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U.S. Department of Labor 2013 Chief FOIA Officer Report

DOL Seal

U.S. Department of Labor
2013 Chief FOIA Officer Report
(March 2012 March 2013)

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?

2012 Annual FOIA Training Conference: On June 12-13, 2012, SOL hosted the Department's Fourth Annual FOIA Training Conference. The two day event was themed, "FOIA 2012: Reaching New Heights in Information Management Through Discretionary Disclosures, Transparency and Openness" and was designed to train Department of Labor access professionals on a variety of FOIA topics, both administrative and legal. The conference included speakers from DOL and the Office of Information Policy of the Department of Justice (DOJ). The conference was well attended by DOL staff in the national office in Washington, DC and was made available to employees across the country to attend via remote access. To ensure that every DOL employee with FOIA responsibilities has access to the training materials, SOL published the training videos and PowerPoint presentations to the Department's internal website for future viewing.

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, continued to hold quarterly meetings with FOIA Coordinators who represent each of DOL's 23 agency components. These meetings provided 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, share best practices in customer service and related topics and focus on the importance of overall backlog reduction, with emphasis on closing the ten oldest requests each year.

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 meetings and teleconferences to encourage more consistent FOIA processing across their respective organizations.

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

In addition to the multiple DOL-sponsored training discussed above, DOL FOIA professionals 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 Graduate School of America and the American Society of Access Professionals (ASAP). The Department of Labor's Counsel for Administrative Law served as a frequent instructor on FOIA Exemption 5 at the DOJ/OIP FOIA Overview Sessions and the Director of the Office of Information Services served as an instructor for DOJ's Overview Sessions in the area of FOIA Administrative Process as well as for ASAP on a variety of FOIA, Privacy Act and Records Management issues. These individuals shared their expertise as part of established DOL FOIA training opportunities.

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.

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

Yes. DOL made numerous discretionary releases of information that could have been denied in full or in part under Exemptions 5 and 7. During this reporting period DOL made 986 discretionary disclosures of information that could have been properly withheld under one or more FOIA exemptions.

DOL Discretionary Disclosure Data

Time Period

Total Number of Discretionary Disclosures

Exemption 7(A)

Exemption 5

March 2012 December 2012

986

143

843

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

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

  1. Provide a narrative description or some examples of the types of information that your agency released as a matter of discretion.

DOL FOIA professionals cite that the following types of records have been disclosed as a matter of discretion: emails, inspector's notes, accident investigation materials, documents related to ongoing investigations, drafts, memoranda, internal training materials, pre-decisional policy documents, and related documents.

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

DOL remains committed to the goal of an open government in accordance with the President's January 19, 2009 memos on the "Freedom of Information Act" and "Open Government," the Attorney General's memo of March 19, 2009 on the "Freedom of Information Act," and the joint memo of June 11, 2012 from the Acting Associate Attorney General and the Counsel to the President on the "Freedom of Information Act." DOL has demonstrated this commitment by ensuring its FOIA professionals have opportunities to develop the knowledge, skills and abilities to successfully manage their respective FOIA programs and to meet the requirements of the President's Open Government goals. 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 affirmatively publish information and data to their public facing websites. DOL continues to look for opportunities to make affirmative and proactive disclosures through our websites and FOIA Libraries, as well as through our open government portals.

The Office of the Solicitor issued revised Departmental guidance on making discretionary disclosures. This guidance reminded DOL's FOIA professionals that in response to specific FOIA requests, DOL agency components should not only disclose the information that the FOIA requires to be disclosed, but also make every effort to make discretionary disclosures of information where there is no foreseeable harm in doing so. This message had been underscored by the DOL Chief FOIA Officer in her keynote address at the DOL FOIA Conference as well as in formal and informal sessions conducted by the Office of Information Services and agency component specific forums. 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 also modified its FOIA tracking system to add a mandatory field 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, the user must also identify which FOIA exemption could have been applied to withhold the information in question from disclosure.

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 the 23 individual agency components within DOL respond directly to FOIA requests about their programs and activities. At the same time, 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 Office of the Chief Information Officer, which works with SOL's Office of Information Services, as the system owner, to ensure that the system functions 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. 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 between agency components and locations.

  1. 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 embraces the expanded utilization of websites and social media tools to proactively engage stakeholders and the public at large 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 the quality of 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. The Department of Labor has laid out a comprehensive open government plan and undertaken several new data sharing initiatives as part of President Obama's commitment to make government agencies more transparent, accountable, and responsive. In addition to publishing over 50 data sets on http://www.data.gov and http://www.dol.gov/open , DOL is communicating with the public in new ways. The agency is active in several of the most visited social media channels to ensure two-way communications with our stakeholders. As previously reported, DOL is making the data it publishes available through an Application Program Interface (API). Initially launched with just three datasets, today APIs on http://developer.dol.gov/ provide access to 19 datasets containing 80 individual tables. DOL was the first federal agency to provide the public with Software Development Kits (SDKs) and sample code for seven commonly used data platforms to help developers make better use of our API. These innovations lower the barrier to entry, allowing someone with basic programming skills greater access to DOL data.

