DOL Seal

U.S. Department of Labor

 

Kate O'Scannlain
Solicitor of Labor/DOL Chief FOIA Officer

(March 13, 2017 through March 12, 2018)

 

 

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

 

Within DOL, day-to-day FOIA operation is decentralized. As a result, each of the 23 agency components has been given flexibility to design a program that meets its needs. Most agencies have delegated their disclosure responsibilities to officials at the Office Director or Division Chief level in Washington, as well as to their regional offices. Others have delegated their field FOIA responsibilities to district or area offices. Conversely, some small agencies handle all of their FOIA requests centrally in Washington, DC. The differences in agency practices are explained partly by the number of requests that agencies receive and partly by the nature of the programs they administer.

The Office of the Solicitor (SOL) serves as the focal point for FOIA activities within the Department, as the Solicitor serves as the Department's Chief FOIA Officer. In addition, SOL's Management and Administrative Legal Services (MALS) Division houses the Office of Information Services (OIS), the FOIA Public Liaison, and the Counsel for FOIA and Information Law, as well as the Counsel for FOIA Appeals. These programmatic and counsel areas are responsible for providing department-wide guidance regarding FOIA compliance, making administrative appeal determinations and defending FOIA litigation as well as handling FOIA performance measurement and reporting requirements, including the statutorily-mandated FOIA Annual Report. Although FOIA operations are decentralized, the Office of Information Services functions as the Department's central FOIA office and has agency-wide responsibility for managing the FOIA program.

During this reporting period, the Department continued to engage in numerous activities aimed at enhancing DOL's FOIA operations. We have issued guidance and provided ongoing training to FOIA staff with the goal of fully implementing the statutory changes to the FOIA under the FOIA Improvement Act of 2016. The Department also successfully completed the remaining reporting and implementation requirements from the Government Accountability Office's review of DOL's FOIA program. These efforts have led to more robust reporting and notification capabilities in the Departments FOIA tracking system, the Secretary's Information Management System for FOIA (SIMS-FOIA). Furthering its efforts to improve DOL's management of FOIA, the Office of Information Services issued guidance to DOL FOIA contacts and service center personnel articulating updated policy on standard language within DOL FOIA response letters that reflect the option of requesters contacting the National Archives and Records Administration's (NARA) Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) for mediation services as an alternative to litigation. In addition, OIS provided extensive guidance on how to adjudicate fee maters based on the statutory amendments and guidance from the Department of Justice.

During Fiscal Year 2017, the U.S. Department of Labor received 15,813 FOIA requests and processed 15,946 requests. As demonstrated within the table below, the majority of the requests received were by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA - 57%), followed by the Wage and Hour Division (WHD - 14%), Employment Training Administration (ETA - 8%), Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA - 7%) and the Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA - 5%). The remaining nine percent of the Department's requests were processed by the other 18 agency components.

FY 2017 - Total Number of Requests Received: 15,813

15,813 FOIA Requests were received in FY2017.  Of these, 8,979 belonged to OSHA, 2,182 to WHD, 1,343 to ETA, 1,066 to MSHA and 715 to EBSA.  The remaining 1,528 were to all other matters.

 

Section I: Steps Taken to Apply the Presumption of Openness

 

The guiding principle underlying DOJ's FOIA Guidelines is the presumption of openness.

Please answer the following questions in order to describe the steps your agency has taken to ensure that the presumption of openness is being applied to all decisions involving the FOIA. You may also include any additional information that illustrates how your agency is working to apply the presumption of openness.

 

A. FOIA Training

  1. Did your FOIA professionals or the personnel at your agency who have FOIA responsibilities attend any substantive FOIA training or conference during the reporting period such as that provided by the Department of Justice? Yes
  1. If yes, please provide a brief description of the type of training attended or conducted and the topics covered.
    • DOL Annual FOIA Conference. On May 2, 3 and 4, 2017, the Office of the Solicitor hosted its Ninth Annual Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Training Conference in Washington, D.C. The guest speakers were: Rose Audette, the Associate Solicitor for the MALS Division; Carmon Mallon, Deputy Director, Office of Information Policy within the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ); and, Kirsten Mitchell, Compliance Team Lead from the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) . The lecture styled training was presented live in the auditorium of the Frances Perkins building and made available to approximately 400 Department of Labor FOIA contacts nationwide through webcast.

      The three day event themed, “FOIA 2017: Fostering a New and Improved Approach to Public Access” was designed to train Department of Labor access professionals on a variety of topics that included the following: FOIA Administrative Processing Overview; FOIA Exemptions Overview; FOIA Exemption 5; FOIA & Records Management Interface; Administrative Appeals & Litigation; FOIA Exemptions Overview; Fees & Fee Waivers; FOIA Exemption 4; E.O. 12,600 Process; Privacy Act Overview; Resolving FOIA Disputes with the Assistance of the FOIA Ombudsman; FOIA/Privacy Act Interface; FOIA Best Practices and Process Management; Exemption 7(D) and SIMS-FOIA, the Departmental FOIA Tracking System.

      Training materials from the FOIA conference are posted on DOL's intranet so that they are available as needed by DOL staff.
    • Learning Link On-line Training Modules. In an ongoing effort to ensure that all Department of Labor personnel with FOIA responsibilities receives appropriate training, the Office of Information Services in conjunction with the Department’s Office of the Assistant Secretary for Administration and Management (OASAM - OCIO), coordinated and provided access to two FOIA e-Learning Training Courses. Beginning in February 2016, DOL staff has access to “FOIA e-Learning Professionals Training” and “FOIA e-Learning EmployeesTraining.” The first module is an in-depth course specifically designed for FOIA professionals, addressing all of the major procedural and substantive requirements of FOIA. The second is a brief module designed for all employees that provide a primer on the FOIA and highlights ways in which employees can assist their agency in the administration of the law.
    • Quarterly FOIA Meetings. During the relevant period, the U.S. Department of Labor held quarterly Departmental FOIA meetings for the lead FOIA professionals for DOL’s 23 agency components, as well as key FOIA contacts throughout the nation.

