U.S. Department of Labor
2021 Chief FOIA Officer Report
Solicitor of Labor/DOL Chief FOIA Officer
(March 19, 2020 through March 15, 2021)
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 differing 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. SOL houses the Department's Chief FOIA Officer and FOIA Public Liaison. In addition, the SOL Management and Administrative Legal Services Division (MALS) houses the Office of Information Services (OIS), Counsel for FOIA, FACA and Privacy Act, 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, defending FOIA litigation, and addressing 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 Fiscal Year 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor received 15,820 FOIA requests and processed 15,645 requests. As demonstrated within the table below, the majority of the requests received were by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA – 60%), followed by the Wage and Hour Division (WHD – 11%), the Office of Workers Compensation Programs (OWCP - 7%), Employment Training Administration (ETA – 5%), and Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA – 5%). The remaining eight percent of the Department's requests were processed by the other 18 agency components.
DOL FOIA Modernization
For the past two years, the Department has been evaluating processes and protocols to implement changes aimed at improving the effectiveness of the overall FOIA program. As part of this process, we determined that we needed to leverage technology to modernize this task. Since 2006, the Department had been using the Secretary's Information Management System for FOIA (SIMS-FOIA) to track and manage FOIA requests. SIMS-FOIA also served as the central data source for all of the Department's mandated reporting, including the annual FOIA report. After a year of concentrated effort in this area, the Department launched FOIAXpress for all DOL components (except OIG) on October 1, 2020. Shortly thereafter, legacy data regarding initial FOIA requests was migrated from SIMS-FOIA to FOIAXpress. Likewise, information regarding FOIA appeals was migrated from its legacy tracking system, the Matter Management System (MMS), making FOIAXpress the sole source of all FOIA related data for the Department.
Following the Department's launch of FOIAXpress in October 2020 and subsequent migration of legacy data into this new processing system, the Department continues working toward fully implementing the administrative and processing efficiencies FOIAXpress offers, such as correspondence management; electronic posting, an internal collaboration portal feature that allows to share documents during processing, and a Public Access Link (PAL) that will enable FOIA requesters to register and file requests directly with the DOL agency from which they are seeking records.
Total Number of Requests Received: 15,820
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 Leadership
- The FOIA requires each agency to designate a Chief FOIA Officer who is a senior official at the Assistant Secretary or equivalent level. See 5 U.S.C. § 552(j)(1) (2018). Is your agency's Chief FOIA Officer at this level?
- Please provide the name and title of your agency's Chief FOIA Officer.
The designated Chief FOIA Officer for the U.S. Department of Labor is the Solicitor of Labor. For most of this reporting period, Kate S. O'Scannlain served as the Department's Solicitor and its Chief FOIA Officer. The objectives she established and the achievements documented in this report reflect her statutory responsibility to promote efficient and effective FOIA administration across the Department. At this time, the position of Solicitor is vacant.
B. FOIA Training
- The FOIA directs agency Chief FOIA Officers to ensure that FOIA training is offered to agency personnel. See 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(j)(2)(F). Please describe the efforts your agency has undertaken to ensure proper FOIA training is made available and used by agency personnel.
The U.S. Department of Labor provides FOIA training for managers and FOIA Service Center staff via its LearningLink on-line training library. LearningLink is DOL's e-Training solution which provides employees access to a one-stop portal of training programs and services.
The Department encourages all new and current employees with FOIA responsibilities to utilize the Learning Link On-line Module for FOIA training. FOIA professionals may choose one or two FOIA e-learning training courses, "FOIA e-Learning Professional Training" and "FOIA e-Learning Employees Training." 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 course is a brief module designed for all employees that provide limited FOIA support and highlights ways in which employees can assist their agencies in the administration of the FOIA statute.
The Office of Information Services (OIS) has made available to DOL employees via the Department's internal LaborNet, a series of videos that contain segments of sessions that were pre-recorded from prior DOL FOIA training conferences. The agency has made a concerted effort to encourage FOIA staff to take part in other training opportunities such as those that are provided by the U.S. Department of Justice, as well as other organizations that offer comprehensive FOIA instruction, such as the American Society of Access Professionals and the Graduate School USA.
The Department, through OIS, holds quarterly FOIA Coordinator briefings in which all FOIA contacts Department-wide are encouraged to attend. The primary purpose of the sessions is to share best practices and offer administrative and procedural guidance to staff. Other topics of interest include FOIA reporting, backlog reduction plans and FOIA administrative process. During FY 2020, FOIA Coordinators were also offered formal training on the use of FOIAXpress through scheduled demonstrations, questions and answer sessions, as well as self-paced training videos.
- Did your FOIA professionals or the personnel at your agency who have FOIA responsibilities attend substantive FOIA training during the reporting period such as that provided by the Department of Justice?
- If yes, please provide a brief description of the type of training attended or conducted and the topics covered.
Please see the table below that is labeled "FOIA Training."
- Please provide an estimate of the percentage of your FOIA professionals and staff with FOIA responsibilities who attended substantive FOIA training during this reporting period.
- 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.
|Agency Component||"FOIA Training"||Percentage Trained|
Adjudicatory Board staff participated in training on the use of FOIAXpress.
Each staff member with FOIA responsibilities took the training modules on Learning Link "FOIA e-Learning Professionals Training" and "FOIA e-Learning Employees Training."
BLS FOIA staff participated in training on the use of FOIAXpress.
Two staff members attended the annual FOIA conference hosted by the American Society for Access Professionals (ASAP).
BLS FOIA professionals also attended OIP trainings on Exemptions 4, 5 and 6, the Privacy Act and the two-day FOIA Overview.
EBSA staff participated in training on the use of FOIAXpress. EBSA supplemented the formal training on the system by developing and providing in-house, small group and individual training sessions for the implementation of FOIAXpress. Most of EBSA's staff attended at least one of these training sessions.
Several FOIA staff attended the OIP two-day FOIA Overview Training.
ETA conducted the following FOIA training:
ETA conducted and participated in substantive FOIA training during the reporting period for the following personnel: ETA's FOIA Program Manager and backup FOIA Coordinator, ETA's program offices' primary and backup FOIA Coordinators; non-FOIA staff and managers, as well as subject matter experts involved in the supervision or processing of FOIA requests.
ETA's FOIA Program Manager and program office's FOIA Coordinators conducted various small group, regional, individual/desk-side, and forum/workshop training sessions for their FOIA personnel (Federal and contractors) on fees, redactions, processing, discretionary disclosures, denials, applying exemptions, tracking software (SIMS-FOIA and FOIAXpress), and comprehensive FOIA training for new and existing access professionals (Federal and contractors).
ETA/OCCC back-up FOIA Coordinator participated in "Virtual Introduction to FOIA" and "Artificial Intelligence for FOIA Professionals" that were hosted by OIP.
There were also Departmental trainings for all DOL employees that touched on various FOIA and Privacy Act subjects, responsibilities, and/or precautions such as Information Systems Security and Privacy Awareness; and 2020 Records and Information Management.
All ETA program offices participated in training on FOIAXpress, the Department's new FOIA-processing system
ETA/OFLC FOIA staff conducted informal training and briefings for its non-FOIA professionals as requested. The training was presented via Skype or Teams using a PowerPoint.
ETA/OTAA continues to conduct mini-workshops/brown bag sessions as needed on FOIA protocols and division impacts. This has served to reduce staff uncertainty and ambiguity.
The ILAB FOIA coordinator attended multiple FOIA meetings and trainings in 2020 conducted by OIP. These sessions included: October 15th Virtual Annual FOIA Report training, Advanced FOIA Seminar February 18, 2020 and all SOL Quarterly Training opportunities.
The ILAB FOIA coordinator and the ILAB FOIA backup attended 100% percent of the training opportunities that were offered during this reporting period. The ILAB FOIA Staff also attended each session of the new DOL training for FOIAXpress.
MSHA FOIA Coordinators attended the Department of Labor (DOL) and Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) Quarterly FOIA meetings. The topics covered were administrative processing, FOIA exemptions, fees, the E.O. 12600 process, FOIA best practices, and records management.
FOIA trainings were held with MSHA FOIA Coordinators in headquarters and district offices to provide an overview of the MSHA FOIA program. The topics covered were overdue reports, use of FOIA exemptions, FOIA database, fees and waivers, appeals process, records management, coordinating FOIA requests within multiple Program Areas, and general challenges in FOIA processing.
All new FOIA Coordinators participated in on-line training including FOIA eLearning Professional Training and FOIA eLearning Employees Training. These courses covered procedural requirements, FOIA processing start to finish, and exemptions overview.
FOIA Coordinators attended the following training provided by the Department of Justice: Introduction to the Freedom of Information Act; Best Practices Workshop; Freedom of Information Act for Attorneys and Access Professionals
|OALJ||OALJ Senior Staff Attorneys and the FOIA Disclosure Officers have taken virtual training through the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Information Policy, or a LearningLink FOIA refresher course.||100%|
OASAM conducts quarterly FOIA coordinator meetings and training, as well as ad hoc training on various FOIA subjects (e.g., exemptions, properly closing FOIAs, tolling FOIAs, etc.)
