EEOC Preparing for Employee Furloughs

March 11, 2003 ( - The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), looking down the barrel of an $18.3-million budget shortfall, is considering sending its 2,783 employees on an unpaid furlough.

The unpaid vacation could send the agency’s employees home without pay for anywhere between 16 to 19 days and would impair the effectiveness of the agency to enforce the nation’s civil rights.   There was the warning of EEOC Chairman Cari Dominguez in a letter to the chair of the House of Representative Appropriations subcommittee Representative Frank Wolf (R-Virginia), according to a Washington Post repot.

Approximately 80% of the EEOC’s budget goes for staff salaries and office rent and represents the source of the agency’s budget deficit.   Dominguez points to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack that destroyed the EEOC’s New York District Office at 7 World Trade Center and the dramatic increases in costs the commission experienced in New York after the attack, in part because of a more expensive lease for office space.

To cover compensation and rents, the Bush administration asked Congress in early January to provide the agency with an extra $11.6 million.   However, the request did not make it through House-Senate negotiations over fiscal 2003 spending priorities. Congress, meanwhile, carved out $3 million of the agency’s budget to go to state and local fair employment agencies and left it to the EEOC to absorb about $6 million in additional cuts and operating costs, such as this year’s federal employee pay raise.

Wolf, in response to the letter, said the EEOC should not have waited until January to ask for extra funding. “We were here in September, October and November . . . and there was not a whisper of this,” he told the Washington Post.