President Trump’s 2018 budget, released on May 23, proposes to merge the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) by the end of FY 2018. The proposed merger purports to result in “one agency to combat employment discrimination.” The Trump administration asserts that the merger would “reduce operational redundancies, promote efficiencies, improve services to citizens, and strengthen civil rights enforcement.”
Both business groups and employee civil rights organizations have opposed the measure, albeit for different reasons. The OFCCP is a division of the U.S. Department of Labor, while the EEOC is an independent federal agency. Although both deal with issues of employment discrimination, their mandates, functions and focus are different. The OFCCP’s function is to ensure that federal government contractors take affirmative action to avoid discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability and protected veteran status. The OFCCP, which was created in 1978, enforces Executive Order 11246, as amended, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, and the Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act of 1975. The EEOC administers and enforces several federal employment discrimination laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, national origin, religion, sex, age, disability, gender identity, genetic information, and retaliation for complaining or supporting a claim of discrimination. Its function is to investigate individual charges of discrimination brought by private and public sector employees against their employers. The EEOC was established in 1965, following the enactment of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Business groups oppose the OFCCP’s merger into the EEOC due to concerns that it would create a more powerful EEOC with greater enforcement powers. For example, the OFCCP conducts audits, which compile substantial data on government contractors’ workforces, while the EEOC possesses the power to subpoena employer records. Combining these tools could provide the “new” EEOC with substantially greater enforcement power. Civil rights and employee organizations oppose the merger, believing that overall it would result in less funding for the combined functions currently performed by each agency.
The budget proposal is consistent with the Trump administration’s goal to reduce costs and redundancies through a reorganization of governmental functions and elimination of executive branch agencies. In light of opposition from both employers and employees, however, the measure lacks a powerful proponent; as a result, it is unlikely that the administration will succeed in effecting a combination, at least as it is currently proposed.