      The purpose of these gatherings was to offer guidance regarding ongoing FOIA issues, such as the implementation of the FOIA Improvement Act of 2016 and DOL’s new FOIA regulations. In addition to the implementation of the FOIA Improvement Act of 2016 being discussed, these meetings were used to discuss the suggested best practices that resulted from DOL’s actions in response to the recommendations from a Government Accountability Office (GAO) examination. In addition, DOL uses these meetings to provide support to DOL FOIA professionals and to encourage them in their efforts to reduce overall FOIA backlog, as well as to close the ten oldest FOIA requests. DOL also used these and of accuracy in FOIA reporting data.
    • Training for Legal Staff. The Office of the Solicitor (SOL) training regarding “SOL’s Roles Related to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)” took place on November 16, 2017.  The session was designed to provide an overview of SOL’s roles, in DOL, regarding FOIA requests, both as legal advisor and as a responding component agency.  This training provided an overview of FOIA, including discussing the recent amendments and DOL’s regulatory changes.  This training was provided to SOL’s attorneys, paralegals and other personnel, designated as FOIA contacts within the Office of the Solicitor, who provide legal advice to client agencies on the implementation of FOIA.
    • Individual Internal Trainings. During the reporting period Departmental components conducted internal training sessions that were tailored to the specific needs of those agencies. Nine DOL agency components reported that they plan and regularly provide specialized training to individuals with FOIA related responsibilities and encourage staff to participate in outside training offerings such as those provided by the Department of Justice, the American Society for Access Professionals (ASAP) and the Graduate School, USA.
    • Other. During FY 2017, the Office of Information Services provided a special briefing to Departmental FOIA Coordinators regarding the impact of the FOIA Improvement Act of 2016 and FOIA processing moving forward after the FOIA amendment.

The chart below indicates specific FY 2017 percentages reported by agency components regarding the number of FOIA staff that received training.

Agency Component

Percentage of Employees Trained

MSHA 100%
ILAB 100%
VETS 95%
OALJ 66%
EBSA 80%
ODEP 100%
SOL 100%
OWCP 100%
OPA 100%
OIG 100%
ETA 95%
ASP 100%
OASAM 98%
ADJ Boards 100%
OLMS 100%
OSHA 93.3%
  1. Provide an estimate of the percentage of your FOIA professionals and staff with FOIA responsibilities who attended substantive FOIA training during this reporting period.
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Please note that some components did not provide statistical completion rates. Based on our records 90% of designated FOIA staff, across the Department, participated in the Department’s FOIA Conference, completed the training available via LearningLink, and/or sought out the FOIA related training materials posted on the intranet.

  1. OIP has directed agencies to “take steps to ensure that all of their FOIA professionals attend substantive FOIA training at least once throughout the year.” If your response to the previous question is that less than 80% of your FOIA professionals attended training, please explain your agency’s plan to ensure that all FOIA professionals receive or attend substantive FOIA training during the next reporting year. (Not Applicable)

B. Outreach

  1. Did your FOIA professionals engage in any outreach or dialogue with the requester community or open government groups regarding your administration of the FOIA?

Yes. The DOL FOIA Public Liaison continues to provide outreach services to requesters and groups, including public advocacy and open government entities concerning the processing of pending FOIA requests and FOIA policy at the Department.

Most Departmental components consistently engage in outreach or dialogue with requesters via email or telephone. For example, OWCP's Division for Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program (DEEOIC) annually meets with Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act (EEOIPA) advocates where FOIA is a topic of discussion.

C. Other Initiatives

The Office of Information Services issued several messages to managers, supervisors and others who are tangentially involved in the FOIA process regarding their obligations under FOIA. The following bullets outline some of the topics that were covered in various communiques:

The Office of Information Services regularly communicates with DOL employees regarding their obligations under FOIA.

Non-FOIA Professionals are also encouraged to attend the Department’s annual FOIA training conference and internal component trainings as well. Department components regularly share FOIA related information during their internal meetings or briefings as new guidance is issued from OIS. As previously mentioned, one of the online FOIA training modules, specifically targeted toward non-FOIA professionals, is available on the Department’s internal training site, LearningLink. Further, we have a robust web presence on the Department’s intranet site where information regarding FOIA training, training resources and other guidance documents are published and available for any staff member seeking to learn more about FOIA

  1. Describe any efforts your agency has undertaken to inform non-FOIA professionals of their obligations under the FOIA.

Yes. The Department of Labor updated its implementing FOIA regulations to reflect changes to the FOIA and to ensure the presumption of openness when responding to FOIA initial requests, consultations and appeals

During FY2017 and the first quarter of FY 2018, the Office of the Solicitor, Office of Information Services sent FOIA “Bulletins” to Departmental FOIA staff in an effort to supplement FOIA guidance that supports the presumption of openness. The following are examples of the subject matter contained within the bulletins:

  1. If there are any other initiatives undertaken by your agency to ensure that the presumption of openness is being applied, please describe them here.
    • FOIA Bulletin 17-03 - FOIA Processing Time Limits
    • FOIA Bulletin 17-04 - Requirements for FOIA Response Letters Pursuant to the FOIA Improvement Act of 2016
    • FOIA Bulletin 17-05 - Limitation on Charging Certain Fees Under FOIA
    • FOIA Bulletin 18-01 - DOJ/OIP Training Course Schedule

Section II: Steps Taken to Ensure that Your Agency Has an Effective System in Place for Responding to Requests

DOJ’s FOIA Guidelines emphasize that “[a]pplication of the proper disclosure standard is only one part of ensuring transparency. Open government requires not just a presumption of disclosure, but also an effective system for responding to FOIA requests.” It is essential that agencies effectively manage their FOIA program.