OASAM staff also attended the Department of Justice/OIP Annual FOIA training sessions: FOIA for Beginners; Artificial Intelligence for FOIA and, Virtual Litigation Workshop in 2021.
|OASP||The Office of the Assistant Secretary for Policy (OASP) FOIA Coordinator and Administrative Officer attended the new DOL FOIAXpress case tracking system training. In addition, the OASP FOIA Coordinator attended virtual training provided by OIP regarding Exemption (b)(5) and Privacy Interests. OASP staff also used the internal DOL website maintained by SOL that provides various helpful FOIA resources for agency review/use (e.g., training, procedural resources, guidance, directories, etc.).||100%|
OCFO FOIA staff attended DOL FOIAXpress training sessions.
Each staff member with FOIA responsibilities took the training modules on Learning Link "FOIA e-Learning Professionals Training" and "FOIA e-Learning Employees Training."
OCIA FOIA staff attended DOL FOIAXpress meetings and training.
Each staff member with FOIA responsibilities took the training modules on Learning Link "FOIA e-Learning Professionals Training" and "FOIA e-Learning Employees Training."
ODEP staff participated in FOIAXpress training and attended quarterly FOIA Coordinator meetings that were hosted by the SOL's Office of Information Services.
Members of the OFCCP team attended online training offered by OIP meant to apprise FOIA practitioners about new issues with FOIA. The training sessions included an Advanced FOIA Seminar, Exemption 7 Workshop, and Introduction to FOIA Course.
|OIG||OIG's FOIA Manager attended the Advanced Freedom of Information Act Seminar hosted by OIP –February 2020 and the Advanced FOIA Litigation Training by Department of Justice-October 2020.||100%|
OLMS FOIA contacts participated in FOIAXpress demos and training during the year.
OPA FOIA staff attended FOIAXpress Training during FY 2020.
|OSEC||OSEC utilized training/guidance that was provided by SOL/OIS throughout the year. OSEC staff also participated in FOIAXpress training sessions.||100%|
OSHA offered remote FOIA training to all its FOIA personnel. OSHA offers one hour Q&A conference calls with its FOIA staff to answer any questions they have. In January 2021, OSHA had in person training for members of its FOIA Pilot team at its training center in Chicago.
OSHA offered remote training on FOIA processing. The training included what was a perfected FOIA request, proper means of delivery of a request to OSHA, what is a federal record, searching and documenting the search for records, review of records and the foreseeable harm analysis, fees, fee waivers and appeals. Some OSHA processors also attended DOJ remote training.
OWCP FOIA staff attended DOL's FOIAXpress training sessions.
All SOL designated FOIA contacts engaged in comprehensive FOIAXpress training. In addition, FOIA staff participated in training that was provided by OIP and the American Society of Access Professionals.
Most staff took the training modules on Learning Link "FOIA e-Learning Professionals Training" and "FOIA e-Learning Employees Training.".
VETS FOIA Staff participated in FOIAXpress training sessions that were provided by the Department.
|WB||WB FOIA staff took the LearningLink refresher training for agency FOIA personnel.||100%|
WHD FOIA staff participated in the following training sessions:
Artificial Intelligence for FOIA Professionals (DOJ-OIP)
OGIS FOIA Advisory Committee Meetings
Internal FOIAXpress Training
WHD specific training conference which included speakers from SOL/OIS.
- Did your FOIA professionals engage in any outreach or dialogue with the requester community or open government groups regarding your administration of the FOIA? Please describe any such outreach or dialogue, and, if applicable, any specific examples of how this dialogue has led to improvements in your agency's FOIA administration.
|Agency Component||Outreach Activities|
|BLS||Information and guidance relative to the FOIA was typically provided to requesters through telephone communication and through email. This led to requestors being further informed about where the information sought was held, resulting in fewer FOIA submissions for standard data requests that could be fulfilled outside the FOIA process.|
Through phone calls, emails, and correspondences, EBSA National and Regional Program Offices communicate with the requester community on an on-going basis to clarify questions, negotiate the scope of requests, and address fee-related questions. EBSA FOIA personnel maintain open dialogue with most "frequent requesters."
EBSA FOIA professionals participate in dialogue and outreach with the requester community through the FOIA status box, as well as through the DOL FOIA Public Liaison to address and resolve any concerns raised by FOIA requesters.
The following outreach activities were performed by ETA:
ETA FOIA professionals participated in dialogue and outreach with the requester community via the ETA FOIA status box, as well as through the DOL FOIA Public Liaison to address and resolve any concerns raised by ETA FOIA requesters.
ETA National and Regional Program Offices communicated with the requester community on an on-going basis through phone calls and emails to clarify questions, negotiate the scope of the request, address fee-related questions, etc.
In addition to FOIA requests accounted for in the Department's annual reporting, Job Corp Regional Coordinators and Center Records Managers processed first party requests submitted under the provisions of the Privacy Act requests (about 600 records requests are processed by 123 Job Corps centers each month), and routinely communicates with requesters, who are typically former Job Corps students. In addition, program promotional material refers interested members of the public to the https://www.jobcorps.gov/ website, which includes a link to a full page of FOIA information, including instructions for submitting a FOIA request. Job Corps FOIA/PA coordinators also work regularly with Human Resources or other employment/education verification companies who request information on former Job Corp students.
ETA/OTAA FOIA personnel maintain ongoing communications with most of their "frequent requesters." These individuals are generally looking for specific data related to their program and/or investigations related to information pertaining to their TAA Benefits program. Each quarter, OTAA had a direct conversation with each "frequent requester" and their data subject matter expert to review the new data trends in their program.
MSHA FOIA professionals are making a concerted effort to establish a line of communication early on with the requester community upon receipt of a FOIA request in order to make the process work better for all parties involved. The outreach/dialogue included contacting requesters by email or phone to discuss clarifying or narrowing the scope of their initial request, provide status or interim updates on the progression of processing requests, follow-up to see if they were still interested in receiving the records, and provide fee estimates.
FOIA Coordinators continuously provided requesters with relevant information to guide them through the FOIA process. Requesters were informed of the approximate time needed to complete the request, opportunities to reformulate requests, and any notifications such as the request's referral, rerouting, or delays. MSHA FOIA Coordinators also direct requestors to data publicly available on MSHA's website if publicly available information will sufficiently respond to the request. These interactions helped ensure that FOIA requests were responded to in the most efficient and timely fashion.
When multiple requests are received, liaisons reach out to the requester personally with regard to scope and need. OASAM'S webpage has become a resource for both DOL and other federal agencies, the public, and the media for frequently sought after information.
The OASAM FOIA coordinator is often required to provide guidance to requesters on the proper procedures for submitting FOIA information requests. Regularly, OASAM receives requests for old documents that have been dispositioned and are no longer maintained by DOL, such as personnel related folders. When the request is received from lawyers or other third party representatives, the response requires a full explanation of the process on transferring Official Personnel Files (OPFs) to other agencies, or facilities. OASAM standardized the response to providing clarification so that the questions have greatly diminished the exchange between OASAM and the requester when a response of "no records" is provided.
|OASP||OASP did not conduct any independent formal outreach or dialogue with the requestor community this Fiscal Year. However, OASP did engage with requestors, in coordination with SOL OIS, on a case by case basis when clarifying and finalizing certain FOIA requests.|
|OIG||The OIG is a small agency with one FOIA Officer who conducts individual routine outreach and dialogue via email, mail, and phone with the requester community in order to manage the FOIA workload, which includes unusual and complex cases. The DOL OIG FOIA office conducts outreach where the request is complex, and the response will be overdue because of the complexity and/or volume of material awaiting review. OIG has provided details about how information is maintained in order to help the requestors reframe the request so that a thorough search can be made for the responsive material. For example, requestors commonly seek the complete investigative file, which may involve a large volume of material. This office reaches out to requestors to consider narrowing the scope of the request to the investigative closing report, which might provide them with the most amount of condensed information that they are seeking. This dialogue has led to requestors a better understanding of the volume and complexity of FOIA requests received by the OIG.|
|OLMS||OLMS's extent of outreach and/or dialogue with the requester community or open government groups is comprised of access to extensive public information regarding our administration of the FOIA. OLMS believes that our maintenance of this website contributes to the general public's submission of proper and clear written FOIA requests that are made by the correct means. OLMS had less than 5 requests that required clarification, narrowing, or that were submitted by improper means. However, there have been many FOIA requests for LM reports that are subject to our proactive release of frequently requested documents. These records are maintained on our public disclosure page on our website. OLMS intends to amend our FOIA instructions to direct requests of this nature to www.unionreports.gov.|
|OSHA||Frequent requesters often call OSHA prior to filing their FOIA requests and OSHA works with them to structure the requests to keep fees, if any, low, and keep the processing time as short as possible.|
|OWCP||Within OWCP, DEEOIC held 5 Outreach Town-hall events plus a Webinar with EEOICPA Stakeholders in which DEEOIC addressed FOIA request matters. In the first Quarter of FY 2021, DEEOIC presented an Outreach Webinar presentation concerning the new DEEOIC website, which, in part, addressed the Public Reading-room, i.e., Proactive Disclosure, and FOIA and Privacy Act request processing matters.|
SOL provided outreach through frequently communicating with the requester community via telephone calls, correspondence and emails.
