Skip to page content
Office of the Solicitor
Bookmark and Share

U.S. Department of Labor 2012 Chief FOIA Officer Report

DOL Seal

U.S. Department of Labor
Chief FOIA Officer Report for 2012
(March 2011 March 2012)

Part I:    Section I: Steps Taken to Apply the Presumption of Openness

The guiding principle underlying the President's FOIA Memorandum and the Attorney General's FOIA Guidelines is the presumption of openness.

Describe the steps your agency has taken to ensure that the presumption of openness is being applied to all decisions involving the FOIA. To do so, you should answer the questions listed below and then include any additional information you would like to describe how your agency is working to apply the presumption of openness.

    1. Did your agency hold an agency FOIA conference or otherwise conduct training during this reporting period?

2010 Annual FOIA Training Conference: On June 1-2, 2011, SOL hosted the Department's Third Annual FOIA Training Conference, under the theme - "FOIA Professionals - Opening the Door for Public Access." The theme captured the emphasis that the Department of Labor (DOL) places on applying the goals of transparency and openness in its FOIA practices. The conference was well attended by DOL staff in the national office in Washington, DC and was made available to many more employees from across the country who attended via remote access. The conference included speakers from DOL and the Office of Information Policy of the Department of Justice (DOJ).

Quarterly Departmental FOIA Coordinators Meetings: The Office of the Solicitor (SOL) through the Office of Information Services (OIS), which serves as DOL's overall FOIA administrative manager, continues to hold quarterly meetings with FOIA Coordinators who represent each of DOL's 23 agency components. These meetings provide an opportunity to disseminate information, offer on-the-spot training on the application of FOIA exemptions, provide guidance on the considerations involved in evaluating "foreseeable harm" from potential disclosures, discuss administrative processing matters, and share best practices in customer service and related topics.

FOIA Forums: OIS conducted a series of small, informal training sessions commonly referred to as "FOIA Forums." To date, FOIA Forums have included sessions on the appropriate use of the Departmental FOIA tracking system (Secretary"s Information Management System " FOIA or SIMS-FOIA), the FOIA Administrative Process, Discretionary Disclosures and Exemption 5.

Agency Component Training: Many DOL agency components report that they have conducted specific training on a variety of procedural and technical FOIA matters. Others hold regularly scheduled meeting and teleconferences to encourage more consistent FOIA processing across their respective organizations.

    2. Did your FOIA professionals attend any FOIA training, such as that provided by the Department of Justice?

DOL FOIA professionals report that they have taken advantage of outside FOIA training opportunities, including FOIA-related courses offered by DOJ's Office of Legal Education, briefings hosted by DOJ's Office of Information Policy, and FOIA and Privacy Act seminars offered by the USDA's Graduate School and the American Society of Access Professionals.

In his 2009 FOIA Guidelines, the Attorney General strongly encouraged agencies to make discretionary releases of information even when the information might be technically exempt from disclosure under the FOIA. OIP encourages agencies to make such discretionary releases whenever there is no foreseeable harm from release.

    3. Did your agency make any discretionary releases of otherwise exempt information?

During this reporting period DOL made 1,081 discretionary disclosures of information that could have been properly withheld under one or more FOIA exemptions.

    4. What exemptions would have covered the information that was released as a matter of discretion?

FOIA exemptions 2, 5 and 7(A) would have covered the information that was released as a matter of discretion.

    5. Describe your agency"s process to review records to determine whether discretionary releases are possible.

Guidance has been given at the Departmental level to ensure that each DOL agency component understands that in response to specific FOIA requests, DOL should not only disclose information that FOIA requires to be disclosed, but also make every effort to make discretionary disclosures of information where there is no foreseeable harm to an interest protected under FOIA. This message has been conveyed in writing, through a series of guidance on this topic, verbally at the quarterly FOIA meetings, and in formal and informal training sessions.