Please answer the following questions to describe the steps your agency has taken to ensure that the management of your FOIA program is effective and efficient. You should also include any additional information that that describes your agency's efforts in this area.

FY 2017 - Requests for Expedited Processing

  Average Number of
Days to Adjudicate
DOL Total 20.8
  1. For Fiscal Year 2017, what was the average number of days your agency reported for adjudicating requests for expedited processing? Please see Section VIII.A. of your agency's Fiscal Year 2017 Annual FOIA Report.
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Although the Departmental average is above 10 days, over 50% of DOL agency components adjudicated requests for expedited processing within 10 days of the receipt of the request. It is also important to note that the Department has reduced the number of days to adjudicate requests for expedited processing from 48.2 days in FY2016 to 34.2 days in FY2017.

To continue to underscore the importance of this issue, on December 6, 2017, the Office of Information Services held its first quarter FY 2018 Departmental FOIA Coordinators Meeting. At that time, the issue of making timely determinations in response to requests for expedited processing was addressed. Further guidance on this topic will be provided during the upcoming Annual FOIA Training Conference that is scheduled to take place during the spring of 2018.

  1. If your agency's average number of days to adjudicate requests for expedited processing was above ten calendar days, please describe the steps your agency will take to ensure that requests for expedited processing are adjudicated within ten calendar days or less. 

Yes.

  1. During the reporting period, did your agency conduct a self-assessment of its FOIA program? If so, please describe the methods used, such as reviewing Annual Report data, using active workflows and track management, reviewing and updating processing procedures, etc. 
    • Note: In September 2017, OIP released a FOIA Self-Assessment Toolkit as a resource for agencies conducting a self-assessment of their FOIA program. The Toolkit is available on OIP’s website for all agencies to use.

FOIA Administrative Reviews. The purpose of the FOIA administrative reviews, conducted by the Office of Information Services (OIS), is to identify best practices with regard to DOL’s FOIA administrative process and to offer agency components the opportunity to discuss any issues related to their agency’s handling of FOIA requests, including the implementation of the recent statutory and regulatory changes, as well as new and ongoing policy initiatives.

In conducting these reviews, OIS staff meets with FOIA Coordinators and other agency staff to obtain information regarding the components FOIA practices. In advance of the meeting, the agency components are provided with a list of topics that may be discussed during the review. By reviewing the responses received to OIS’s questions, OIS can analyze whether DOL components are properly implementing the statute, DOL’s FOIA regulations and existing policy guidance. Information gathered from the reviews is discussed with the parties involved in the reviews. Additionally, best practices solutions are shared in a generalized fashion during standing quarterly FOIA coordinator meetings. Going forward, administrative agency reviews will also include any aspects of the 13 areas that DOJ identified in its Self-assessment Toolkit that were not previously considered.

In addition to OIS’s Departmental reviews, many components conducted internal agency specific self-assessments of their FOIA programs to promote uniformity in applying the provisions of the statute. Most components reported that these initiatives involved issuing new or revised standard operating procedures, promoting accurate response letters, consistently looking for records to post to the component FOIA library, and developing more robust customer service initiatives. Each component confirmed that they regularly review annual and quarterly report data to ensure that they are aware of the pending workload

There was a total of 270 times in which requesters sought the assistance of the DOL FOIA Public Liaison. (Please see chart below.)

FY 2017 – Number of Times Where FOIA Public Liaison Services Were Rendered

Simple Issues

Complex Issues
*These requests involved OGIS or required more than one inquiry to the DOL component.

Total Number of Times

224 46 270
  1. The FOIA Improvement Act of 2016 requires additional notification to requesters about the services provided by the agency’s FOIA Public Liaison. Please provide an estimate of the number of times requesters sought assistance from your agency’s FOIA Public Liaison during FY 2017 (please provide a total number or an estimate of the number).
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  9. Optional Survey Question: If possible, please provide an estimate of the average number of pages that your agency processes for each request. You may provide estimates for each track. 
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  13. DOL does not maintain data to respond to this survey question

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Departmental components have reported that they are streamlining their coordination efforts between National and Regional offices regarding responses to requesters to ensure that they are providing consistent communications and processing related to FOIA disclosures. These components have also identified that they are improving search processes, developing repositories of standard language paragraphs, and ensuring that their standard operating procedures are current and reflect the new FOIA landscape.

  1. If there are any other steps your agency has undertaken to ensure that your FOIA system operates efficiently and effectively, such as improving search processes, eliminating redundancy, etc., please describe them here. 

Section III: Steps Taken to Increase Proactive Disclosures

The Department of Justice has long focused on the need for agencies to work proactively to post information online without waiting for individual requests to be received.

Please answer the following questions to describe the steps your agency has taken to increase the amount of material that is available on your agency websites. In addition to the questions below, you should also describe any additional steps taken by your agency to make and improve proactive disclosures of information.