The Solicitor of Labor is designated Chief FOIA Officer for the Department. Through delegation, the Director of the Office of Information Services represents the Department on FOIA matters in varying capacities, including attendance at Chief FOIA Officer Meetings, regular or recurring meetings of the managing partner's agencies for the National FOIA Portal and in other forums that require information regarding DOL's FOIA policies and protocols.
|WB||WB continued to ensure customer engagement through targeted communications responsive to requesters that included follow-up email and/or phone responses and FOIA-related guidance and information. WB also continued to maintain links to FOIA guidelines and processes on its Website.|
|WHD||WHD investigators and technicians frequently interact with the community and offers information on how the complainants, businesses and 3rd parties can obtain investigative documents through the FOIA program.|
D. Other Initiatives
- Describe any efforts your agency has undertaken to inform non-FOIA professionals of their obligations under the FOIA. In particular, please describe how often and in what formats your agency provides FOIA training or briefings to non-FOIA staff
|Agency Component||Other Initiatives|
|Adj Bds||The FOIA Coordinator for the Boards met periodically with various "non-FOIA" professionals to discuss FOIA related issues such as appropriateness of exemptions, if applicable, and release of all material found. FOIA-related performance standards were included in the Boards' FOIA Coordinator's FY 20 Performance Plan.|
|BLS||BLS FOIA staff has met with offices to review obligations under the FOIA and records management requirements.|
The National Office staff coordinates and tracks the FOIA obligations of the National and regional offices. These coordination efforts also include informing non-FOIA professionals of their FOIA obligations and informing them of the Learning Link training available for non-FOIA professionals. EBSA personnel, including contractors, must complete annual training on Information Systems Security and Privacy Awareness and Records Management for Everyone.
EBSA FOIA Coordinators currently have standards related to FOIA.
ETA performed the following "Other Initiatives":
Efforts include training for non-FOIA professionals, distributing memoranda on FOIA, providing FOIA updates, distributing FOIA Bulletins, and advising of FOIA training opportunities through DOJ, DOL/OIS and the American Society of Access Professionals (ASAP).
One-on-one or group briefings are held to inform personnel inexperienced with FOIA processing of the expectations, timelines, and analysis necessary to properly respond to FOIA requests.
Higher level briefings are often held on "hot" or sensitive FOIA requests.
Overview sessions are held with management personnel as needed to advise of each office's responsibilities under the FOIA.
All ETA FOIA professionals (Program and Regional Offices) have FOIA related elements/standards in their work performance plans and are evaluated accordingly.
ETA/Office of Apprenticeship (OA) non-professionals are made aware of their obligations under the FOIA through records management activities and mandatory Learning Link trainings. OA staff is made aware that all records maintained by OA are subject to FOIA and are advised of their obligations when FOIAs are assigned to them. Efforts include, but are not limited to, notifying non-FOIA personnel of the FOIA protocols with regard to filing; and providing staff with briefings regarding the impact of FOIA on the records they maintain.
ETA/Office of Trade Adjustment Assistance (OTAA) meets regularly with management and staff on incoming FOIA requests to ensure that all staff is aware of how to process FOIA requests and how to search for responsive records. As needed, OTAA also continues to conduct mini-workshops and brown bag sessions regarding FOIA protocols and division impacts, resulting in reducing the staff's uncertainty and ambiguity.
ETA/Office of Unemployment Insurance (OUI) advises non-FOIA professionals of their obligations when FOIA's are assigned to them to process.
ETA/OJC reviews applicable portions of the FOIA with non-FOIA professional who have responsive documents, as well as support contracting staff. All OJC Federal employees are reminded on a regular basis that any request for information from the public must be routed through the FOIA coordinator for review and determination of the nature of the request. National and Regional Office staff also coordinate FOIA and Privacy Act requests for 123 Job Corps centers. During this process, staff conduct official and unofficial training for non-FOIA colleagues about FOIA and PA requirements and processes. In addition, the National Office coordinators (FOIA and PA) send instructions through regional offices to Job Corps center operators to ensure student records are archived in a timely and appropriate manner.
ETA Region IV implemented cross-training for staff and managers and ensured that all regional staff complete all mandatory training.
ETA Region V provides information to their staff through Standard Operating Procedures (SOP).
|ILAB||ILAB is committed to assisting in training non-FOIA professionals and new incoming employees. ILAB provides training for all staff on FOIA through LaborNet and the Coordinator sends out information about DOJ OIP FOIA training as well as all DOL FOIA training opportunities. The ILAB FOIA coordinator disseminates information about upcoming events, training opportunities, and other relevant information with ILAB colleagues. She also consistently meets with ILAB staff and leadership to explain the FOIA process.|
MSHA's FOIA Officer regularly communicates with MSHA management to discuss their obligations under the FOIA. This includes meetings, emails, and training on relevant FOIA topics, i.e. maintenance of records. Non-FOIA professional program staff are notified of upcoming FOIA training events and cross-training experiences on the FOIA process. Non-FOIA professionals and Subject Matter Experts have been given guidance on their obligation of knowing what records are subject to the FOIA, how to conduct a proper search for responsive records, and how to evaluate records on whether they can be disclosed under discretionary disclosure.
FOIA Coordinators participate in quarterly FOIA meetings where the "presumption of openness" is emphasized. All FOIA requests are processed by ensuring that the "presumption of openness" is applied. FOIA Coordinators consult with MSHA's FOIA Officer and the Solicitor's Division to discuss responsive documents and obtain guidance. If documents are discovered that were not originated in a specific program area or our agency, those documents are sent to the proper office for consultation and a determination as to what information can and cannot be released.
OALJ has orientation for new judges and new law clerks. During that orientation, a session is given about the relationship between FOIA and administrative hearings, and what judges and law clerks should do when receiving a FOIA related issue or assignment.
OALJ includes FOIA in performance standards for those whose work includes significant FOIA responsibilities.
OALJ has continued to post ALJ orders on its website as well as a significant number of documents and information on its proactive disclosure page on the OALJ website. In 2020, OALJ maintained these proactive disclosure pages and has kept them up-to-date.
|OASAM||As incoming FOIAs are assigned to programs, the program staff frequently requires assistance gathering, reviewing and redacting the responsive information, and/or responding to or communicating with the requester. While the staff are not FOIA professionals, they have learned the significance of the FOIA request timeframe requirements. Our interactions and response times are continuously decreasing as many more program staff are becoming aware of the FOIA program and obligations through our diligent outreach efforts.|
|OASP||All OASP staff are provided information and guidance regarding their obligations under the FOIA, including how to conduct a reasonable search when they receive a FOIA request, including documenting their search, documenting search terms used, and adhering to search response time limits.|
|OCFO||OCFO's intra and internet websites are updated regularly with relevant reporting and an invitation to submit comments and questions. In 2020, DOL-OCFO began publishing and regularly updating its FOIA Logs on DOL.gov.|
|OFCCP||OFCCP sent an email to all staff in observance of Sunshine Week, briefly discussed FOIA during its annual, agency-specific Records Management training, and discussed FOIA requirements with Regional Directors during each of its Quarterly Senior Leadership Meetings in FY 2020.|
The OIG staff is routinely instructed to promptly respond to FOIA communications received by the FOIA Officer. Because the OIG is a small office, the request is assigned for search via email with detailed instructions on the request, the search, documentation needed, and the response deadline. For complex requests, the FOIA Office arranges a meeting with the respective staff to address any questions.
The OIG FOIA Office routinely releases all discrete pieces of information that the FOIA requires. The OIG has published more information on its website such as a host of information related to the OIG's Pandemic response efforts with regard to audits and investigations. The link to this information has also been made available on the FOIA website.
Non-FOIA staff performance standards have FOIA related measures in their performance plans for FY2021. OLMS maintains the OLMS FOIA Guide and OLMS Operations Manual.
OLMS reviews, updates, releases, and posts on our intranet any necessary changes to the above guide and operations manual with regard to FOIA.
|OSHA||OSHA's FOIA training was open to all its managers. OSHA OOC routinely works with senior managers whose FOIA staff are working on requests of unique sensitivity.|
Within OWCP, in the first quarter of FY 2020, the DEEOIC Branch of Outreach and Technical Assistance (BOTA) conducted DEEOIC staff training on Privacy Act request matters, via a WebEx presentation, which, in part, addressed the DEEOIC District Offices' and the Final Adjudication Branch (FAB) offices' responsibilities to forward FOIA requests to BOTA for FOIA request processing. DEEOIC Management Officials at the National Office routinely stress that their work is subject to FOIA. Additionally, District and Final Adjudication Branch staff are required to forward all FOIA requests to FOIA specialists in BOTA.
Lastly, DFELHWC-LS routinely engages in dialogue with non-FOIA professionals within the Division, and requests their timely assistance and compliance with FOIA requests.
