EEOC to experiment with privatized customer service center

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission decided last week to establish a national customer service center run by a contractor, on a trial basis.

On Nov. 5, EEOC commissioners unanimously authorized the agency to solicit bids from private companies interested in operating the center over a two-year trial period. The EEOC aims to award a contract by next summer and start the test in October 2004, an agency spokesman said.

A February 2003 report from the National Academy of Public Administration, a congressionally chartered nonprofit organization, recommended that the EEOC establish a central customer service center as a means of becoming more efficient and better serving the public. But talk of establishing such a center predated the NAPA report, the agency spokesman said.

The idea has sparked considerable controversy. Proponents argue that a national service center would alleviate strain on local EEOC offices. Some offices are not equipped to handle the volume of inquiries they receive, according to the NAPA report.

But Gabrielle Martin, president of the National Council of EEOC Locals No. 216, part of the American Federation of Government Employees, said a national center would waste agency resources.

"I have serious concerns about the estimated $5 million to $8 million price tag and the effect on quality of service when civil rights enforcement is privatized," Martin said. The EEOC is bent on establishing the call center, despite widespread concerns, she said.

"I think they're jumping the gun" by soliciting bids, said Jorge Ponce, co-chairman of the Council of Federal EEO and Civil Rights Executives. He said he would like to see the EEOC collect data on inquiry pileups at district offices, to better assess which offices need help fielding customer questions. If backlogs are only a problem at a few offices, a national service center could prove unnecessary, he said.

The national center could also end up diverting resources from regional offices, Ponce said, and some offices might close as a result. "My concern is that this is just a front to downsize the EEOC's staff," he added. At a time when the number of EEO complaints filed is on the rise, the agency needs more employees, he said.

Contractors tend to lack appropriate training to field EEO questions, Ponce said, and private companies typically have high turnover rates. If the EEOC does establish a permanent national contact center, Ponce would like to see it staffed by agency employees.

EEOC commissioners also voted last Wednesday to reclassify the agency's Albuquerque, N.M., office as an area office, rather than district office, and to move its internal litigation division from the Office of Legal Counsel to the Office of General Counsel. These are merely administrative changes that will help the agency operate more efficiently, according to an agency spokesman. No employees will lose jobs as a result. All three changes "were going to happen anyway, prior to the NAPA report and any talk of reorganizing," he said.

The various changes at the agency do not amount to a reorganization or restructuring, the spokesman said. The EEOC is considering broader changes, but "regarding any large proposal, people will know it when they see it," he said.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

    Download
  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

    Download
  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

    Download
  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

    Download
  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

    Download
  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

    Download
  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.