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Federal budget proposal would combine EEOC and OFCCP

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In a move that apparently has left neither business nor civil rights groups happy, the Trump administration has proposed folding the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs into the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The proposed federal budget unveiled Tuesday states that the “OFCCP and EEOC will work collaboratively to coordinate this transition to the EEOC by the end of FY 2018. This builds on the existing tradition of operational coordination between the two agencies.”

It adds: “The transition of OFCCP and integration of these two agencies will reduce operational redundancies, promote efficiencies, improve services to citizens and strengthen civil rights enforcement."

Employers are concerned a merger will create a formidable “super agency.”

Both agencies focus on discrimination. The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against job applicants or employees who are in protected categories including race, color, religion and sex.

The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, which is now part of the U.S. Department of Labor, is responsible for ensuring that employers doing business with the federal government comply with the laws and regulations requiring nondiscrimination.

The agencies have “very different procedures and remedies,” said the Washington-based U.S. Chamber of Commerce in a statement that listed several objections to the merger.

“There is a fear in the business community that this newly formed grouping might result in the worst of all worlds from both agencies,” it said.

“For example, EEOC does not have the power of debarment for federal contracts, but OFCCP does. Damages are more limited under OFCCP than they are under EEOC. OFCCP has very broad access to employer records, where the EEOC must justify need for access,” said the statement.

Mickey Silberman, a partner with Jackson Lewis P.C. in Denver, said employers are concerned that with the merger “you may create a super EEOC enforcement agency that actually has far broader enforcement powers and more burdensome remedies to use against employers at their disposal.”

Emily Harris, general counsel for the Washington-based National Women’s Law Center, an advocacy group, said that while the two agencies’ missions are related, “they’re distinct, and what is being proposed here is that the EEOC would get a lot of new enforcement obligations, apparently without any increase in resources to meet those obligations, which is just a recipe for eliminating the unique and important work that OFCCP does today.”

Eliminating a major civil rights agency is “absolutely the wrong direction for the rest of the country,” she added.

However, Robin E. Shea, a partner with Constangy, Brooks Smith & Prophete L.L.P. in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, who represents employers, said, “I’m not sure it’s a bad idea.”

“There’s an awful lot of overlap” in what both agencies do, and the idea “has some appeal from an efficiency standpoint, if nothing else,” she said.

Spokesmen for the EEOC and OFCCP could not immediately be reached for comment.