforcing the nation's job discrimination laws, is facing its largest caseload in at least a quarter-century with sharply diminished staffing and resources, according to commission and union officials.

The 44-year-old commission has been dogged by budgetary and staffing problems before, but union officials say the Obama administration faces a tough challenge in overcoming morale problems and an overwhelmed workforce.

Some allegations of discrimination based on race, religion, sex, age or disability are languishing for months because of inadequate staffing.

More than 95,400 charges of job bias in the private sector were filed in fiscal year 2008, up 15.2 percent from the previous year and up 26 percent from 2006. But the size of the EEOC staff, which is responsible for investigating the complaints, has steadily decreased in size and now numbers 2,192, down from approximately 2,850 in 2000.

As a result, the commission's backlog of unresolved cases climbed to 73,951, up 35 percent from the previous year's total of 54,970. Fewer than half of private sector discrimination charges filed in the last year were resolved within 180 days, a goal that is now so difficult to reach that the commission recently changed its target compliance rate from 72 percent to 48 percent due to the agency's higher workload and decreasing resources.

"The backlog keeps building, building and building," said Regina Andrew, an EEOC trial attorney in the Baltimore field office and president of the union local representing field office employees in the Washington area.

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