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House Moves to Ramp Up Equal Employment Enforcement Funding (2)

June 25, 2019, 7:00 PMUpdated: June 25, 2019, 7:24 PM

The House passed a spending package that would increase spending for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and several other agencies, rankling the Trump administration.

The $320 billion minibus spending legislation (H.R. 3055), passed June 25 on a 227-194 vote, would boost EEOC spending in fiscal year 2020 to $400 million. That’s a $20 million bump from the previous year. The measure also would increase spending compared with fiscal year 2019 for nearly all agencies covered by the bill, including the Agriculture, Commerce, and Justice departments.

The vote came less than a week after the House passed a separate measure (H.R. 2740) to increase funding for the Labor Department and National Labor Relations Board, among other agencies. House Democrats will likely have to compromise on those spending levels with Republican leadership in the Senate.

The White House has already threatened to veto H.R. 3055 if it lands on President Donald Trump’s desk for his signature. Officials said the bill as it stands would add significantly to the national debt.

“If H.R. 3055 were presented to the President in its current form, his advisers would recommend that he veto it,” the White House said in a statement June 18. “The Administration is strongly opposed to the budgetary framework that underlies this and other appropriations bills being considered by the House of Representatives.”

House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) said in a statement that the “bill makes important investments that will strengthen communities and improve millions of lives.”

Evan Hollander, a spokesman for the House Appropriations Committee, said it’s “disappointing that the Trump administration continues to oppose funding for critical services that keep our country safe, strong, and moving forward.”

Boost to Improve Investigations

The EEOC recently regained its quorum with the May 8 swearing in of Janet Dhillon to head the commission.

The agency has several big policy issues it’s looking to tackle going forward, including what to do about age discrimination concerns in employee wellness plans and how to combat sexual harassment in the midst of the #MeToo era. The EEOC is also trying to decide whether to continue collecting pay data from employers. A court recently lifted a freeze on the initiative and ordered the agency to collect the summary pay data beginning next month. It’s not clear what the EEOC plans to do after that initial round of data collection.

The House bill would increase EEOC funding levels provided in 2018 to address sexual harassment claims and increase front-line and investigative staff for information collection and investigative purposes as part of the revised pay data collection. That collection includes new wage-and-hour data, as well as demographic data that has been collected for more than 50 years.

The House Appropriations Committee in a report accompanying the bill said it supports the revised pay data collection plan. The data “will shine a light on pay practices, reveal trends, and support employers in proactively evaluating their systems and closing pay gaps,” the panel said.

The committee, however, expressed concern about the EEOC’s handling of discrimination charges and its attempt to cut down on its case backlog. It asked the agency to submit a report no later than 120 days after the enactment of the bill that documents formal or informal quotas the EEOC has put on investigators to finish cases for fiscal years 2018 and 2019 and projected quotas for 2020.

Shutdown Back Pay

The budget measure also would provide partial back pay for some employees of government contractors affected by the record 35-day shutdown that began in December 2018.

The measure would cover as much as $965 per employee per week, or the employee’s actual weekly compensation if that’s less. It would apply to service employees, laborers, and mechanics. Federal agencies would adjust the price of contracts to provide the compensation.

The White House strongly opposed this effort, saying “this legislation ignores important principles of Federal contracting, and would lead to increased cost and a significant increase in the risk of fraud, waste, and improper payment.”

(Updated with an additional comment.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Jaclyn Diaz in Washington at jdiaz@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Chris Opfer at copfer@bloomberglaw.com; Terence Hyland at thyland@bloomberglaw.com

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