Each agency component’s FOIA library can be accessed at http://www.dol.gov/dol/foia/

The following are some examples of documents that have been posted over the past year to DOL component FOIA libraries:

Agency Component 2017 Examples of Proactively Posted Documents
MSHA “Opinions and Orders” and “Statements of Policy and Interpretations” have been posted. The links to each of those pages can be accessed through our main FOIA page located at:
https://www.msha.gov/msha-foia-resources
ILAB ILAB has proactively disclosed material on it’s website to promote learning for employees such as: links to FOIA training, FOIA Bulletins and the Annual FOIA Report. See links below. https://www.dol.gov/newsroom/releases/ilab/ilab20170920
VETS VETS 4212’s are disclosed as required by statute; and information relating to annual Federal Contractor Veterans’ Employment Reports is available for review to the general public via https://www.data.gov
OFCCP OFCCP posts financial Conciliation Agreements in its FOIA Reading Room at:
https://www.dol.gov/ofccp/foia/foiareadingroom/index.html
OALJ All public filings, transcripts and issued documents in OFCCP v. Google Inc., ARB No. 17-059, ALJ No. 2017-OFC-000-4 and OFCCP v. Oracle America, Inc., 2017-OFC-00006. All materials are linked at: https://www.dol.gov/agencies/oalj/about/FOIA_Frequently_Requested_Records
EBSA EBSA’s dynamic website is updated, almost daily, with new, useful, materials. See EBSA’s homepage at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ebsa and note the useful “EBSA At a Glance” section, where EBSA posts practical material such as Presidential Memorandums, rulemaking material, and disaster relief information. EBSA’s FOIA page is at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ebsa/about-ebsa/our-activities/public-disclosure/foia.

Proactive disclosures such as key rulemaking and their public comments are timely posted on EBSA’s Website. EBSA’s public comments index page is at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ebsa/laws-and-regulations/rules-and-regulations/public-comments.

Frequently visited rulemaking is at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ebsa/laws-and-regulations/rules-and-regulations/public-comments/fiduciary-rule-examination and https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ebsa/laws-and-regulations/rules-and-regulations/public-comments/1210-AB39.

Other proactive disclosures such as EBSA’s FOIA reading room and Critical status notices are available at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ebsa/about-ebsa/our-activities/public-disclosure/foia/electronic, and https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ebsa/about-ebsa/our-activities/public-disclosure/critical-status-notices
BLS Purchase Card Holders - https://www.bls.gov/bls/cardholders.htm
OWCP EEOICPA and DEEOIC related materials - https://www.dol.gov/agencies/owcp/energy
ETA
  • OFA Budget Information/ OFLC FAQ Rounds
  • The Office of Job Corps publishes an extensive array of information and performance data at https://www.jobcorps.gov/;
  • The Office of Grant Management publishes new SGA awards, technical proposals, and abstracts at http://webapps.dol.gov/DOLGrantData/KeywordSearch.aspx?parameter=SGA-DFA-PY-13-11B
  • Even before FOIA requests are made, the Office of Foreign Labor Certification publishes a variety of data and information quarterly at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/eta/foreign-labor;
  • The Office of Foreign Labor Certification also publishes redacted copies of employer job orders at https://flag.dol.gov/;
  • The Office of Trade Adjustment Assistance publishes TAA petitions at: https://www.dol.gov/agencies/eta/tradeact
OIG The OIG published Audits and Oversight Reports at:
OLMS Records related to OLMS’s administration and enforcement of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959 (LMRDA), such as the Trusteeship Case Decisions; Transit Employee Protection Decisions; OLMS Director and Assistant Secretary Decisions and Orders; Form LM-2 Hardship Determinations; and Frequently Requested Reports (CAP Closing Letters, I-CAP Closing Letters, OLMS Historical Enforcement Data, OLMS Annual Reports).
https://www.dol.gov/agencies/olms/public-disclosure-room
ASP OASP published several documents in response to FOIA requests on the Department’s Regulatory Reform Task Force. Those documents are available online at:
OSHA OSHA Proactive Disclosures can be found at:
https://www.osha.gov/foia
WHD WHD posts investigative results, guidance, opinion letters, Field Operating Handbooks and more on the WHD website. https://www.dol.gov/whd/FOH/
  1. Provide examples of material that your agency has proactively disclosed during the past reporting year, including links to the posted material 
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Yes. . The following chart highlights examples of proactive disclosures for public awareness:

DOL Agency Component Examples of Proactively Posted Documents
ILAB ILAB utilizes its Newsroom on www.dol.gov to post new ILAB initiatives. For example, we just posted, on September 20, 2017, information about our new app for Comply Chain and its new research and app to combat the worst forms of child labor and modern slavery.
https://www.dol.gov/newsroom/releases/ilab/ilab20170920
EBSA On its Website, EBSA invites its visitors to subscribe to general EBSA updates or updates on a particular subject. These subscribers then receive email blasts when new information is posted. Similarly, press releases always include links to EBSA’s website.
MSHA, BLS, OWCP Email Subscription Service
OFCCP In 2015, the agency launched the Class Member Locator (CML). The purpose of the CML is to identify applicants and/or workers who may have been affected by OFCCP’s compliance evaluations and complaint investigations and who may be entitled to a portion of monetary relief and/or consideration for job placement. For each case listed in the CML, OFCCP posts information about the issues in the case summary, the Conciliation Agreement, and the press release, if applicable.
OIG Email Subscription Service, Twitter
VETS Federal Register
  1. Did your agency use any means to publicize or highlight important proactive disclosures for public awareness? If yes, please describe these efforts.
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  1. Beyond posting new material, is your agency taking steps to make the posted information more useful to the public, especially to the community of individuals who regularly access your agency’s website? Yes

The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) collaborates with offices both within and outside of MSHA to identify and produce a greater number of appropriate materials for proactive disclosures. This effort enables MSHA to identify material that is of interest to the public, as well as determine the best method of disclosure to the public. MSHA has also engaged with FOIA requesters to greater meet their needs in information they seek. The ability to outreach and work with a multitude of resources enables the component to increase proactive disclosures both in quantity and quality.

