EEOC moves its Washington field office, saves rent

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is relocating employees in Washington to save money on rent.

In early August, 40 employees in the agency's Washington field office will move into extra space in the headquarters building, saving $500,000 per year on rent. The field office workers are moving into unused space and the relocation doesn't involve any staffing changes, said LaDawne White, an agency spokeswoman.

EEOC officials decided to move the field office following a routine review of space and leases, White said. The relocation is not connected to restructuring and consolidation options under consideration, she said.

But it comes at a time when EEOC employees are anxious over how the agency will respond to recommendations from the National Academy of Public Administration, a congressionally chartered nonprofit organization. In a February 2003 report, NAPA suggested that in the face of tight budgets, the EEOC should consider saving money by establishing a central customer service center, moving or closing some field offices, encouraging flexible work arrangements and investing in new technology.

Agency officials have yet to announce whether they will follow the recommendations, but have discussed the issue. However, they generally haven't kept other employees informed about progress or decisions reached, according to union officials.

EEOC leaders continue to say they haven't finalized plans for a comprehensive restructuring of field offices, said Gabrielle Martin, president of the National Council of EEOC Locals No. 216, part of the American Federation of Government Employees. "The problem is that in the meantime, it's just sort of dragging out," she said.

Until the plans are in place, the agency is reluctant to hire permanent workers, and is relying on term employees, Martin said. Hired for a limited period, term employees don't have a chance to gain the extensive experience and training necessary to build institutional knowledge, according to union representatives.

EEOC employees also are tense and concerned that jobs are on the line in a possible restructuring, according to a government official with knowledge of the issue. The commission's leadership has been very secretive about possible reforms, and believes it has the authority to implement changes without consulting affected employees, said the official, who spoke under the condition of anonymity.

The union doesn't endorse the idea of consolidating field offices, Martin said. But if a streamlining does occur, she said she hopes the agency keeps employees informed.

Martin had no complaints about the way the EEOC handled the Washington field office move.

Agency officials informed employees as soon as they reached the decision to relocate, showed the employees floor plans of the new work space and made efforts to keep them up-to-date on the move, scheduled for Aug. 4, White said.

The agency also consulted with union representatives before announcing the relocation, Martin said, adding that the move is one change EEOC officials planned that "sort of makes sense." There is no reason the EEOC shouldn't fill up the 30 to 40 percent of headquarters space that is vacant and used for storage, she noted.

Agency officials should be equally forthcoming about any future plans to move or consolidate field offices in other areas of the country, Martin said.

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