To help ensure that an appropriate analysis of whether to make a discretionary disclosure is considered as a part of processing each FOIA request received, DOL modified its FOIA tracking system to add a mandatory radio button that tracks, for each request, whether a disclosure was made as a matter of discretion. If the user indicates that a discretionary disclosure was made, they must also identify which FOIA exemption could have been applied to withhold the information in question from disclosure. Further, on April 28, 2011, DOL hosted a FOIA Forum on "Discretionary Disclosures and Foreseeable Harm." This forum expanded on the discretionary disclosure guidance issued by SOL on January 10, 2011 and covered the application of exemption (b)(2) in light of the Supreme Court"s decision in Milner v. Department of Navy.

The discretionary disclosure guidance referenced above was modified on July 14, 2011 to clarify the scope of exemption 2 by making it clear that the exemption only applies to internal "personnel" rules and practices of an agency. That revised guidance outlined when it is appropriate to cite exemption 2 and when it is possible to make disclosures under this exemption as a matter of discretion. The document also clarified that there is no requirement under the law or DOJ guidance to consider discretionary disclosures in determinations made under the provisions of the Privacy Act. This guidance was superseded on December 16, 2011, when SOL issued further guidance clarifying how DOL agency components should conduct a foreseeable harm analysis for those documents that contain information subject to the deliberative process, attorney work product and/or attorney client privileges incorporated into exemption 5. FOIA coordinators and liaisons who encounter documents subject to potential withholding under exemption 5 were reminded that they must consult with the appropriate SOL Division and/or subject matter expert named in the document prior to making a determination that such documents pose no "foreseeable harm" and are therefore appropriate for discretionary disclosure.

    6. Describe any other initiatives undertaken by your agency to ensure that the presumption of openness is being         applied.

In addition to the guidance, communication, tracking, oversight and training strategies discussed above, OIS continued its review of the administrative FOIA processes used by agency components" FOIA programs. OIS used this collaborative review process as an opportunity to emphasize discretionary and proactive disclosures and to ensure that FOIA Coordinators have a clear understanding of the principles of openness outlined in President Obama"s and Attorney General Holder"s FOIA Guidelines. Many agency components reported targeted efforts within their agencies to monitor FOIA requests to determine when responsive records may generate the interest of media or public interest groups. This effort has helped agency components make determinations on when to publish documents to their public facing websites.

In Section V.B.(1) of your agency"s Annual FOIA Report, entitled "Disposition of FOIA Requests " All Processed Requests" the first two columns list the "Number of Full Grants" and the "Number of Partial Grants/Partial Denials." Compare your agency"s 2011 Annual FOIA Report with last year"s Annual FOIA Report, and answer the following questions:

    7. Did your agency have an increase in the number of responses where records were released in full?

DOL did not have an increase in the number of responses that were released in full.

    8. Did your agency have an increase in the number of responses where records were released in part?

 

FY 2009

FY 2010

FY 2011

REQUESTS PROCESSED

16,810

17,625

18,129

FULL GRANTS

4,684

4,358

3,737

PARTIAL GRANTS

6,664

6,454

6,864

TOTAL NUMBER OF FULL AND PARTIAL GRANTS

11,348

10,812

10,601

During FY 2011, the Department of Labor processed 18,129 FOIA requests. Of the total number processed, 10,601, or 58.4%, resulted in the disclosure of information in full or in part. This does include the 6,138 request that were not complied with for procedurals reasons, such as when the information requested had already been made publicly available through the DOL website. As shown above, the number of full and partial grants has gone down over time, with 10,812 or 61% of FOIA requests resulting in the release of information in FY2010 and 11,348 or 67.5% in FY2010. Notwithstanding this trend, DOL does not believe that these statistics are indicative of any decrease in DOL"s commitment to openness and transparency in FOIA processing.

The fact that DOL continues to make information available through its web sites, both as proactive and affirmative disclosures mandated under FOIA and the collaborative efforts of our Open Government team to publish high-quality data sets, may partially explain the slight decrease in full and partial disclosures over time. Another contributing factor is that the majority of FOIA requests received by DOL are for enforcement files, which contain personal information and confidential witness statements protected by exemptions (b)(6), (b)(7)(C) and (b)(7)(D) and therefore almost always result in partial grants of information when such files are requested under FOIA. Similarly, requests for ongoing investigations, including those conducted by the IG, are denied in full or in part under exemption (b)(7)(A). As it relates to these types of records, DOL does not expect to see future significant increases in the number of requests that are granted in full or in part. On a quarterly basis, the Department continues to track the number of full and partial releases to ensure sufficient focus is being paid to this issue.