Within OWCP, DEEOIC Management Officials routinely support and encourage the uploading of DEEOIC policy guidance and other significant program documents to the DEEOIC website under the Public Readingâ€‘Room or to other sections of the DEEOIC website in compliance with FOIA Section (a)(2) public inspection proactive disclosures.
|SOL||The SOL - Office of Information Services (OIS), in its role as the Department's FOIA manager, took the lead regarding the facilitation of FOIAXpress training for Departmental staff, thereby advising and directing contract staff that was tasked with the implementation of training.|
|WB||WB incorporated FOIA-related performance standards and measures into the WB FOIA Coordinator's Annual Performance Management Plan. The WB FOIA Coordinator continues to be held responsible for administering the FOIA and Privacy Act. The WB FOIA Coordinator routinely apprised agency management on FOIA all FOIA matters, FOIA Records Management training, conducted outreach, provided coordination, technical assistance, and guidance related to FOIA processing as well as apprised and coordinated with agency leadership and staff on FOIA-related inquiries, records, and responses.|
|WHD||WHD FOIA Professionals frequently provide guidance to WHD employees on the WHD FOIA program through emails, meetings and phone conversations.|
- Optional -- If there are any other initiatives undertaken by your agency to ensure that the presumption of openness is being applied, please describe them here.
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.
- For Fiscal Year 2020, 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 2020 Annual FOIA Report.
|Average Number of Days to Adjudicate|
- If your agency's average number of days to adjudicate requests for expedited processing was above ten calendar days, according to Section VIII.A. of your agency's Fiscal Year 2020 Annual FOIA Report, please describe the steps your agency will take to ensure that requests for expedited processing are adjudicated within ten calendar days or less.
During upcoming quarterly FOIA Coordinator's Meetings, training and administrative reviews, the Office of Information Services will continue to remind FOIA professionals about the importance of making timely decisions with respect to adjudicating and fully processing FOIA requests that have been granted expedited processing under the statute and the Department's regulations. The Department also hopes that the FY2020 implementation of FOIAXpress will help streamline FOIA processes and promote more timely responses of requests in all of the Department's FOIA tracking queues.
- 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 or raw data, using active workflows and track management, reviewing and updating processing procedures, etc.
As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Department of Labor transitioned to maximum telework flexibilities, which changed the way that we operate our FOIA program. The Office of Information Services continued to work with DOL's agency components to establish protocols on how to deal with FOIA requests submitted by postal mail or fax to offices that were likely unattended, how to effectively process or negotiate the scope of requests for records that exist solely in paper format or stored at a NARA administered Federal records center, and how best to work with and among colleagues in other agency components on coordinating the review of similar records and other matters. In addition, the Department conducted a process reengineering analysis of each DOL component, except the OIG, to successfully implement the new FOIA tracking system, FOIAXpress. In addition to these efforts at the Departmental level, each agency component has continued to individually monitor and assess its FOIA operations and establish new or updated protocols and procedures to fine tune their respective FOIA programs.
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.
- Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs): Having SOPs can improve the consistency and quality of an agency's FOIA process. In addition, describing an agency's standard practices for handling FOIA requests on agency FOIA websites can help requesters better understand how their request will be handled.
- Does your agency have SOPs that outline general processes for handling FOIA requests and appeals?
The U.S. Department of Labor operates under a decentralized FOIA structure. This means that each agency component is responsible for the implementation of Standard Operating Procedures that are best geared toward their organizational structures and the types of records that are contained within the individual component. However, the Office of the Solicitor, Office of Information Services, in its role as the Department's FOIA manager, has provided a "Best Practices" document that DOL agencies are encouraged to utilize.
- If not, does your agency have plans to create FOIA SOPs?
Each DOL agency component has its own standard operating procedures.
- If yes, how often are they reviewed/updated to account for changes in law, best practices, and technology?
Due to the decentralized nature of the Department's FOIA operations, each agency component makes a determination with respect to the timeline for updates in relation to their individual SOP's.
- In addition to having SOPs, does your agency post or otherwise describe your standard processes for handling requests on your website?
|Agency Component||Effective Systems for FOIA Responses and SOP's|
|Adj Bds||Periodically the Adjudicatory Boards FOIA Coordinator conducts an analysis of the Boards' FOIA log to determine trends and compliance with FOIA and Departmental performance metrics.|
BLS maintains an internal tracking sheet with the number of days per step in our search, review, and signature process. The agency includes information such as records sought, exemptions applied, final disposition, and other relevant information about the request including any guidance received from SOL.
BLS SOP's are updated annually.
Despite the extraordinary circumstances of responding to a global pandemic, EBSA still consistently decreased the average number of days to adjudicate expedited requests for the previous two years. In Fiscal Year 2020, again EBSA decreased the average number of days to adjudicate expedited requests by 29%.
The global pandemic forced EBSA to quickly transition to telework only. This quick and unprecedented response included solely and fully responding to FOIA requesters by electronic means only. Along with this exceptional transition and implementation of a new FOIA tracking system, EBSA continues to decrease the average number of days. The majority of requesters understand that their requests are detailed and often involve coordination with IT and several EBSA offices which may delay timely response under the expedited treatment track.
To prevent lapses, the National Office tracks all FOIA requests assigned to EBSA. The National Office's Lead Coordinators routinely communicate with the Regional and National Office coordinators and inform them of the correct processes and procedures. In this close working relationship between the National Office and regional offices, all offices are instructed on routing misdirected requests, providing assistance with processing payments, using Adobe Acrobat Pro for redactions, and correctly applying exemptions. The National Office Lead Coordinators and EBSA's Office of Enforcement routinely meet with regional FOIA coordinators and investigators regarding frequently requested FOIAs to ensure timely and accurate processing and disclosure. In addition, the National Office staff reviews all open requests including those in regional offices to ensure that they are being handled appropriately. If questions arise in any EBSA office, the FOIA personnel are quick to contact the National Office FOIA Coordinator for guidance.
As of December 17, 2020, EBSA has used digital meeting platforms to provide over a dozen training sessions for the regional and program offices regarding the implementation of the new FOIA Xpress system.
EBSA encouraged its staff to participate in two all day remote training sessions offered by the Office of the Solicitor.
EBSA added a dedicated COVID-19 response page in the quick links section of its Website.
EBSA kept requesters fully and consistently informed. On all of its outgoing correspondences, EBSA notified requesters of potential delays attributed to the federal government's full telework status.
|ETA||While ETA did not conduct a self-assessment, ETA's FOIA Program Manager regularly monitors and evaluates ETA's workflow processes to ensure that there are no obstacles preventing the timely response to FOIA requests. All incoming requests assigned to ETA to process are promptly assigned to the appropriate ETA program office on a first-in, first-out basis. ETA's FOIA Program Manager routinely runs reports to ensure the accuracy of the data in SIMS-FOIA, and now FOIAXpress. Program offices are closely monitored to ensure that they are meeting statutory deadlines in responding to FOIA requests, and the importance of responding timely and ETA's commitment to the presumption of openness is stressed. Finally the FOIA Program Manager regularly reviews and updates the Agency's SOPs and FOIA Reading Room (Website) to ensure that it is in compliance with the changes made in the FOIA Improvement Act of 2016.|
|ILAB||The ILAB FOIA coordinator strives to answer requests timely and efficiently. She reaches out to requesters frequently to maintain strong lines of communication and updates requesters about the status of their requests. The FOIA coordinator tracks all requests in a MS Excel spreadsheet and maintains detailed files (hard copy and electronic) with all relevant information for each request. The ILAB FOIA coordinator provides a monthly status report to the administrative officer and chief of staff. The administrative officer and FOIA coordinator discuss this report in regular meetings in order to discuss and address any areas of concern. The FOIA coordinator ensures that all FOIA cases are appropriately closed and uploaded into the FOIA Xpress, FOIA web portal.|
MSHA's FOIA Officer monitors incoming requests and has routine meetings with FOIA Coordinators and agency top staff to go over upcoming FOIA issues and delays. An electronic spreadsheet is used to track all FOIA requests and capture information including adjudicating requests for expedited processing. MSHA strives to meet the ten calendar day requirement for adjudicating expedited requests.
MSHA's FOIA Officer monitors pending requests and has monthly meetings with agency top staff to go over upcoming FOIA issues and backlog. Hands on training and processing lessons were provided weekly and in response to incoming FOIA requests. An electronic spreadsheet was used to track all FOIA requests and capture information including requester's name, date of request, subject matter of request, number of days to close request, and whether information was provided in full or withheld under a FOIA exemption. FOIA FAQs are on the Intranet which provides MSHA employees with access to answers concerning FOIA questions. Topics include the elements of a FOIA request, exemptions, and deadlines in responding to a request. In addition, various audits are conducted, annual reports are maintained, several trainings are developed and delivered, and open lines of communication are sustained and encouraged.
MSHA conducts quarterly and annual certification data reviews of the FOIA database to ensure that all FOIA information has been entered, properly coded, all letters and correspondence have been uploaded, tolls are entered and closed correctly, and once completed all requests were properly closed out in the system.
MSHA's individual program areas are in the process of finalizing internal FOIA Standard Operating Procedures as they continue to review and strengthen internal processes and tracking methods.