The Office of Workers Compensation Programs (OWCP) has a survey posted on their websites for individuals to provide comments on the ease of use and the value of the information available. OWCP also solicits feedback through our public email box.

The Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) continues to improve its recently reorganized website. EBSA is reviewing the findings of the usability testing so that it can expand the navigation and search functions, such as making frequently visited pages easier to find. EBSA has added a practical “People Are Asking” section on the homepage to provide direct links to the most requested pages. EBSA has updated its Website navigation to make popular pages such as the public comments index page easier to find and added a “Laws and Regulations” tab and a Website map.

The Office of the Administrative Law Judges (OALJ) redesigned its website to make all ALJ orders issued on or after October 31, 2017 available online, unless under seal due to a FOIA exemption. In addition, OALJ’s case status lookup feature now directly links to these documents.

The Employment Training Administration(ETA) ETA/Office of Financial Administration (OFA) proactively discloses OFA-Budget information; State Statutory Formula Funding, Quarterly State WIA/WIOA Spending Summaries, Annual State WIA Obligation Summaries, WIA Spending and Obligation Rate Visualizations. All of these disclosures can be found at: https://www.dol.gov/agencies/eta/budget.

The Adjudicatory Boards (Adj Boards) In FY 2017, the Boards IT Section made additional search enhancements to the BRB and ECAB Decisions websites such as providing searchers the ability to search by date ranges, new sorting features that provide more reliable results with actual count of search hits.

  1. If yes, please provide examples of such improvements.

Agency Component

2017 Other Steps to Improve Proactive Disclosures

ILAB

ILAB has used analytics with regard to its Sweat and Toil App where the bureau was able to obtain user data and discover what types of users are on our website and what countries are clicking links from Google and iTunes and what countries are most interested in using the app currently.

EBSA

EBSA uses usability testing, website feedback (from the “Was This Helpful” tool and comments to the webmaster) as well as web metrics to determine additional information to post in response to Website visitors’ requests. The section, “People Are Asking” on EBSA’s homepage provides direct links to the most requested material. For example, as a result of responses in the usability testing and Website feedback, we are posting guidance looking back to the enactment of ERISA law. EBSA also posted a large volume of files in printer friendly format in response to requests from visitors. As there has been and remains significant interest in EBSA’s ongoing rulemaking, particularly interest in the comments received in response, EBSA posted these incoming comments on a daily basis before the comment period ended.

  1. If there are any other steps your agency has taken to improve proactive disclosures, please describe them here. For example, has your agency engaged requesters in determining how and what to post? Has your agency used web analytics to inform your proactive disclosures?  Yes
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Section IV: Steps Taken to Greater Utilize Technology

A key component of FOIA administration is using technology to make information more accessible. In addition to using the internet to make proactive disclosures, agencies should also be exploring ways to utilize technology in responding to requests. 

Please answer the following questions to describe how your agency is utilizing technology to improve its FOIA administration and the public's access to information. You should also include any additional information that that describes your agency's efforts in this area.

DOL Agency Component Examples of Proactively Posted Documents

MSHA

MSHA’s FOIA office leveraged available technology be increasing and implementing new processes for the use of (1) a shared drive (for standardized letters); (2) an internal document sharing platform; and (3) using Adobe Acrobat XI Pro to process FOIA requests.

ILAB

ILAB’s best practices to leverage technology to facilitate FOIA efficiency have been as follows:

  • Use more e-discovery tools by working with OCIO to assist us in completing key word e-mail searches.
  • Coordinate with OCIO to assist ILAB with the search process which saves time with searching through voluminous emails on our own.
  • Identify what fees are necessary for processing so that requests are processed in a timely manner.

OFCCP

OFCCP uses SharePoint and Adobe Acrobat to facilitate the processing of its requests. In FY 2018, OFCCP plans to implement an electronic records management system and a document management system for case files, which are expected to facilitate records search and retrieval.

OALJ

OALJ enhanced its case status lookup page on its website to include more case events, and to link directly to all ALJ orders issued in cases (except for those that are exempt from disclosure under FOIA) on or after Oct. 31, 2017. Previously, only final decisions were posted online. In addition, OALJ will soon be transitioning its website to a new Drupal-based platform. This new platform will should further enhance the public’s ability to access ALJ-issued documents online without filing a FOIA request.

EBSA

The national and regional FOIA staff continues to use a common drive to share FOIA records between EBSA offices for redaction purposes. EBSA routinely uses cloud-based secure file sharing technology including with requestors to reduce the response times associated with the receipt of postal mail. EBSA conducted staff training on Adobe Acrobat Pro.

OWCP

The DEEOIC National Office has set up internal shared drive web-links, so that DEEOIC officials and staff members can upload responsive emails and other records to one location where multiple users have access to review and redact documents. This initiative reduces the number of duplicative records and the amount of search time for others. In addition, DEEOIC National Office has started to implement the use of SharePoint in the FOIA review process.

OIG

The OIG recently launched the pilot phase of a secure, cloud-based file exchange system known as BOX. This solution will allow the transmittal of large files to external stakeholders. BOX can be used in cases where file sizes exceed what our email system can support, and/or where external stakeholders do not allow transfer of files by conventional email.