 

FY 2009

FY 2010

FY 2011

DENIALS IN FULL

1,784

1,512

1,390

A review of the data also suggests that DOL has consistently reduced the number of full denials of information through discretionary disclosures and through the expansion of information published on the web.

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

As the Attorney General emphasized in his FOIA Guidelines, "[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."

This section should include a discussion of how your agency has addressed the key roles played by the broad spectrum of agency personnel who work with FOIA professionals in responding to requests, including, in particular, steps taken to ensure that FOIA professionals have sufficient IT support.

Describe here the steps your agency has taken to ensure that its system for responding to requests is effective and efficient. To do so, answer the questions below and then include any additional information that you would like to describe how your agency ensures that your FOIA system is efficient and effective.

    1. Do FOIA professionals within your agency have sufficient IT support?

The Department leverages available IT resources to the maximum extent possible to support effective FOIA operations throughout the Department. However, DOL has a largely decentralized FOIA operation, and individual agency components within DOL respond directly to FOIA requests about their programs and activities. At the same time, as further discussed in Part IV below, DOL has established a centralized tracking database, the Secretary's Information Management System for FOIA or "SIMS-FOIA," which is used by all DOL agency components to track FOIA requests (with the exception of DOL's Office of Inspector General). SIMS-FOIA is centrally supported by DOL's Departmental Information Technology Center, which works with SOL's Office of Information Services, as the system owner, to ensure that the system is functioning appropriately, to trouble shoot problems identified by system users, to run queries against the system to facilitate annual and ad hoc reporting requirements and to implement system enhancements as necessary and appropriate. While SIMS-FOIA performs DOL's required tracking, logging and reporting requirements, the system does not have the capability to conduct electronic redactions, issue electronic acknowledgements, or directly respond to requesters. The resources to enhance or replace the current system are also limited. Further, because DOL has a decentralized FOIA program, whether particular FOIA components have sufficient IT assistance to support their FOIA work " which is a question of the availability of IT support, resources and electronic tools -- varies among agency components and locations.

    2. Is there regular interaction between agency FOIA professionals and the Chief FOIA Officer?

The Solicitor of Labor serves as the DOL Chief FOIA Officer. The Chief FOIA Officer is focused on encouraging open government, proactive disclosures of information, responses to FOIA requests that are made promptly and appropriately release records, increased administrative processes and increased accountability across the Department for FOIA performance. SOL"s Office of Information Services (OIS) has been designated to assist the DOL Chief FOIA Officer in carrying out the statutory responsibilities of this position. OIS provides the Chief FOIA Officer with a bi-weekly report concerning the DOL FOIA program. And, on a quarterly basis the Chief FOIA Officer is briefed on the agency performance against the established FOIA related milestones and process measures described in Part V below. Priority matters are communicated to the Chief FOIA Officer as they arise. Similarly, as priorities change, the Chief FOIA Officer communicates that information to OIS for immediate dissemination to the DOL FOIA Coordinators for further action.

    3. Do your FOIA professionals work with your agency"s Open Government Team?

Yes. The Office of Public Affairs (OPA) leads DOL's Open Government initiatives, which embrace the expanded utilization of websites and social media tools to proactively engage stakeholders in the work of the Department. The Open Government Team Leader within each agency component serves as a liaison between the component and OPA. The component Open Government Team Leader works with the respective FOIA Coordinator to identify records and data that are appropriate for public posting. While each DOL agency is responsible for its own web content, OPA has facilitated the implementation of several enterprise solutions to improve accessibility, accuracy and ongoing improvements in the information DOL makes publicly available.

