From the Daily Labor Report:

Commission's Field Office Reorganization May Be Implemented in January, Sources Say

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is scheduled to vote on a modification to a proposed field office reorganization plan at a Dec. 21 meeting.

With three of the four seated commissioners supporting the underlying proposal, the reorganization is likely to be implemented in January, sources told BNA Dec. 12.

"We're operating under the assumption that the plan is going into effect Jan. 1," said one official, who asked not to be identified.

The pending field office reorganization plan would downsize eight district offices--Baltimore, Cleveland, Denver, Detroit, Milwaukee, New Orleans, San Antonio, and Seattle-into "field" and "area" offices with fewer management staffers, and would add two new offices in Mobile, Ala., and Las Vegas. The revised plan would make minor changes in the counties reporting to the Baltimore office, but would not otherwise change the reorganization, according to a commission source.

EEOC officials have stressed that no jobs would be lost in the reorganization and that the plan is aimed at responding to the agency's current needs and the needs of its constituents. However, opponents of the plan, including the union representing EEOC employees, have argued that it could weaken the agency's enforcement efforts in the field.

In a Dec. 12 statement, Gabrielle Martin, president of the American Federation of Government Employees National Council of EEOC Locals and an attorney in the commission's Denver office, reiterated the union's opposition to the plan, charging that it would result in "more layers of reporting authorities and a deemphasized litigation program," because regional attorneys in the downgraded offices would be losing their positions.

Charles Robbins, a spokesman for the commission, said there has been no announcement of any implementation date for the repositioning plan. The meeting, he said, "includes consideration of a slight modification of the repositioning plan."

The reorganization proposal is an outgrowth of a February 2003 report by the National Academy of Public Administration, an independent research organization that called for major restructuring of the commission. Among the report's recommendations were a reduction in the number of field offices, a reorganization of headquarters, provision for electronic filing of complaints, and the establishment of a national call center.

The plan was initially unveiled in May and approved by the commission on a 3-1 vote in July (131 DLR AA-1, 7/11/05) , over the dissent of Stuart Ishimaru, the sole Democrat on the panel. Implementation of the plan was delayed after Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), a key congressional appropriator, expressed concerns, which he subsequently lifted.

By Nancy Montwieler