To assist FOIA Coordinators and other staff with FOIA related responsibilities deal with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, FOIA Coordinators received uniform guidance on how to handle processing issues related to FOIA requests that have been received or continue to be processed while most staff is working remotely. Electronic folders were created on the network to share documents among agency staff. Coordinators received procedures for handling requests for paper records that are maintained at NARA administered Federal Records Centers that are closed to the public. Requesters were contacted and provided information regarding how their FOIA requests will be processed while the Department was operating with maximum workplace flexibilities. They were also referred to DOL's website for additional information.
MSHA's FOIA Officer held status meetings to answer any questions, ensure requests are handled timely and identify any obstacles that may hinder the agency in meeting deadlines. Internal tracking logs that track FOIA requests from start to finish help keep the processing of requests organized. Clear and frequent communication with requesters and other FOIA coordinators is also a very important practice to ensure a FOIA system that operates efficiently and effectively.
OALJ has implemented the following procedures with respect to COVID guidelines:
First, in the event that a record is only available in hard copy format, FOIA officers who are working remotely have been instructed to coordinate with employees present at the physical location to retrieve and scan documents. Second, FOIA officers began sending disclosures out electronically when possible. Third, when responsive documents are maintained at a closed records center, OALJ has been communicating directly with requesters to inform them of the situation and to get input on how they would like to proceed.
OASAM constantly strives to respond to all FOIA requests as quickly as possible. However, it continues to be difficult to grant expedited responses when the requested information is voluminous and there are limited resources from the specific subject matter areas to gather the information. Most FOIAs requests are related to human resources data; contracts and grants, which require substantive data downloads, research, and lengthy redaction processes. Other requests involve extracting extremely sensitive and Personally Identifiable Information (PII) within the Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) office, Civil Rights Center (CRC) and Office of Human Resources (OHR) files that contain voluminous documents.
In addition, with the creation of the FOIAXpress system and consolidation and in some cases absorption of other office in both the Office of Human Resources (OHR) and Office of the Senior Procurement Executive (OSPE), OASAM's our figures are larger than usual as other offices' numbers are now combined. In order to minimize this number, FOIAs are being assigned through one office only and disseminated or assigned accordingly.
|OASP||During FY 2020, OASP conducted a self-assessment of its following FOIA programs: Initial Mail Intake/Review; Searching for Responsive Records; and Processing Procedures. In FY 2021, OASP plans to conduct further self-assessments of its initial intake and processing time procedures.|
|OCFO||OCFO maintains a FOIA requests and response tracker for multiple purposes, including performance metrics. Management and the FOIA Team refer to the tracker to chart, among other things, response performance and project resource use/needs.|
|ODEP||As part of the transition from SIMS-FOIA to FOIAXpress, ODEP conducted a review of outstanding FOIA requests that had not been converted to FOIA Start (FOIA Start) status. The ODEP lead FOIA coordinator attended FOIAXpress training and worked with SOL FOIA staff to update the system to reflect FOIA requests that had already been closed.|
|OFCCP||OFCCP was able to take existing technology and resources and operate in a remote fashion. The impact upon FOIA processing was minimal.|
The OIG routinely conducts self-assessments and comparisons, by running weekly and quarterly reports for the backlog and pending data, processed and open requests, sorted by simple and complex categories of request.
The OIG has existing SOPs for handling FOIA requests. The SOPs are being updated this fiscal year to complement the new Inspector General Directive (IGD) for FOIA and to include new procedures that will be associated with the OIG's new FOIA system and filing schema.
|OLMS||OLMS has excellent regional staff that maintain meticulous records and provide records to our FOIA Coordinator promptly. This allows our coordinator ample time to review, redact, as needed, and respond to the request. OLMS maintains and updates pre-formatted and organized templates for drafting responses, applying exemptions, and other communications, as well as a resource file of DOL and DOJ guidance on processing FOIA for ease of reference.|
|OPA||Due to low FOIA demand, OPA has not taken any steps to create agency-specific systems for FOIA responses, and relies on the FOIA Best Practices Guide that has been provided by the SOL Office of Information Services.|
|OSEC||OSEC reviewed and audited FOIA requests and reports prior to processing and closing the requests.|
OSHA reviewed data from SIMS FOIA and now FOIAXpress. OSHA tracks backlog data and brings areas of concern to appropriate management units for review. OSHA completed a FOIA Pilot and is reviewing the data collected.
OSHA's SOP was just published in 2020. The agency will review again in 2021. In addition, OSHA's Intranet contains information on FOIAXpress, template letters, guidance memoranda and links to DOJ guidance.
Within OWCP, DEEOIC frequently receives Privacy Act requests, submitted by individual claimants or the claimants' Authorized Representatives to obtain a copy of the claimants' EEOICPA case file records, which are maintained on the OWCP Imaging System (OIS). DEEOIC is in the process of implementing a safe and secure password-encrypted methodology that will enable individual claimants or their Authorized Representative to access the claimant's electronic case file records.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, DEEOIC has implemented pandemic situational teleworking for all staff and utilizes new technologies to continue processing FOIA requests in a timely and efficient manner. Beyond utilizing the recently implemented FOIA Express FOIA request database, DEEOIC utilizes SharePoint for review of draft FOIA correspondences and final responses, including the review of redacted and un-redacted responsive records for the FOIA requests that DEEOIC receives. DEEOIC utilizes Adobe software for digital-signatures. DEEOIC personnel email the final digitally-signed FOIA correspondence letters and final responses to an internal DEEOIC email address, and DEEOIC Mailing Contractors print and mail the DEEOIC FOIA correspondence letters and final responses.
In addition, DEEOIC FOIA personnel communicated with FOIA requesters, via email and by telephone, utilizing the Interaction Desktop telephone software.
|SOL||The Office of the Solicitor has two primary FOIA SOP's. The SOL SOP on FOIA Processes and the SOL SOP on Coordinated and Consolidated FOIA Requests are utilized in the day-to-day operations of the Office of the Solicitor FOIA program.|
|WB||The WB continued to assess and evaluate its FOIA program in FY'2020 to identify deficiencies or improvement areas. As a result of its assessment, WB utilized a comprehensive internal FOIA communication and reporting tool which also served to capture monthly, quarterly, and annual performance reporting and tracking, as well as well reconciling end-of-year SIMS-FOIA records. WB will continue to assess its FOIA program including exploring the use of other evaluation resources and tools such as the FOIA Self-Assessment Toolkit available on the OIP Website.|
|WHD||As soon as requests are received, the first thing the WHD FOIA coordinator has been doing is checking for expedited requests. If it is an expedited request, it is immediately sent to the Branch Chief for same day adjudication|
- 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 2020 (please provide a total number or an estimate of the number).
|Inquiry Type||Inquiry Count|
|Number of inquiries (status/customer service/other)||563|
- Does your agency frequently receive common categories of first-party requests? If so, please describe the types of requests and if your agency has explored establishing alternative means of access to these records outside of the FOIA process?
DOL operates within a decentralized FOIA structure. However, there are agency components that received first-party requests for records in relation to personnel and human resource actions, employment law and various investigative files. There are mechanisms in place to provide those individuals with the records they are seeking. However, if the requester uses the FOIA to obtain the records, then the requests will be logged within the FOIA tracking system and processed accordingly.
- The FOIA Improvement Act of 2016 required all agencies to update their FOIA regulations within 180 days. Has your agency updated its FOIA regulations in accordance with the FOIA Improvement Act of 2016? If not, what is your agency's plan to update your regulations?
- Please explain how your agency worked to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on FOIA processing. Examples could include, but are not limited to: altering workflows, implementing new technology, providing notices and instructions or otherwise communicating directly with requesters.
The Office of the Solicitor, Office of Information Services posted guidance to the Department's FOIA website and issued written guidance to DOL agency components in the form of emails and FOIA Bulletin Number 20-04, dated April 10, 2020 and entitled "Addressing the Receipt and Processing of FOIA Requests Impacted by Maximum Telework Flexibilities Due to Covid-19."
In March 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor transitioned to maximum remote telework flexibilities for the majority of its employees. As a result, remote meeting and collaboration technologies such as MS Teams, Skype for Business, WebEx and Cisco Jabber were utilized for phone calls, trainings and meetings.
- Optional -- Please describe:
- Best practices used to ensure that your FOIA system operates efficiently and effectively
- Any challenges your agency faces in this area
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.
- Provide examples of any material that your agency has proactively disclosed during the past reporting year, including records that have been requested and released three or more times in accordance with 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(2)(D). Please include links to these materials as well.
|Agency Component||Proactive Disclosures||Links to Proactive Disclosures|
|BLS||The agency posts FOIA logs on the BLS public website. This is updated every quarter.||https://www.bls.gov/bls/blsfoia.htm.|
EBSA's dynamic Website is updated regularly with new and updated materials. See EBSA's homepage https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ebsa and note the useful "EBSA at a Glance" section, where EBSA posts new issuances and related materials to make it quick and easy to find.
EBSA also added a dedicated COVID-19 response page in the quick links on the homepage to provide an easy to find comprehensive page with all information EBSA has issued to provide quick assistance to workers and employers during the pandemic. This includes links to outreach that is conducted. 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.