DOL continues to look for ways to make data available in line with the established Open Government framework. In addition to publishing additional data sets on http://www.data.gov/ and http://www.dol.gov/open/, DOL is communicating with the public in new and different ways. The agency is active in several of the most visited social media channels to ensure two-way communications with our stakeholders. DOL is making the data it publishes available through an Application Program Interface (API), which allows anyone to easily connect to DOL data and has released Software Development Kits (SDKs) for seven commonly used data platforms. The Department has also released mobile applications such as the Labor Statistics app, which provides up-to-the minute information about key labor statistics; the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Heat Index app, which provides workers with information about outdoor working conditions and how to be safe in them; and the DOL Timesheet app, which assists users in tracking their hours for one employer or across multiple employers to determine when overtime is due.

    4. Describe the steps your agency has taken to assess whether adequate staffing is being devoted to FOIA         administration.

Agency components allocate staff based on program needs, priorities, and available resources. Agency components report that their FOIA Coordinator and managerial staff meet with the appropriate program area to review existing FOIA caseload and address whether adequate staff resources are being devoted to processing FOIA requests. In the FY2011 Annual FOIA report, DOL identified 151.94 "Full-Time FOIA Staff," an increase of 6.98 over the number of full time staff reported in FY2011.

    5. Describe any other steps your agency has undertaken to ensure that your FOIA system operates efficiently         and effectively.

As reported last year, the Chief FOIA Officer has assigned OIS the responsibility of monitoring and auditing of the data in SIMS-FOIA to ensure the accuracy and reliability of the data it contains. This process includes updates to the user manual and refresher training to ensure that appropriate rules of behavior are employed by system users. In addition to the measures already noted, OIS has undertaken a review of the FOIA processing and administrative procedures of DOL agency components in order to identify and share best practices. Additionally, DOL has established a number of performance metrics related to FOIA in order to promote accountability and keep focused on important aspects of effective FOIA administration. These milestones and measures are identified below in Part V.

Each DOL agency component except the Office of Inspector General, including regional and district offices, is now using SIMS-FOIA. DOL is relying solely on that system for all of the aggregate FOIA data reported in this year's annual FOIA report. Relying on the system in lieu of disparate tracking methodologies, in addition to more consistent usage of the system, has allowed for more accurate reporting of the agency's FOIA activities, and has resulted in the more accurate accounting of FOIA requests received and processed by the Department.

Section III: Steps Taken to Increase Proactive Disclosures

Both the President and Attorney General focused on the need for agencies to work proactively to post information online without waiting for individual requests to be received.

Describe here the steps your agency has taken both to increase the amount of material that is available on your agency website, and the usability of such information, including providing examples of proactive disclosures that have been made during this past reporting period (i.e., from March 2011 to March 2012). In doing so, answer the questions listed below and describe any additional steps taken by your agency to make and improve proactive disclosures of information.

    1. Has your agency added new material to your website since last year?

Yes. The Department of Labor remains committed to increasing proactive disclosures of information and data. As noted, FOIA operations at DOL are decentralized, and therefore each agency component is responsible for actively posting and updating materials in its respective FOIA Library. At the Departmental level the agency is committed to increasing the volume and availability of information posted on our public facing websites. DOL believes that these initiatives will help us better serve the public and ultimately reduce the volume of incoming FOIA requests.

    2. Provide examples of the records, datasets, videos, etc., that have been posted this past year.

The following is a sample of materials and information added to the DOL FOIA Libraries since March 2011. DOL agency components report that, prior to publication on the web this information was only disclosed in response to FOIA requests:

  • Office of Administrative Law Judges (OALJ) posts all final ALJ decisions within one business day of issuance (except for Longshore decisions, which are held for five business days before posting to accommodate the regulatory requirement that OWCP rather than OALJ serve such decisions). From January 1, 2011 to December 31, 2011, OALJ posted approximately 6,800 new ALJ decisions.
  • Employment & Training Administration (ETA) Office of Trade Adjustment Assistance (OTAA) began the process of redacting all incoming petitions for trade adjustment assistance (TAA) eligibility. This process enables OTAA to proactively disclose TAA petitions and make them available to the public via the OTAA website: (http://www.doleta.gov/tradeact).
  • ETA's Office of National Response publishes National Emergency Grants (NEG) application tools and NEG award information.
  • ETA's Office of Foreign Labor Certification (OFLC) has redesigned its website to include the posting of several fact sheets, filing tips and an H-2A Employer Handbook, which contains a summary of process and tips to assist employers seeking agricultural workers through the H-2A temporary agricultural program. OFLC also actively coordinates with the DOL Open Government team by providing a link to OFLC Performance Data page that provides data sets for each program area (PERM program, H-2A, H-2B, H-1B) for the past five years. A new feature on the OFLC main page is the FY 2010 Annual Report and map that provides pertinent state-level data on foreign labor certification applications requested, processed and certified, as well as information on occupations for which employers sought foreign workers, and the wages paid.
  • Recognizing the Department's commitment to conducting a transparent grant award process and publicizing information about program outcomes, ETA's Office of Grant Management began publishing applications and information concerning post-award activities.
  • Unemployment Insurance (UI) - In September and October 2011, the Department used webinar technology to host the kickoff, state report-outs, and close of an UI Integrity "Institute-in-a-Box," whereby 41 states convened cross-functional task forces to review root causes of improper payments and to develop an integrity strategic plan to provide to the Department.
  • DOL uses its social media presence to provide "Quick Tips" for job seekers and UI claimants to connect to One-Stop Career Centers and state job banks to assist with their job search. The Department also plans to release a public service announcement that will reinforce key messages for employers and claimants to help reduce fraudulent and improper payments. These resources are available through the Department's Facebook pages at http://www.facebook.com/departmentoflabor and http://www.facebook.com/socialjobs , as well as posted at http://www.unemploymentinsurance.doleta.gov/unemploy/improp_pay.asp.

    3. Describe the system your agency uses to routinely identify records that are appropriate for posting.

Most agency components meet with subject matter experts within their respective agencies to discuss which records are appropriate for posting to their respective FOIA Libraries.

    4. Beyond posting new material, is your agency taking steps to make the information more useful to the public,         especially to the community of individuals who regularly access your agency's website, such as soliciting         feedback on the content and presentation of the posted material, improving search capabilities, providing         explanatory material, etc.?

DOL provides a wide range of data using open format technologies to make information assessable and more useful to the public. Further, agency components have included links on their web pages that allow users to provide feedback and recommendations to webmasters regarding information included on their respective websites.

    5. Describe any other steps taken to increase proactive disclosures at your agency.

During this reporting period, OIS conducted FOIA follow up agency reviews. The reviews were primarily aimed at assessing FOIA operations within DOL and identifying administrative best practices and deficiencies. They also provided OIS with the opportunity to provide agency-specific guidance on a number of issues, including increasing the proactive disclosures of information.

Section IV: Steps Taken to Greater Utilize Technology

A key component of the President's FOIA Memorandum was the direction to "use modern technology to inform citizens about what is known and done by their Government." In addition to using the internet to make proactive disclosures, agencies should also be exploring ways to utilize technology in responding to requests. In 2010 and 2011, agencies reported widespread use of technology in handling FOIA requests. For 2012, the questions have been further refined and now also address different, more innovative aspects of technology use.

    Electronic receipt of FOIA requests:

    1. Can FOIA requests be made electronically to your agency?

Only the Office of the Solicitor can receive FOIA requests electronically on behalf of all agency components. FOIA requesters may only submit FOIA request electronically via the central FOIA mailbox at foiarequest@dol.gov. Once a request has been logged and assigned a tracking number, requesters can track the status of their request using DOL's FOIA web portal. Each agency component has a designated FOIA mailbox that allows FOIA requesters to make an inquiry regarding the status of their FOIA requests.

    2. If your agency processes requests on a decentralized basis, do all components of your agency receive         requests electronically?

Consistent with DOL's implementing regulations at 29 CFR Part 70, only the Office of the Solicitor can receive FOIA requests electronically, which it may do on behalf of all agency components.

    Online tracking of FOIA requests:

    3. Can a FOIA requester track the status of his/her request electronically?

FOIA requesters may only submit FOIA request electronically via the central FOIA mailbox at foiarequest@dol.gov. Once a request has been logged and assigned a tracking number, requesters can track the status of their request using DOL's FOIA web portal. If a requester has a comment or inquiry regarding the status of a FOIA request, the agency component can also be contacted via the designated FOIA Requester Service Center.