Furthering the goal of openness, the Department has released mobile applications such as the "DOL 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. Many of these applications are made available in both English and Spanish to promote transparency that may be hampered by language barriers. Consistent with the Department's mission, we produce large volumes of data on enforcement actions, employment, wages, and much more. This data can be useful for those struggling to find a job, workers looking for ways improve their skills, and consumers who want to know that the businesses they use provide safe, healthy, and fair workplaces. As part of our Open Government Plan, the Department of Labor is working to "liberate" this data because we know this information is valuable, we are actively working on ways to put it into the hands of the American people at home, at the office, or on the go. More innovations, enhancements, and datasets are in the works.

  1. Has your agency assessed 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.

  1. Describe any other steps your agency has undertaken to ensure that your FOIA system operates efficiently and effectively, such as conducting self-assessments to find greater efficiencies, improving search processes, streamlining consultations, eliminating redundancy, etc.

DOL took numerous steps to ensure that the FOIA tracking system operated efficiently and effectively. As reported last year, the Chief FOIA Officer has assigned OIS the responsibility of monitoring and auditing data in the Departmental FOIA tracking system, SIMS-FOIA, to ensure its accuracy and reliability. One of the initiatives advanced by OIS this year was an audit of data in the Department's centralized FOIA tracking database, the Secretary's Information Management System for FOIA or "SIMS-FOIA." This initiative was aimed at ensuring full processing of FOIA requests as well as obtaining the most accurate data for FOIA reporting purposes. As part of this audit, OIS located a large number of records that had been improperly listed in the FOIA request system with a pending "Action Required" or "AR" code. When records are in an "AR" status, SIMS-FOIA does not track them for timeliness or any other processing milestone. Of this group of records, OIS determined that some were administrative messages that should be deleted (e.g., test data and system messages); others represented FOIA requests that had been fully processed but not correctly logged into and closed out of the tracking system; and 996 records were actual FOIA requests, received in DOL in FY2011 as well as in earlier years, that had not yet been fully processed. We believe that this audit has resulted in more accurate FOIA data and it ensures that all requesters are receiving equitable treatment in response to pending FOIA requests.

In addition to looking at our FOIA data, OIS continues to review the FOIA processing and administrative procedures of DOL agency components in order to identify and share best practices and to promote timely, accurate, and consistent processing of incoming FOIA requests. DOL has also established a robust set of FOIA processing measures and milestones ensuring accountability across the Department for timelier processing of FOIA requests, backlog reduction and accurate and timely assignment of FOIA requests.

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 2012 to March 2013). 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. Provide examples of material that your agency has posted this past year.

With more frequency and in greater volume, components posted FOIA logs, annual reports, policy guidance, historical reports, mission reports, government purchase card holder lists, strategic plans, contracts information, contract listings, lists of accessioned documents, press releases, testimonies and speeches, workplace accident reports, investigations, audit reports, proposals and abstracts for grant applications, reports to Congress, Congressional hearings, Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) complaint data, veterans information and links on worker healthy living. The Office of the Solicitor, Office of Information Services has enhanced the Department's FOIA main page by updating and adding materials such as the Freedom of Information Act Desk Reference Guide and National FOIA Directory. Several links have been updated to assist the general public in obtaining FOIA information and guidance from sources other than the U.S. Department of Labor.

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

The Department of Labor, through its Open Government initiatives as well as the work of individual agency components, is actively working to make the information posted to our public facing websites more useful and accessible to the public. DOL encourages users to share their thoughts as they relate to topics discussed on DOL blogs, our social media pages as well as the pages of individual agency components or programs. Each of our websites includes links allowing users to provide feedback and recommendations to the appropriate webmasters regarding information and web content. As noted above, DOL's Open Government team continues to modernize its approach toward sharing information, including through mobile applications.

  1. If so, provide examples of such improvements.

DOL has taken multiple steps to make information posted to our websites more useful to the public. Specifically, DOL has developed multiple mobile applications to benefit workers. While these resources are available via the web, they are not useful for those using mobile devices, such as cell phones, to gain access to this data. As most cell phone companies impose some sort of limit on their customers' data usage. Using one provider as an example, the basic data plan has a limit of 200 megabytes (MB) per month. Once this limit is exceeded, the user can face additional charges. Another smartphone platform limits over-the-air app downloads to 20 MB to protect the users' data caps. The Department of Labor has many datasets published on Data.gov that, if included in a mobile app, would consume at least a half of a typical smartphone user's monthly data limit. For example, the Workforce Investment Act Net Impact Evaluation Dataset measures in at a hefty 321 MB. One solution was to create an application programming interface (API) that would allow developers of web or mobile apps to download only the data that their app needs when it is needed. Rather than include the entire dataset, the app sends a request to DOL's API asking for a much smaller subset of that data. The response is typically much smaller than an average webpage. While not a replacement for the datasets published to data.gov, the API provides instant, light-weight, and easy- to- access data for developers of web and mobile apps.