This year there was a substantial increase in rulemaking activity. The many comments posted to this page were frequently visited.
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.
The Office of Job Corps publishes an extensive array of information and performance data at https://www.jobcorps.gov/job-corps-reports;
In advance of FOIA requests, the Office of Foreign Labor Certification publishes a variety of data and information quarterly at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/eta/foreign-labor/performance
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.doleta.gov/tradeact/taa/petitions.cfm.
The Office of Unemployment Insurance publishes information of interest to the general public on its website at https://oui.doleta.gov/unemploy/performance1.asp.
The Office of Workforce Investment (OWI) publishes WOTC certification data on https://www.dol.gov/agencies/eta/wotc/performance.
The Office of Policy Development Research (OPDR) has updated the research and evaluation website to post all new reports at https://wdr.doleta.gov/research/search.cfm?CFID=44789344&CFTOKEN=79473204
ETA/OA posts five years of Registered Apprenticeship national program data and statistics on its website (accessible by the public at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/eta/apprenticeship/about/statistics/2020). General program information and information regarding current sponsors of apprenticeship is also housed on the site.
MSHA has proactively disclosed accident investigation information, program policy and procedure instruction letters, program or enforcement statistics, inspection and violation history, mine data, accountability audits, safety and health legislation and regulations.
MSHA collaborates with offices both within and out of the agency to identify and produce a greater number of appropriate materials for proactive disclosures. These offices include the Office of the Assistant Secretary, records management staff, IT staff, Public Affairs, and the Office of Program Education and Outreach. Working with these offices enables MSHA to identify material that is of interest to the public, as well as determine the best method of disclosure to the public. The ability to outreach and work with a multitude of resources enables the agency to increase proactive disclosures both in quantity and quality.
The agency continues to post information on the web and periodically contacts the IT unit and other key agency personnel to determine if there are additional materials appropriate for posting on the agency's FOIA website. MSHA is continually looking for ways to expand the information posted to better serve the public and hopefully reduce the number of FOIA requests.
|OALJ||OALJ has posted pleadings and other documents in two high profile cases (Graham v. Credit Suisse Securities; OFCCP v. Oracle), as well as documents about ALJ appointments:|
While OASAM receives many requests for employment information, most of the requests are for information not maintained by the Department of Labor but rather by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). Because of this, some of the DOL links can be found on several OPM reporting sites, as well as, OASAM's FOIA webpage.
OASAM continues to improve its websites for ease of use and accessible content. The newly created Office of Human Resources (OHR) is currently designing a newer website, as well as updating the current SOL-based SOPs for all to reference. OHR's FOIA related information will also be available on OASAM's FOIA webpage.
DOL-OCFO financial, audit, performance, strategic, and performance reporting: https://www.dol.gov/general/aboutdol#budget
OCFO FOIA LOG: https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ocfo/foia
ODEP, through its Division of Policy Communication and Outreach, has made extra efforts to post relevant information to stakeholders during the pandemic. Examples include a dedicated landing page with materials regarding the 30th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act as well as specific landing pages for popular initiatives such as the State Exchange on Employment & Disability and the Retaining Employment and Talent after Injury/Illness Network.
ODEP ensures that all downloadable documents are 508 compliant. In addition, the agency also ensures that tabular information is formatted to facilitate the use of screen readers and that content contained in an iframe is properly labeled. As a general matter, ODEP recently completed an extensive redesign of the overall website (as part of DOL's conversion to Drupal) to improve ease of use and ability to locate information.
OFCCP posts its Conciliation Agreements in its FOIA Reading Room. https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ofccp/foia/library#Q3
Conciliation Agreements are formal agreements signed by OFCCP and the federal contractors' top officials, which outline all identified violations, and require the contractors to implement specific remedies and formally report to the OFCCP for a specified period of time.
OFCCP also posts datasets covering its projected case scheduling and historical performance information on enforcement in its FOIA Library.
The DOL OIG continues to post audit reports, recommendations dashboard, alert memos, and investigative summaries on the agency website. https://www.oig.dol.gov/recommendationdashboard.htm
OIG also created a Pandemic Response portal that contains the Pandemic Response work of the DOL OIG to include a host of information such as COVID related audits and investigations and reports. This portal is located on both the OIG website and the OIG FOIA site. https://www.oig.dol.gov/OIG_Pandemic_Response_Portal.htm
|OLMS||OLMS continually provides proactive disclosures and updates the site to add new releases. These records are related to OLMS's administration and enforcement of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959 (LMRDA). The records include 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), and Statutory Program's Certification Determinations and Claims Decisions made pursuant to 49 U.S.C § 5333(b). https://www.dol.gov/agencies/olms/public-disclosure-room||https://www.dol.gov/agencies/olms/public-disclosure-room|
|OSEC||OSEC has now provided calendars and travel itineraries for agency leadership to dol.gov website for the ease of providing a quick response to requestors. The information is updated on a periodic basis. https://www.dol.gov/general/foia/readroom||https://www.dol.gov/general/foia/readroom|
In FY 2020 OSHA added 10,883 updates and additions to our website. https://www.osha.gov/FOIA
Early in the pandemic OSHA received about a dozen requests for COVID complaint data. OSHA posted this data on its website and updates the data weekly for the requesters. The data has been updated over 30 times to date and has been cited by the Washington Post as an example of government openness during COVID
"Weekly OSHA COVID-19 Complaint Data."
OWCP - DEEOIC uploads records to the Public Reading-room on our DEEOIC website. These includes responsive documents to multiple requests for the same record and/or records that DEEOIC believes may be of public interest and the subject of a future FOIA request.
Within OWCP: DEEOIC, DCMWC and DLHWC have proactively posted the following information on OWCP's website as follows:
During FY 2020, the DEEOIC proactively disclosed and posted records on the DEEOIC Public Reading-room webpage, which include:
EEOICP Summary Statistics, on a monthly basis;
DEEOIC Accountability Review Reports of the DEEOIC District Offices, FAB office locations, and the Branch of Medical Benefits; and
Also, under the header of Additional DEEOIC Program Information: Top Medical Conditions filed under EEOICPA Part E and Medical Provider Teleconference Meeting Minutes were published.
The web-link for the DEEOIC FOIA Public Reading-room is:
Anything related to DFELHWC-FEP https://www.dol.gov/agencies/owcp/dfec.
|SOL||The Office of the Solicitor has an on-line "Brief Bank" in which 124 briefs were posted during FY 2020.||www.dol.gov/agencies/sol/briefs|
Field Operation Handbook Chapters 10-16, 20-25, 30-33, 36, 39, 46, 64,
Field Assistant Bulletins
Purchase Card Holders
Federal Register Documents
- 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?
- If yes, please provide examples of such improvements. In particular, please describe steps your agency is taking to post information in open, machine-readable, and machine-actionable formats, to the extent feasible. If not posting in open formats, please explain why and note any challenges. Please refer to the chart above.
As demonstrated within the chart above, during the reporting period, agency components continued to proactively post a wide variety of information on their public-facing websites that document, explain, and provide data on the Department's programs and activities.
- Optional -- Please describe:
- Best practices used to improve proactive disclosures
- Any challenges your agency faces in this area
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.
- Please briefly describe the types of technology your agency uses to support your FOIA program. In addition, please highlight if your agency is leveraging or exploring any new technology that you have not previously reported. If so, please describe the type of technology.
|Agency Component||Description of Types of Technology|
|Adj Bds||The Boards have transitioned from the SIMS-FOIA tracking system to FOIAXpress which is the Department's new FOIA system.|
|BLS||BLS has transitioned to using FOIAXpress to process requests. The agency also continues to utilize shared directories with our program offices for the collection and review of records to ensure receipt of all responsive records directly and improve communication regarding responsive records within BLS. Additionally, BLS continues the use of a shared directory and electronic sign-off system for review and signature of FOIA responses and any responsive records by our FOIA Disclosure Officer.|
The national and regional FOIA staff continue 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 has routinely used electronic meeting platforms to train and assist the regional and program offices.
Several FOIA requests involved Cloud e-discovery searches conducted by our technology office, including for email searches. However, these massive email searches produce enormous amounts of non-responsive material which is included amongst the responsive records. The search and identification of the electronic records adds more work, time processing the records, and cost associated with the search.
|ETA||ETA FOIA staff is utilizing FOIAXpress for request processing. FOIAXpress is the Department's new FOIA tracking database.|
|ILAB||ILAB currently uses FOIAXpress, Accellion, the Department's ESI process, shared folders, and zip files to answer and track all requests. FOIA Xpress makes it easier to create correspondence and send to requesters and staff immediately once the responses are written. Additionally, ILAB utilizes Adobe Acrobat Pro for electronic redactions as well as electronic letterhead to send official letters.|
MSHA began using the Department's new and more robust FOIA tracking system, FOIAXpress, which provides many benefits and which has greatly improved the accuracy and efficiency of FOIA processing and reporting. The agency worked with OCIO to build MSHA's current FOIA workflow into the new tracking system. Weekly training and workshops were held to assist FOIA Coordinators in mastering the system and experience the administrative efficiencies that are built into the system.