    4. If not, is your agency taking steps to establish this capability?

        N/A

    Use of technology to facilitate processing of requests:

    5. Beyond using technology to redact documents, is your agency taking steps to utilize more advanced         technology to facilitate overall FOIA efficiency, such as improving record search capabilities, utilizing document         sharing platforms for consultations and referrals, or employing software that can sort and de-duplicate         documents?

While DOL uses SIMS-FOIA as an electronic tracking, logging and reporting system for FOIA requests, the system does not include such capabilities as loading and redacting documents, and issuing electronic acknowledgements and disclosure responses to requesters. As noted, DOL has a very decentralized FOIA program. Some agency components, based on available resources and the volume of FOIA requests, have been able to invest in electronic redaction technology. Use of this technology, however, is not available across DOL, and IT support may vary by the particular DOL component and location. Most agencies use other electronic tools such as scanners, CDs, email, and internal databases for retrieval and processing of FOIA requests. At the enterprise level DOL has not obtained more advanced technology to facilitate FOIA processing.

    6. If so, describe the technological improvements being made.

        N/A

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

The President and the Attorney General have emphasized the importance of improving timeliness in responding to requests. This section 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 and appeals. For the figures required in this Section, please use those contained in the specified sections of your agency's 2011 Annual FOIA Report.

1. 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. If your agency does not utilize a separate track for processing simple requests, answer the question below using the figure provided in your report for your non-expedited requests.

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

Yes

b. If so, for your agency overall, for Fiscal Year 2011, was the average number of days to process simple     requests twenty working days or fewer?

On average, DOL processed simple requests within 37.7 working days.

c. If your agency does not track simple requests separately, was the average number of days to process     non-expedited requests twenty working days or fewer?

N/A

2. Sections XII.D.(2) and XII.E.(2) of your agency's Annual FOIA Report, entitled "Comparison of Numbers of Requests/Appeals from Previous and Current Annual Report - Backlogged Requests/Appeals," show the numbers of any backlog of pending requests or pending appeals from Fiscal Year 2011 as compared to Fiscal Year 2010. You should refer to those numbers when completing this section of your Chief FOIA Officer Report. In addition, Section VII.E, entitled "Pending Requests - Ten Oldest Pending Requests," and Section VI.C.(5), entitled "Ten Oldest Pending Administrative Appeals," from both Fiscal Year 2010 and Fiscal Year 2011 should be used for this section.

a. If your agency had a backlog of requests at the close of Fiscal Year 2011, did that backlog decrease as     compared with Fiscal Year 2010?

Backlog Comparison - Initial FOIA Requests

 

Number of Backlogged
Requests as of End FY2010

Number of Backlogged
Requests as of End of FY2011

DOL OVERALL

503

596

Since the end of FY10, DOL's FOIA backlog has increased by 18.5%. We attribute this increase, in part, to the decision to use the Departmental tracking system as the sole source of data for FOIA reporting. DOL believes that use of the system has allowed the agency to identify requests that may not have been counted in last year's FOIA report. DOL will continue to encourage the reduction of the backlog in accordance with the Open Government Directive.

b. If your agency had a backlog of administrative appeals in Fiscal Year 2011, did that backlog decrease as     compared to Fiscal Year 2010?

Backlog Comparison - FOIA Appeals

 

Number of Backlogged
Requests as of End FY2009

Number of Backlogged
Requests as of End of FY2010

DOL OVERALL

143

87

DOL continues to work to reduce the number of appeals pending with the agency, and has achieved substantial success. The number of FOIA backlogged appeals decreased 61%, from 143 at the end of FY2010 to 87 at the end of FY2011.

c. In Fiscal Year 2011, did your agency close the ten oldest requests that were pending as of the end of Fiscal     Year 2010?