WHD

Utilizes SharePoint Cloud for all FOIA Administrative Records, has initiated the use of electronic signatures and works to process records for disclosure using electronic methods.

  1. Has your agency identified any best practices to leverage technology to facilitate overall FOIA efficiency, such as improving record search capabilities, utilizing document sharing platforms for consultations and referrals, or employing software that can sort and de-duplicate documents? If yes please describe the best practices, the types of technology used and the impact on your agency’s processing.
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  1. Did your agency successfully post all four quarterly reports for Fiscal Year 2017? Yes
  1. If your agency did not successfully post all quarterly reports, with information appearing on FOIA.gov, please explain why and provide your agency’s plan for ensuring that such reporting is successful in Fiscal Year 2018. N/A
  1. The FOIA Improvement Act of 2016 requires all agencies to post the raw statistical data used to compile their Annual FOIA Reports. Please provide the link to this posting for your agency’s Fiscal Year 2016 Annual FOIA Report and, if available, for your agency’s Fiscal Year 2017 Annual FOIA Report. https://www.dol.gov/sol/foia/2017anrpt.htm

The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) has developed an updated website which addressed concerns of the public and has several improvements including the presentation of posted material, better search capabilities, more content, and easier navigation.

The Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) continues to solicit feedback on its website about the content of the FOIA website, and incorporates those suggestions to improve information sharing.

The Office of Workers Compensation Programs (OWCP) created a “Public Reading Room” section to specifically post materials of interest to our stakeholders.

The Women’s Bureau (WB) routinely posts agency priorities related to initiatives, events, reports, fact sheets, publications, and other resource information, as well as available videos and media pursuant to webcasts, simulcasts, blogs, etc.); In addition, WB routinely compiles and shares metrics and statistical data, in addition to frequently requested records, as available.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) offers requesters assistance with navigating the agency’s public website to obtain the information they are seeking and also clarification of the information is provided as needed.

The Employees’ Compensation Appeals Board (ECAB) has improved/upgraded the search engine for its “Decision” website.

The Veterans Employment and Training Service (VETS) continues to improve presentation and search capabilities on the VETS FOIA website.

The Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) conducted a website usability study to solicit feedback from its constituents, access professionals, and researchers to make information more accessible and useful for them. In addition, EBSA routinely reviews feedback received from its “Was this Helpful” button on its Web pages as well as comments received through the Webmaster. This year, the website content was reorganized based on the usability testing results. The reorganization included a Public Disclosure Web page providing easy access to online public disclosure materials frequently requested, as well as information on FOIA. The agency also features key topics such as ongoing rulemaking and Form 5500 filings and data, on a highlighted page.

  1. If there are any other steps your agency has taken to improve use of technology in FOIA, please describe them here. 

Section V: Steps Taken to Improve Timeliness in Responding to Requests and Reduce Backlogs

The Department of Justice has emphasized the importance of improving timeliness in responding to requests. This section of your Chief FOIA Officer Report addresses both time limits and backlog reduction. Backlog reduction is measured both in terms of numbers of backlogged requests or appeals and by looking at whether agencies closed their ten oldest requests, appeals, and consultations.

For the figures required in this Section, please use the numbers contained in the specified sections of your agency’s 2017 Annual FOIA Report and, when applicable, your agency’s 2016 Annual FOIA Report.

A. Simple Track

Section VII.A of your agency’s Annual FOIA Report, entitled "FOIA Requests – Response Time for All Processed Requests," includes figures that show your agency's average response times for processed requests. For agencies utilizing a multi-track system to process requests, there is a category for "simple" requests, which are those requests that are placed in the agency’s fastest (non-expedited) track, based on the low volume and/or simplicity of the records requested.

  1. Does your agency utilize a separate track for simple requests? Yes.

No. The average was 27.9 days.

  1. If so, for your agency overall in Fiscal Year 2015, was the average number of days to process simple requests twenty working days or fewer?

Simple Requests - FY 2017

 

Number of Simple Requests Processed

Average Number of Days

Total Number of Requests Processed

Percentage of Total Requests

DOL OVERALL

5,706

27.9

15,946

35%

  1. Please provide the percentage of requests processed by your agency in Fiscal Year 2017 that were placed in your simple track. 




  2.  
  3.  
  4.  
  5.  
  1. If your agency does not track simple requests separately, was the average number of days to process all non-expedited requests twenty working days or fewer? N/A

B. Backlogs

Section XII.A of your agency's Annual FOIA Report, entitled "Backlogs of FOIA Requests and Administrative Appeals" shows the numbers of any backlogged requests or appeals from the fiscal year. You should refer to these numbers from your Annual FOIA Reports for both Fiscal Year 2016 and Fiscal Year 2017 when completing this section of your Chief FOIA Officer Report.

Backlogged Requests:

Yes.

  FY 2016 DOL FOIA Backlog FY 2017 DOL FOIA Backlog
DOL OVERALL 685 594
  1. If your agency had a backlog of requests at the close of Fiscal Year 2017, did that backlog decrease as compared with the backlog reported at the end of Fiscal Year 2016? 
  2.  
  3.  
  4.  
  5.  
  6.  
  7.  
  8.  

N/A

  1. If not, explain why and describe the causes that contributed to your agency not being able to reduce its backlog. When doing so, please also indicate if any of the following were contributing factors:
    • An increase in the number of incoming requests.
    • A loss of staff.
    • An increase in the complexity of the requests received. If possible, please provide examples or briefly describe the types of complex requests contributing to your backlog increase.
    • Any other reasons – please briefly describe or provide examples when possible.