In addition, MSHA's FOIA Coordinators used a shared drive to share standardized letters, responsive records for consultation, and excel spreadsheets to track overdue requests. Sharing files facilitates efficiency by organizing files and making them easier to access. MSHA's FOIA Officer consults with OCIO to conduct complex email searches.
|OALJ||OALJ utilizes Adobe in its FOIA processing. OALJ also made the switch from SIMS-FOIA to FOIAXpress in September 2020.|
DOL launched FOIAXpress, a tracking system for the Department's FOIA requests on October 2020. In addition, OCIO has developed the ESI program to efficiently search for and deliver data as requested by requestors, which can search both Cloud based and network searches. Cloud based searches consist of e-mail and other cloud based data. These searches are executed using the Department's ESI process tools within Microsoft Office 365. Other searches of physical machines and other network storage are executed via the use of DT search software.
OASAM'S Civil Rights Center (CRC) is slowly moving to an electronic case management system. Many case files are being scanned into an electronic format, and CRC is working on reaching 100% electronic record compliance.
|OASP||The Department deployed a new electronic FOIA case management and tracking system in FY 2020, FOIAXpress, which offers an enhanced application for managing the lifecycle of requests and appeals from initial inquiry to delivery of documents, through archiving and deletion according to agency retention rules. OASP is using that system for its FOIA program.|
|OCFO||OCFO is no longer using the SIMS-FOIA database for tracking FOIA requests. The agency is now using the FOIAXpress case management system for all FOIA requests.|
|OCIA||OCIA is now using the Department's new FOIAXpress system for FOIA case management. Adobe Acrobat is also used by the agency.|
|ODEP||During the reporting period, ODEP's lead FOIA Coordinator attempted to use a new OCIO platform for searching e-mails through an OCIO Preservation and Collection Request.|
|OFCCP||OFCCP uses SharePoint and Adobe Acrobat to facilitate the processing of its requests. In FY 2020, OFCCP continued its implementation of its Compliance Management System, expected to facilitate records search and retrieval.|
|OIG||The OIG currently is preparing to migrate information from its current Oracle based tracking system to its own instance of the FOIAXpress case management system which was recently rolled out by the Departmental FOIA office. The new system will also include the installation and implementation of the Public Access Link.|
|OLMS||OLMS updates and maintains an online feedback tool to the public regarding any information listed on the website, this includes the OLMS Online FOIA Reading Room.|
|OPA||In its FOIA processing, OPA utilizes email, the Department's ESI process, and key word searches.|
|OSEC||OSEC is now utilizing the Department's new FOIA tracking system FOIAXpress.|
|OSHA||OSHA along with the rest of the Department of Labor transitioned to the FOIAXpress record system this year.|
Within OWCP, DEEOIC National Office has implemented the use of a SharePoint for FOIA request processing. This allows DEEOIC officials and staff members to upload responsive emails and other records to an electronic FOIA request record central location. Here, others can view the responsive records that have already been located. Uploading responsive emails and other records to SharePoint reduces the number of duplicative records and search time for others. Additionally, DEEOIC National Office has implemented the use of SharePoint in the FOIA response review process, which is a more efficient process than passing FOIA request paper-folders back-and-forth regarding needed edits to finalize responses to FOIA requests.
In addition, the DEEOIC National Office utilizes Adobe Acrobat software for electronic redactions of protected sensitive information, exempt under the FOIA statutory exemptions.
|SOL||The Office of the Solicitor utilizes various technologies to perform FOIA related duties within the agency. Under the guidance of SOL's Office of Information Services (OIS), the Department recently procured and implemented the FOIAXpress case management system for FOIA. Effective October 1, 2020, FOIAXpress is now being used by all 23 agency components. In addition, SOL has access to other technology tools through the SOL Litigation Support Unit, including in some instances the ability to use "Relativity" to electronically manage and process FOIA documents. The agency also use Kiteworks for the transmission of large case files and electronic documents. Adobe Acrobat is uniformly used for document sanitation and redaction methodology. Microsoft TEAMS, WebEx and Cisco Jabber are the primary choices for the facilitation of meetings and training sessions.|
In 2020, WB FOIA staff participated in a targeted DOL-wide training and testing of a new DOL FOIAXpress case management system designed to replace DOL's former FOIA tracking system. The new system offers improved technology features, enhanced FOIA Tracking functionality, workflow processes, reporting capabilities, ability to communicate with requesters directly, redact records, and process fees in a more comprehensive and efficient manner.
WB utilized technology such as MS Word, MS Outlook, and SIMS-Correspondence to facilitate efficiency in conducting electronic searches including email, etc., tracking, and reporting.
|WHD||WHD staff utilize the following electronic mechanisms for FOIA processing: FOIAXpress; Relativity; Electronic Document Review within FOIAXpress; and Kiteworks for large file transfers|
- OIP issued guidance in 2017 encouraging agencies to regularly review their FOIA websites to ensure that they contain essential resources and are informative and user-friendly. Has your agency reviewed its FOIA website(s) during the reporting period to ensure it addresses the elements noted in the guidance?
- Did your agency successfully post all four quarterly reports for Fiscal Year 2020?
Yes, DOL successfully posted all four quarterly reports to its public facing website at https://www.dol.gov/general/foia/reports/quarterly. It appears, however, that the reports were not received by the analytics tool at foia.gov. Going forward, DOL will ensure that any misdirected or broken links are fixed so that DOJ is able to capture the quarterly reporting data
- 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 2021.
- 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 2019 Annual FOIA Report and, if available, for your agency's Fiscal Year 2020 Annual FOIA Report.
The current and historical annual reports documenting the Department's FOIA activities are available online at https://www.dol.gov/general/foia/reports/annual. Within each report, DOL embeds the raw statistical data used to compile each Annual FOIA Report.
- Optional -- Please describe:
- Best practices used in greater utilizing technology
- Any challenges your agency faces in this area
Section V: Steps Taken to Improve Timeliness in Responding to Requests and Reducing 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 FY 2019 and 2020 Annual FOIA Reports.
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.
- Does your agency utilize a separate track for simple requests? Yes.
- If your agency uses a separate track for simple requests, was the agency overall average number of days to process simple requests twenty working days or fewer in Fiscal Year 2020? No.
- Please provide the percentage of requests processed by your agency in Fiscal Year 2020 that were placed in your simple track. Please use the following calculation based on the data from your Annual FOIA Report: (processed simple requests from Section VII.C.1) divided by (requests processed from Section V.A.) x 100. 31 percent
- 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?
|Number of Simple Requests Processed||Number of Simple Requests Processed||Total Number of Requests Processed||Percentage of Total Requests|
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 2019 and Fiscal Year 2020 when completing this section of your Chief FOIA Officer Report.
- If your agency had a backlog of requests at the close of Fiscal Year 2020, according to Annual FOIA Report Section XII.A, did that backlog decrease as compared with the backlog reported at the end of Fiscal Year 2019?
|Fiscal Year||Number of Backlogged FOIA Requests|
- If not, according to Annual FOIA Report Section V.A, did your agency process more requests during Fiscal Year 2020 than it did during Fiscal Year 2019?
- If your agency's request backlog increased during Fiscal Year 2020, please 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:
As DOL indicated in its FY2020 Annual FOIA report, DOL migrated legacy data into a new case management system, FOIAXpress. Through this migration DOL identified various discrepancies in data previously reported, including the number of FOIA cases that are backlogged with the Department. Those discrepancies are attributed in full or in part to a number of factors including:
- FOIA cases that were received and logged into SIMS-FOIA but were not coded appropriately, so they were not counted in previous iterations of our data reporting.
- FOIA cases that were previously assigned to DOL agency components that no longer exist due to reorganizations (at the Department or component level) and those cases were not moved into the active processing queues of the newly designated components or offices.
- FOIA cases assigned to system users that have separated from the organization and were not transferred to an active system user.
- FOIA assignments that were duplicative and the duplicate request was left unresolved. In addition to the data discrepancies listed above, during this reporting period the Department experienced an increase in the number of more complex incoming FOIA requests, the loss of staff and the reevaluation and adjustment of work processes that were impacted by the pandemic.
- 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.
In FY2020, the Department's received fewer initial FOIA requests than in prior years, however, the majority of the incoming requests received were complex and sought access to voluminous amounts of electronic data. The COVID pandemic caused an influx of requests that required additional communications between staff, which further delayed processing. Many requests contained equities that required coordination among multiple agency components. These types of requests consisted of multiple duplicates and without a system in place with a functionality to de-dupe, it lengthened the time in which the request could be processed. In addition, there were a small number of requests with litigation equities that could not be closed because litigation was ongoing.
- 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 2020. Please use the following calculation based on data from your Annual FOIA Report: (backlogged requests from Section XII.A) divided by (requests received from Section V.A) x 100. If your agency has no request backlog, please answer with "N/A."
|Total Number of Requests Received||Total Number of Backlog at End of FY 2020||Percentage of Total Requests|
- If your agency had a backlog of appeals at the close of Fiscal Year 2020, according to Section XII.A of the Annual FOIA Report, did that backlog decrease as compared with the backlog reported at the end of Fiscal Year 2019?