FY 2010 - 10 Oldest Pending Initial FOIA Requests at DOL

 

10th Oldest
Request
and
Number
of Days
Pending

9th

8th

7th

6th

5th

4th

3rd

2nd

Oldest
Request
and
Number
of Days
Pending

Total
DOL

9-4-07

763

8-29-07

766

8-13-07

787

6-11-07

826

6-8-07

832

5-9-07

844

3-27-07

875

2-15-07

905

11-15-06

973

10-5-06

997

FY 2011 - 10 Oldest Pending Initial FOIA Requests at DOL

 

10th Oldest
Request
and
Number
of Days
Pending

9th

8th

7th

6th

5th

4th

3rd

2nd

Oldest
Request
and
Number
of Days
Pending

Total
DOL

01-30-09

671
OSHA

01-13-09

683
OSHA

12-29-08

693
OSHA

12-1-08

707
ETA

12-01-08

707
WHD

09-25-07

1002
MSHA

8-13-07

1038
MSHA

1-23-07

1170
WHD

10-05-06

1248
WHD

5-31-06

1335
OASAM

DOL closed the ten oldest pending requests reported in the FY2010 FOIA Report. However, when we compiled data for the FY2011 FOIA report, we identified requests that predate some of the oldest pending requests reported in FY2010. We believe that by using the DOL FOIA tracking system in lieu of manual data collection to compile the report, we were able to identify requests that were not previously accounted for.

d. In Fiscal Year 2011, did your agency close the ten oldest administrative appeals that were pending as of     the end of Fiscal Year 2010?

FY 2010 - 10 Oldest Pending FOIA Appeals at DOL

 

10th Oldest
Request
and
Number
of Days
Pending

9th

8th

7th

6th

5th

4th

3rd

2nd

Oldest
Request
and
Number
of Days
Pending

Total
DOL

07-16-08

807

07-10-08

813

07-07-08

816

05-14-08

870

05-14-08

870

05-02-08

882

05-02-08

882

04-11-08

903

02-19-08

955

05-22-07

1128

FY 2011 - 10 Oldest Pending FOIA Appeals at DOL

 

10th Oldest
Request
and
Number
of Days
Pending

9th

8th

7th

6th

5th

4th

3rd

2nd

Oldest
Request
and
Number
of Days
Pending

Total
DOL

11/04/09

695

10/21/09

709

08/28/09

763

08/19/09

772

08/05/09

786

05/05/09

878

04/23/09

890

04/15/09

898

01/09/09

994

05-22-07

1,592

DOL closed nine of ten oldest administrative appeals that were pending at the end of FY2010.

3. If you answered "no" to any of the above questions, describe why that has occurred. In doing so, answer the following questions then include any additional explanation:

Request Backlog:

a. Was the lack of a reduction in the request backlog a result of an increase in the number of incoming requests?

DOL believes that several factors were involved in the increase in the number of backlogged FOIA requests. Those factors include the increase in the number of incoming requests, the level of complexity of those requests, limited staffing resources to facilitate more prompt FOIA processing, and the switch from manual to electronic data calculations for the purposes of FOIA reporting.

b. Was the lack of a reduction in the request backlog caused by a loss of staff?

No

c. Was the lack of a reduction in the request backlog caused by an increase in the complexity of the requests received?

Please see question 3.a above.

d. What other causes, if any, contributed to the lack of a decrease in the request backlog?

N/A

Administrative Appeal Backlog:

a. Was the lack of a reduction in the backlog of administrative appeals a result of an increase in the number of incoming appeals?

N/A

b. Was the lack of a reduction in the appeal backlog caused by a loss of staff?

N/A

c. Was the lack of a reduction in the appeal backlog caused by in increase in the complexity of the appeals received?

N/A

d. What other causes, if any, contributed to the lack of a decrease in the appeal backlog?

N/A

All agencies should strive to both reduce any existing backlogs or requests and appeals and to improve their timeliness in responding to requests and appeals. Describe the steps your agency is taking to make improvements in those areas. In doing so, answer the following questions and then also include any other steps being taken to reduce backlogs and to improve timeliness.

