Potential budget cuts from sequestration would devastate the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's ability to enforce laws that protect American workers from job discrimination, according to the American Federation of Government Employees.
The sequestration scheduled to take place in March would slash an estimated $23 million to $30 million from EEOC's $360 million annual budget, which amounts to a cut of between 6.5% and 8.2%. Given that the bulk of EEOC's budget goes to pay employee salaries and expenses, EEOC would have no choice but to lay off workers without pay for extended periods of time.
"EEOC simply cannot absorb a cut of this magnitude," AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. said. "This cut would cripple the agency's ability to enforce laws that protect against workplace discrimination. EEOC cannot enforce laws without frontline staff allowed to be on the job."
EEOC already has been suffering under the second year of an unprecedented budget cut, which has reduced its budget each year by $7 million. Because EEOC is a small and historically underfunded agency, even this "haircut" has meant the loss of 9% of the agency's staff.
To make matters worse, these cuts are occurring at a time when workload is way up. EEOC has seen historically high charge filings during the past three years, receiving 99,412 charges of workplace discrimination in fiscal 2012 alone. EEOC continues to struggle with an unacceptable backlog of 70,312 cases and average processing times exceeding nine months.
"These extended delays represent lost opportunities for Americans who want to work. Cutting EEOC is counterintuitive at a time when job creation is the nation's priority, because the agency's mission is all about jobs," said Gabrielle Martin, president of AFGE's National Council of EEOC Locals, No. 216.
It is anticipated that, in the event of extended employee furloughs, EEOC would ensure that the intake of new discrimination complaints remained open. However, there would be no staff available to process these cases, so the backlog would skyrocket, Martin said.
"For all intents and purposes, the United States would cease to have enforceable civil rights in the workplace should sequestration occur," she said.
AFGE represents employees on the front lines of protecting civil rights in the workplace. EEOC's investigators, attorneys, mediators, administrative judges and other staff contribute to job creation by enforcing this nation's civil rights laws, which protect against discrimination on the job based on race, religion, color, national origin, sex, age disability and now genetics.
AFGE is calling on Congress to avoid sequestration and employee furloughs in fiscal 2013. Going forward, EEOC's budget for fiscal 2014 must be restored to at least $367 million, which would match EEOC's operating budgets in 2010 and 2011.
The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) is the largest federal employee union, representing 670,000 workers in the federal government and the government of the District of Columbia. AFGE Council 216 is the exclusive representative of employees at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
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