Chamber of Commerce seeks extension of comment period

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is requesting a 90-day extension of the comment period on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC’s) proposed amendment of the EEO-1 Report to include compensation data. The comment period on the proposal, which was published in the Federal Register on February 1, ends on April 1. This new data would help the EEOC and the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) in identifying possible pay discrimination and assist employers in promoting equal pay in their workplaces, the agencies say. So it’s not surprising that the Chamber, which calls itself the “world’s largest business federation,” is seeking additional time to thoroughly investigate the proposal.

In a letter to EEOC Chair Jenny R. Yang, the Chamber says that while it will be able to provide some comments prior to the close of the comment period, extra time would help it to “to provide more robust commentary and to collect additional information that will be critical for calculating the full potential cost burden of the proposed changes and for comparing the costs (and benefits) of the proposed strategy to the costs and benefits of alternative strategies that we may suggest for the Commission to consider.”

Not your average information request revision

The proposal is “far outside the norm of information collection requests for form revisions,” according to the Chamber, which noted that the revision adds two major new categories of information collection: earnings and hours worked—a significant expansion of the size, content and structure of the EEO-1 reporting requirement. In order to comply, many employers will have to construct new time-tracking and accounting systems that do not currently exist for executive, managerial, administrative, professional, and other employees who are FLSA exempt, the Chamber advised. Moreover, to meet the earnings data element of the revision, the Chamber said that most employers “will have to integrate information from currently separate information systems that maintain employee gender, race, and ethnicity data and that maintain employee compensation data.”

Burden on employers

The Chamber also took issue with the EEOC’s estimated economic and other impacts of the proposed new requirements, saying that the agency has failed to adequately investigate and document those estimates. The expanded form, which the Chamber says includes 3,600 potential data items, will purportedly take the average employer 6.6 hours to compile data, enter the data in the specified form, verify accuracy, and submit the form to the EEOC. While the EEOC estimates the cost to be $160 per employer, the agency “presents no empirical evidence to substantiate the estimated time burden, which amounts to 6.6 seconds per data cell on the form,” the Chamber complained.

The business federation also criticized EEOC’s estimate of the one-time “start-up” burden of developing the necessary information systems and queries. The EEOC said it would take 8 hours of labor time at $47.22 an hour or $378 per employer. “Again, EEOC presents no empirical evidence to substantiate this estimate,” the Chamber wrote. “Both the onetime cost of $378 per employer and the on-going annual cost of $160 per employer are not credible and reflect EEOC’s woeful misunderstanding of the speed and ease by which complex and customized data can be compiled from computer information systems.” Had the EEOC interviewed experienced information system and HR management professionals in affected establishments regarding the feasibility and cost of compiling the proposed data, the agency might have reached a more realistic estimate, according to the Chamber.

More time needed to figure it all out

Employers and their representative organizations will need to conduct “extensive empirical data surveys and analyses” before they can comment cogently on the proposal, the Chamber said. The Chamber is conducting its own pilot survey to seek data on companies’ procedures and costs of complying with the current EEO-1 report requirement as a basis for better understanding the potential difficulties and costs that companies could run into in complying with the proposed new report. The Chamber estimates that it will need up to 90 days beyond the current April 1, comment deadline to complete, tabulate and analyze the survey results from a fully representative sample of firms.

Moreover, to explore questions about the “statistical implications, reliability and potential misleading conclusions that may result from the proposed information collection,” those who would comment on the proposal need time to conduct appropriate tests and experiments, the Chamber asserted.
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