1. Does your agency routinely set goals and monitor the progress of your FOIA caseload?

Yes, consistent with the Open Government Directive, DOL has established an FY 2012 Backlog Reduction Plan. This Plan is distributed among DOL's FOIA Coordinators and posted to our public facing FOIA website. SOL has also established FOIA related milestones and process measures to monitor FOIA compliance within OIS and across the Department as a whole. Those goals are as follows:

Milestones

  • Milestone 1 - During FY 2012, OIS will organize and conduct 4 quarterly meetings of all of the Department of Labor FOIA coordinators, to provide administrative and programmatic FOIA guidance.
  • Milestone 2 - During FY 2012, OIS will conduct quarterly reviews of the discretionary disclosures made by each of DOL's 23 agency components pursuant to President Obama's FOIA policy, using information available in SIMS-FOIA.
  • Milestone 3 - During FY 2011, OIS, in conjunction with SOL/MALS legal staff, will conduct at least 5 training sessions related to the implementation of the FOIA and Privacy Act. Completion Dates: 12/30/2011; 3/16/2012; 5/31/2012; 7/31/2012; 9/28/2012.
  • Milestone 4 - OIS will conduct an audit of SIMS-FOIA to enhance the reliability of FOIA data and improving the tracking of FOIA requests. Completion date June 29, 2012.
  • Milestone 5 - During FY 2012, OIS staff will issue at least 5 FOIA Bulletins aimed at ensuring Departmental compliance with FOIA policy guidance, best practices in FOIA processing, improved timeliness, backlog reduction and enhanced customer service.

Process Measures

  • Measure 1 - In FY 2012, DOL's FOIA components will provide on-time responses to initial FOIA requests (that is, within the 20 working days mandated by statute) for 80% of all initial FOIA requests processed in the "Simple" queue; and 65% of all initial FOIA requests processed in the "Complex" queue.

Note: Target is based on the average on-time percentage reported for each FOIA request category in the FY2010 annual FOIA report and data trends for the first three quarters of FY2011. The data indicates that DOL consistently exceeds the target goal of on time responses for 75% of FOIA requests in the "Simple" queue and 65% in the "Complex" queue. The revised metrics are representative of DOL's performance for on time responses.

  • Measure 2 - By the end of FY 2012, DOL's FOIA components will reduce the number of DOL backlogged FOIA requests by 10%.
  • Note: Put another way, the number of backlogged FOIA requests pending as of September 30, 2012 will be 10% lower than the number pending as of October 1, 2011. This goal in mandated by the Open Government Directive.
  • Measure 3 - OIS will respond on time to 100% of FOIA related data calls and reports, including the Annual FOIA and Chief FOIA Officer Reports.
  • Measure 4 - To facilitate timely responses by DOL FOIA components to FOIA requests submitted to DOL's central e-mail intake box (foiarequest@dol.gov), OIS will acknowledge and route these requests to the agency components that are likely to maintain responsive records within 2 business days.

2. Has your agency increased its FOIA staffing?

Please see the answer provided in Section I, Number 6 above.

3. Has your agency made IT improvements to increase timeliness?

No

4. If your agency receives consultations from other agencies, has your agency taken steps to improve the efficiency of the handling of such consultations, such as utilizing IT to share the documents, or establishing guidelines or agreements with other agencies on the handling of particular information to speed up or eliminate the need for consultations?

No

Use of FOIA's Law Enforcement "Exclusions"

In order to increase transparency regarding the use of the FOIA's statutory law enforcement exclusions, which authorize agencies under certain exceptional circumstances to "treat the records as not subject to the requirements of [the FOIA]," 5 U.S.C. § 552(c)(1), (2), (3), please answer the following questions:

1. Did your agency invoke a statutory exclusion during Fiscal Year 2011?

No

2. If so, what is the total number of times exclusions were invoked?

N/A

Spotlight on Success

Out of all the activities undertaken by your agency since March 2011 to increase transparency and improve FOIA administration, describe here one success story that you would like to highlight as emblematic of your agency's efforts.

  • DOL has been under intense scrutiny following the Upper Big Branch, Performance Coal Company mining disaster in April 2010 that killed 29 miners. Upon publication of the long-awaited Accident Investigation Report, the FOIA staff in the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) working in conjunction with the Accident Investigation Team, the Office of the Solicitor and the U.S. Department of Justice was able to post a very large amount of support data on the MSHA website within 24 hours of release of the accident report. This information included nearly 30,000 pages of witness interview transcripts contained in the accident investigation report. DOL believes that this effort was responsible in part for the relatively low number of FOIA requests for the post accident report.