The Department received a total of 15,813 requests during FY 2017. The total backlog at the end of the fiscal year was 594 requests which account for 4.2% percent of the total requests received.

FY 2017 - FOIA Backlog

 

Total Number of Requests Received Total Number of Backlog at End of FY 2017 Percentage of Total Requests
DOL OVERALL 15,813 594 4.2%
  1. If you had a request backlog please report the percentage of requests that make up the backlog out of the total number of requests received by your agency in Fiscal Year 2017.
  2.  
  3.  
  4.  
  5.  
  6.  
  7.  
  8.  

 

Backlogged Appeals:

 

  1. If your agency had a backlog of appeals at the close of Fiscal Year 2017, did that backlog decrease as compared with the backlog reported at the end of Fiscal Year 2016? No.
  1. If not, explain why and describe the causes that contributed to your agency not being able reduce backlog. When doing so, please also indicate if any of the following were contributing factors: N/A
    • An increase in the number of incoming appeals
    • A loss in staff
    • An increase in the complexity of the requests received. If possible, please provide examples or briefly describe the types of complex requests contributing to your backlog increase.
    • Any other reasons - please briefly describe or provide examples when possible

 

Fiscal Year Number of Backlogged Appeals at the End of the Fiscal Year Number of Appeals Received Percentage of Appeals Received
2016 422 332 130%
2017 346 228 151%
  1. If you had an appeal backlog please report the percentage of appeals that make up the backlog out of the total number of appeals received by your agency in Fiscal Year 2017. If your agency did not receive any appeals in Fiscal Year 2017 and/or has no appeal backlog, please answer with "N/A."




  2.  
  3.  
  4.  
  5.  

C. Backlog Reduction Plans

  1. In the 2017 guidelines for Chief FOIA Officer Reports, any agency with a backlog of over 1000 requests in Fiscal Year 2016 was asked to provide a plan for achieving backlog reduction in the year ahead. Did you agency implement a backlog reduction plan last year? If so, describe your agency’s efforts in implementing this plan and note if your agency was able to achieve backlog reduction in Fiscal Year 2017? N/A
  1. If your agency had a backlog of more than 1,000 requests in Fiscal Year 2017, what is your agency’s plan to reduce this backlog during Fiscal Year 2018? N/A

D. Status of Ten Oldest Requests, Appeals, and Consultations

Section VII.E, entitled "Pending Requests – Ten Oldest Pending Requests," Section VI.C.(5), entitled "Ten Oldest Pending Administrative Appeals," and Section XII.C., entitled "Consultations on FOIA Requests – Ten Oldest Consultations Received from Other Agencies and Pending at Your Agency," show the ten oldest pending requests, appeals, and consultations. You should refer to these numbers from your Annual FOIA Reports for both Fiscal Year 2016 and Fiscal Year 2017 when completing this section of your Chief FOIA Officer Report.

TEN OLDEST REQUESTS

FY 2016 - Ten Oldest FOIA Initial Requests   FY 2017 - Ten Oldest FOIA Initial Requests

  10th Oldest

04-08-2013
877
WHD

 

  10th Oldest

02-10-2014
1500
OWCP

  9th Oldest

03-13-2013
916
OWCP

  9th Oldest

02-07-2014
889
WHD

 8th Oldest

01-15-2013
920
OWCP

 8th Oldest

01-28-2014
901
OWCP

 7th Oldest

04-16-2012
921
OWCP

 7th Oldest

01-28-2014
901
OWCP

 6th Oldest

04-04-2012
940
ILAB

 6th Oldest

09-11-2013
1017
OSHA

 5th Oldest

04-04-2012
940
ILAB

 5th Oldest

07-30-2013
1045
OASAM

 4th Oldest

03-27-2012
1,136
WHD

 4th Oldest

07-22-2013
1053
WHD

 3rd Oldest

09-20-2011
1,251
WHD

 3rd Oldest

06-11-2013
1061
WHD

 2nd Oldest

08-13-2010
1,255
OLMS

 2nd Oldest

03-13-2013
1211
OWCP

 Oldest Request

08-13-2010
1,255
OLMS

 Oldest Request

09-20-2011
1500
WHD

  1. In Fiscal Year 2017, did your agency close the ten oldest requests that were reported pending in your Fiscal Year 2016 Annual FOIA Report? No

  2.  
  3.  
  4.  
  5.  
  6.  


  7.  
  8.  

As demonstrated in yellow highlights within the table above, eight of the ten oldest FY 2016 pending FOIA initial requests were closed during FY 2017. The asterisks in the second chart indicate requests that have been fully processed and closed since the end of FY2017.

  1. If no, please provide the number of these requests your agency was able to close by the end of the fiscal year, as listed in Section VII.E of your Fiscal Year 2016 Annual FOIA Report. If you had less than ten total oldest requests to close, please indicate that.
  1. Of the requests your agency was able to close from your ten oldest, please indicate how many of these were closed because the request was withdrawn by the requester. If any were closed because the request was withdrawn, did you provide any interim responses prior to the withdrawal? N/A

Ten Oldest Consultations

  1. In Fiscal Year 2017, did your agency close the ten oldest appeals that were reported pending in your Fiscal Year 2016 Annual FOIA Report? No

FY 2016 - Ten Oldest FOIA Initial Requests

 

FY 2017 - Ten Oldest FOIA Initial Requests

  10th Oldest

03-18-2013
891

 

