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By Wes Allison January 8, 2010

Funding levels restored

When the president signed the 2010 omnibus spending bill in December, Barack Obama and the Democrat-led Congress made good on his pledge to restore funding to pre-Bush administration levels for both the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, which enforces the requirements that government contractors adhere to federal hiring and antidiscrimination rules.

Thanks to this influx of millions of additional dollars, the agencies are on track to hire hundreds of investigators, lawyers, mediators and support staff to eat away at a backlog of workplace discrimination complaints, as the president promised.

According to the U.S. House committee report on the Labor Department funding, Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs will get an extra $19 million to help the agency conduct more than 5,000 audits of contractor practices a year -– an increase of more than 20 percent. Jesse Lawder, a spokesman for the agency, said the agency also plans to hire about 200 new workers. The agency's total budget for 2010 is now about $103 million.

About 1 in 4 American workers work for a federal government contractor, the agency says.

"We are renewing our commitment to strengthening affirmative action, combating discrimination against veterans and people with disabilities, as well as continuing to resolve systemic discrimination cases," Lawder wrote in a statement to

The EEOC, meanwhile, will use its funding increase of $23.3 million to hire 140 employees, according to an agency report submitted to Congress. The agency"s total budget for 2010 is about $367 million.

"This represents the largest budget increase the EEOC has received in a long time, in at least the past decade," said David Grinberg, an EEOC spokesman in Washington. He said the agency will use the extra manpower to eat away at a backlog of cases.

As for Obama"s pledge to strengthen existing laws against pay discrimination, in January 2009 Obama pushed for, then signed, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, which amended the Civil Rights Act, the Age Discrimination Act, the Americans With Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The law overturned a 2007 Supreme Court decision that restricted the ability of victims of discrimination to recover back pay from their employers.

Sharyn Tejani, senior policy counsel at the National Partnership for Women and Families, said the Obama administration could do more -- such as require the EEOC to collect wage data to better target discriminatory pay practices -- but the Lilly Ledbetter Act was a major victory. Given that, plus the funding increases at the EEOC and the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs and the agencies" plans to add personnel to tackle the backlog of discrimination complaints, PolitiFact rates this a Promise Kept.

Our Sources

Phone interview, Jan. 7, Sharyn Tejani, senior policy counsel, National Partnership for Women and Families.

House-Senate conference report summary of Labor, Health and Human Services appropriations, fiscal year 2010.

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission budget justification report for Congress.

Department of Labor's 2010 Budget in Brief, as requested by the department (Office of Federal Contract Compliance Progams is on page 41)

Congressional Research Service summary, Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009

Text of the Lilly Ledbetter act, S. 181, as passed by the House and the Senate and signed into law on Jan. 29, 2009.

National Employment Lawyers Association's 2007 report on problems within the EEOC.

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