The American Federation of Government Employees filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court against the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for violating the Open Meetings Act, also known as the Government in the Sunshine Act. Under the law, meetings and their agendas must be publicly announced one week in advance via a recorded telephone announcement and a posted notice on the EEOC bulletin board. The agency also normally posts announcements on its Web site.
On March 23, the EEOC announced its intentions to hold a meeting the following day, March 24. Over the objections of one of its own commissioners, the EEOC then proceeded to discuss and approve its regulatory agenda for spring 2005 and conducted other business, according to the suit.
Because of the short notice provided to the public, AFGE officers and members employed by the EEOC as well as those who may have had cases pending before the Commission were deprived of their right to attend the meeting, AFGE argued.
"We are very concerned that this attempted end-run around the public’s right to know represents a pattern at the agency," says AFGE National President John Gage. "The EEOC is considering major changes in the way it services the public and the interests of federal employee complainants."
The EEOC is in considering a reorganization designed to reposition and strengthen the Commission’s field structure. EEOC Chair Cari M. Dominguez said the benefits of strengthening the field structure would enhance the agency’s enforcement presence and delivery of services; improve the efficiency of its operations; and eliminate or reduce costs. Under the plan, EEOC officials said no jobs would be lost and that all current EEOC offices would remain open. Furthermore, additional offices would be opened in Las Vegas and in Mobile, Ala.
After announcing the reorganization plan earlier in the month, the EEOC had scheduled another meeting to deliberate and vote on the proposal May 16. However, EEOC announced that it had postponed that meeting to be rescheduled later after EEOC Commissioner Stuart Ishimaru joined union protests against the reorganization proposal.