  10th Oldest

09-09-2013
1,019

  9th Oldest

11-06-2012
979

  9th Oldest

09-09-2013
1,019

 8th Oldest

08-09-2012
1,040

 8th Oldest

08-09-2012
1,290

 7th Oldest

06-15-2012
1,078

 7th Oldest

06-15-2012
1,328

 6th Oldest

12-06-2011
1,211

 6th Oldest

12-06-2011
1,461

 5th Oldest

12-06-2011
1,211

 5th Oldest

12-06-2011
1,461

 4th Oldest

12-06-2011
1,211

 4th Oldest

12-06-2011
1,461

 3rd Oldest

12-06-2011
1,211

 3rd Oldest

12-06-2011
1,461

 2nd Oldest

12-06-2011
1,211

 2nd Oldest

12-06-2011
1,461

 Oldest Request

11-21-2011
1,221

 Oldest Request

11-21-2011
1,471

  1. If no, please provide the number of these appeals your agency was able to close by the end of the fiscal year, as listed in Section VII.C.(5) of your Fiscal Year 2016 Annual FOIA Report. If you had less than ten total oldest appeals to close, please indicate that.
  2.  
  3.  
  4.  
  5. As demonstrated in yellow highlights within the table above, two of the ten oldest FY 2016 FOIA appeals were closed during FY 2017.

  6.  
  7.  
  8.  

Ten Oldest Consultations

  1. In Fiscal Year 2017, did your agency close the ten oldest consultations that were reported pending in your Fiscal Year 2016 Annual FOIA Report? No

FY 2016 - Ten Oldest FOIA Initial Requests

 

FY 2017 - Ten Oldest FOIA Initial Requests

  10th Oldest

N/A
 

 

  10th Oldest

N/A
 

  9th Oldest

09-29-2016
2

  9th Oldest

N/A
 

 8th Oldest

09-12-2016
11

 8th Oldest

N/A
 

 7th Oldest

08-25-2016
26

 7th Oldest

N/A
 

 6th Oldest

08-24-2016
27

 6th Oldest

N/A
 

 5th Oldest

04-05-2016
125

 5th Oldest

N/A
 

 4th Oldest

01-28-2015
422

 4th Oldest

N/A
 

 3rd Oldest

10-06-2014
498

 3rd Oldest

N/A
 

 2nd Oldest

08-13-2010
500

 2nd Oldest

09-25-2017
3

 Oldest Request

08-13-2010
500

 Oldest Request

04-05-2016
4

  1. If no, please provide the number of these consultations your agency was able to close by the end of the fiscal year, as listed in Section XII.C. of your Fiscal Year 2016 Annual FOIA Report. If you had less than ten total oldest consultations to close, please indicate that.
  2.  
  3.  
  4.  
  5. As demonstrated in yellow highlights within the table above, eight of the nine oldest consultations reported in FY 2016 were closed during FY 2017.

  6.  
  7.  
  8.  

E. Additional Information on Ten Oldest Requests, Appeals, and Consultations & Plans

In addition to staff turnover (and in some cases, reductions in staff), some other obstacles included large requests made for voluminous data, the EO 12600 process, and pending litigation matters related to pending FOIA requests and appeals

 

  1. Briefly explain any obstacles your agency faced in closing its ten oldest requests, appeals, and consultations from Fiscal Year 2017.
  1. If your agency was unable to close any of its ten oldest requests because you were waiting to hear back from other agencies on consultations you sent, please provide the date the request was initially received by your agency, the date when your agency sent the consultation, and the date when you last contacted the agency where the consultation was pending. N/A

There are many complexities that affect the Department's ability to close requests, appeals and consultations that are backlogged, particularly those that are among the oldest cases still pending with agency. Despite these complexities, the Department and the agency components continue to make significant efforts to close these requests and appeals. As the Department's FOIA operations are decentralized, most agency components have developed unique plans aimed at closing their oldest requests, appeals or consultations. Most plan to ensure ongoing oversight, communication and support for the program areas handling the requests to assist in the review of responsive documents. Other components have committed to making management aware of the issues impacting its ability to close older cases and establishing deadlines to ensure that such request are being placed as a top priority. With regard to several pending requests/appeals that are still “open” due to litigation, the components will continue to monitor the progress of the matter and stand ready to implement the resolution. Once these matters are resolved, the underlying FOIA request can be fully processed and closed in our tracking system.

  1. If your agency did not close its ten oldest pending requests, appeals, or consultations, please provide a plan describing how your agency intends to close those “ten oldest” requests, appeals, and consultations during Fiscal Year 2017

F. Success Stories

Out of all the activities undertaken by your agency since March 2017 to increase transparency and improve FOIA administration, please briefly describe here at least one success story that you would like to highlight as emblematic of your agency’s efforts. The success story can come from any one of the five key areas. As noted above, OIP will highlight these agency success stories during Sunshine Week. To facilitate this process, all agencies should use bullets to describe their success story and limit their text to a half page. The success story is designed to be a quick summary of key achievements. A complete description of all your efforts will be contained in the body of your Chief FOIA Officer Report.

Office of the Assistant Secretary for Administration and Management (OASAM)

      After identifying that similar complex FOIA requests were pending from different DOL regions which had resulted in a significant amount of confusion and correspondence, OASAM’s FOIA coordinator helped establish a best practice to reply to these requests, as well as new processing going forward.  Under the new system for handling similar situation involving complex and duplicated requests, one office will be designated as responsible for preparing the responses from all of the regions.  This new procedure:

  • Will avoid redundancy and ensure consistency in the responses
  • Improve timing of responding to FOIA requests
  • Help ensure accuracy of fee assessments