- If not, according to section VI.A of the Annual FOIA Report, did your agency process more appeals during Fiscal Year 2020 than it did during Fiscal Year 2019?
- If your agency's appeal backlog increased during Fiscal Year 2020, please 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 appeals.
- 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's FOIA Appeals Unit was not able to decrease its backlog during FY 2020 for the following reasons:
- Prior to March 2020, the appeals process was largely paper based. However, due to the pandemic, maximum telework became necessary and electronic procedures for reviewing appeals needed to be developed and implemented from scratch.
- A period of adjustment was necessary to adapt to new methodologies, which included digitizing paper records, creating digital files, mastering collaborative tools and adapting to a new way of working.
- Due to resource limitations, the FOIA Appeals Unit had to augment its limited staff with "detailees" from other DOL agencies. The need to master interactive collaborative virtual tools on the fly made training and interaction with inexperienced staff difficult, which subsequently affected production.
- The Appeals Unit was simultaneously implementing a new FOIA tracking system, FOIAXpress, which required full-time FOIA appeals staff to devote a significant amount of time to developing and learning the new system which was implemented in October 2020.
- 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 2020. Please use the following calculation based on data from your Annual FOIA Report: (backlogged appeals from Section XII.A) divided by (appeals received from Section VI.A) x 100. If your agency did not receive any appeals in Fiscal Year 2020 and/or has no appeal backlog, please answer with "N/A."
|Fiscal Year||Number of Backlogged Appeals at End of FY||Number of Appeals Received||Percentage of Appeals Received|
C. Backlog Reduction Plans
- In the 2020 guidelines for Chief FOIA Officer Reports, any agency with a backlog of over 1000 requests in Fiscal Year 2019 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 2020?
- If your agency had a backlog of more than 1,000 requests in Fiscal Year 2020, what is your agency's plan to reduce this backlog during Fiscal Year 2021?
U.S. Department of Labor – FOIA Initial Requests Backlog Reduction Plan for FY 2021
- Reduce overall "FOIA Initial Request" Backlog by at least 10 percent;
- Process and close each agency component's ten oldest FOIA requests;
- Conduct agency reviews to monitor component FOIA backlog and internal processes; and
- Hold quarterly "FOIA Coordinator Meetings" to offer guidance and discuss best practices
- Utilize the administrative efficiencies built into FOIAXpress case management system to streamline workflows.
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 2019 and Fiscal Year 2020 when completing this section of your Chief FOIA Officer Report.
- In Fiscal Year 2020, did your agency close the ten oldest pending perfected requests that were reported in Section VII.E. of your Fiscal Year 2019 Annual FOIA Report?
- 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 2019 Annual FOIA Report. If you had fewer than ten total oldest requests to close, please indicate that.
- Beyond work on the ten oldest requests, please describe any steps your agency took to reduce the overall age of your pending requests.
In an effort to achieve more accurate and reliable FOIA data, as well as enhance the overall efficiency of the Departmentâ€™s FOIA operations, DOL procured the FOIAXpress case management system and implemented the database throughout the agency.
|FY 2019 - Ten Oldest FOIA Initial Requests||FY 2020 - Ten Oldest FOIA Initial Requests|
Note: As demonstrated in yellow shading within the above table, the Department closed all ten of the FOIA initial requests that were reported within the FY 2019 FOIA Annual Report. Note, however, that due to data migration, FOIA requests that were not previously counted have been identified as being among the 10 oldest requests pending with the Department. These requests are identified in the second column.
TEN OLDEST APPEALS
- In Fiscal Year 2020, did your agency close the ten oldest appeals that were reported pending in Section VII.C.5. of your Fiscal Year 2019 Annual FOIA Report?
- 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 2019 Annual FOIA Report. If you had fewer than ten total oldest appeals to close, please indicate that.
- Beyond work on the ten oldest appeals, please describe any steps your agency took to reduce the overall age of your pending appeals.
The Department has procured the FOIAXpress case management system for FOIA. The FOIA Appeals Unit is utilizing the appeals functions within the database to track, control and process FOIA appeals.
|FY 2019 - Ten Oldest FOIA Appeals||FY 2020 - Ten Oldest FOIA Appeals|
Note: As demonstrated in yellow shading, the Appeals Unit was able to close all ten of its oldest appeals during FY 2020.
TEN OLDEST CONSULTATIONS
- In Fiscal Year 2020, did your agency close the ten oldest consultations that were reported pending in Section XII.C. of your Fiscal Year 2019 Annual FOIA Report?
- 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 2019 Annual FOIA Report. If you had fewer than ten total oldest consultations to close, please indicate that.
The Department was able to close seven out of the 10 oldest consultations reported in FY 2020.
|FY 2019 - Ten Oldest FOIA Initial Requests||FY 2020 - Ten Oldest FOIA Initial Requests|
E. Additional Information on Ten Oldest Requests, Appeals, and Consultations & Plans
- Briefly explain any obstacles your agency faced in closing its ten oldest requests, appeals, and consultations from Fiscal Year 2020.
The primary obstacle for not closing the ten oldest initial requests, appeals and consultations has been available FOIA resources throughout DOL, and the complexity of requests from the stakeholder community and in the backlog. In addition, DOL has had a significant increase in FOIA litigation over the past two years, most involving large volumes of complex electronic records, which has also diverted resources away from addressing the FOIA backlog. Pending litigation also contributes to the backlog, as there are FOIA requests that are directly or indirectly related to litigation. All of these issues have been impacted by the bandwidth and staff resources necessary to configure and implement a new FOIA tracking system.
- 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.
- 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 2021.
In addition to keeping with the FOIA backlog reduction plan, the Department plans to fully implement its new and robust FOIAXpress case management system for FOIA by utilizing the collaboration portal and the Public Access Portal. DOL will continue to train all agency users and familiarize them with the functionality that is available to use every aspect of the system. In addition, DOL quarterly briefings will continue to take place and FOIA bulletins as well as various other communications will be distributed to FOIA professionals department-wide.
F. Success Stories
Out of all the activities undertaken by your agency since March 2020 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, but should not be something that you have reported in a prior year. 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.
Departmental Success Story:
While each of the decentralized components continues to work to find ways to promote efficiencies, increase transparency and improve overall FOIA administration, during this reporting cycle, we would like to highlight the implementation FOIAXpress, as the success story that is emblematic of DOL's effort to enhance FOIA processing across the Department.
In establishing work place priorities, the Deputy Secretary and the Solicitor of Labor, in her role as Chief FOIA Officer, established a "FOIA Modernization Initiative" that focused on developing and implementing changes that would improve the overall effectiveness and efficiency of the Department's FOIA program.
This initiative began over two years ago, in January of 2019, and evaluated varying aspects of the Department's overall FOIA program with an emphasis on backlog reduction, work process reengineering to promote more timely processing of initial FOIA requests and identifying other areas where systemic improvements could be made to promote a more robust FOIA program. In addition to the areas identified for improvement, the Department also realized that it needed to leverage technology for programmatic improvements. Accordingly, a determination was made that the Department would benefit from a more robust methodology to manage and process FOIA requests to replace the legacy FOIA tracking system, the Secretary's Information Management System for FOIA (SIMS-FOIA). This finding was consistent with a recommendation made by the General Accountability Office (GAO) in its 2016 evaluation of the Departments FOIA program, wherein GAO emphasized the importance of taking actions necessary to fully implement the best practice capabilities for enhanced processing of requests in the department's FOIA system and online portals established by the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS).
The new system, FOIAXpress, has the ability to automate the lifecycle of a FOIA request from submission to final delivery of documents and has a functionality that includes request and correspondence management; electronic receipt and posting capabilities; document review and redaction; an electronic records repository and reliable FOIA reporting. In addition, the system has an added capability that provides access to FOIA case files while documenting administrative actions on various FOIA matters that will assist the Department's legal staff in the adjudication of FOIA appeals and defending the agency in FOIA litigation. There is also a collaboration portal with functionality that allows DOL staff to share documents. The system contains a Public Access Link (PAL) that enables FOIA requesters to register and file requests directly with the DOL agency in which they are seeking records.
Through the collaborative efforts of staffs within the Office of the Solicitor (SOL) as the business process owner, the Office of the Chief Information Officer as the system owner, and over 700 systems users representing each of DOL's free standing agency components, with the exception of the Office of the Inspector General, the Department successfully launched FOIAXpress on October 1, 2020. The launch of the system was a success, in and of itself, and was followed by the successful migration of data. It is important to note that DOL navigated this complex initiative, which included: the intense evaluation and documentation of each component's complex workflows; system mapping establishing the framework necessary to configure an inter-relational tracking methodology that would allow components to communicate seamlessly; data configuration to structure legacy data; data testing and validation; system training for end users; contract coordination; two phases of deployment; and data migration from two legacy data systems, during a period of maximum telework flexibilities and remote work. As a result of the cooperative and collaborative work of our stakeholders, across the Department, FOIAXpress is now the sole source of FOIA data for the Department, with the exception of the Department's OIG. Also, for the first time, we are able to link FOIA appeals and litigation matters using the same data source.