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

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 , DOL is committed to increasing the volume and availability of information posted on its public facing websites. DOL-wide instruction has been disseminated to more effectively process requests and to be proactive in posting material thought to be of public interest (regardless of whether a FOIA request has been received) to the FOIA Library. Guidance issued calls for communication, cooperation and a collaborative effort from IT Professionals, Legal Offices and Public Affairs Offices, Contracting Offices and/or any offices that hold records that are subject to request under FOIA. DOL believes that these initiatives will help better serve the public and ultimately reduce the volume of incoming FOIA requests.

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 2013, as we did in 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?

Yes. The Office of the Solicitor receives all electronic FOIA requests on behalf of all DOL agency components. FOIA requesters may only submit FOIA requests 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.

  1. If your agency is decentralized, can FOIA requests be made electronically to all components of your agency?

Consistent with DOL's implementing regulations at 29 C.F.R. 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:

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

Yes. Once a request has been logged into the Departmental FOIA tracking system, SIMS-FOIA, and assigned to an agency component for processing, requesters can track the status of their request using DOL's FOIA web portal. The FOIA Portal is available online at http://www.dol.gov/foia/. If a requester has a comment or inquiry regarding the status of a FOIA request, the agency component can be contacted via the designated FOIA Requester Service Center. Information concerning electronic contact information for the DOL FOIA Requester Service Centers is available online at http://www.dol.gov/dol/foia/RequestorServiceCenters.htm.

  1. If so, describe the information that is provided to the requester through the tracking system. For example, some tracking systems might tell the requester whether the request is "open" or "closed," while others will provide further details to the requester throughout the course of the processing, such as "search commenced" or "documents currently in review." List the specific types of information that are available through your agency's tracking system.

The Department's FOIA web portal provides the following information to requesters:

    • Request tracking number;
    • Date of receipt in the Department of Labor;
    • Estimated date of completion;
    • List of specific agencies in which the request was assigned;
    • Status (in-progress or decision made); and
    • Date of completion.
  1. In particular, does your agency tracking system provide the requester with an estimated date of completion for his or her request?

Yes.

  1. If your agency does not provide online tracking of requests, is your agency taking steps to establish this capability?

N/A

Use of technology to facilitate processing of requests:

  1. 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?

No. 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 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 invested in more advanced technology to facilitate FOIA processing.

  1. 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 2012 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.
    1. Does your agency utilize a separate track for simple requests?

Yes.

    1. If so, for your agency overall, for Fiscal Year 2012, was the average number of days to process simple requests twenty working days or fewer?

On average, DOL processed simple requests within 28.5 working days.

    1. 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

  1. 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 2011 and Fiscal Year 2012 should be used for this section.
    1. If your agency had a backlog of requests at the close of Fiscal Year 2012, did that backlog decrease as compared with Fiscal Year 2011?

Yes.

Backlog Comparison Initial FOIA Requests

FY 2011

FY2012

DOL OVERALL

1,430

735

Note: DOL auditing activity determined that there were an additional 834 backlogged FOIA requests at the end of FY 2011 then were included in the total reported in the FY 2011 Annual FOIA Report (596). These cases were discovered during a 3rd Quarter, FY 2012 audit of the SIMS-FOIA database. The resulting 1,430 FOIA requests backlogged as of the end of FY 2011 are reflected in the table above. Despite this discovery late in FY 2012, by the end of FY 2012 the total number of backlogged FOIA requests was reduced by almost half to 735 requests. DOL was able to achieve this substantial drop in backlogged initial requests through more robust oversight of departmental FOIA processing, the hard work of DOL's FOIA staff, consistent monitoring of FOIA related performance measures, and sustained effort toward backlog reduction throughout the Department's 23 FOIA components.

    1. If your agency had a backlog of administrative appeals in Fiscal Year 2012, did that backlog decrease as compared to Fiscal Year 2011?

No.

Backlog Comparison FOIA Appeals

FY 2011

FY2012

DOL OVERALL

87

139

Note: DOL experienced a substantial increase from only 87 backlogged appeals pending at the end of FY2011, up to 139 backlogged pending as of the end of FY2012. This is attributed largely to a substantial increase in the number of FOIA appeals received. Further, due to the nature and complexity of the incoming FOIA appeals, and some staff reduction, the number of FOIA appeals processed decreased from 393 in FY2011 to 354 in FY2012. DOL is looking for ways to address issues regarding the processing of incoming FOIA appeals.

    1. In Fiscal Year 2012, did your agency close the ten oldest requests that were pending as of the end of Fiscal Year 2011?

No.

FY 2011 10 Oldest Pending Initial FOIA Requests at DOL

10thOldest
Request
and Number
of Days
Pending

9th

8th

7th

6th

5th

4th

3rd

2nd

Oldest
Request
and Number
of Days
Pending

Total
DOL

1/30/09

671
OSHA

1/13/09

683
OSHA

12/29/08

693
OSHA

12/01/08

707
ETA

12/1/08

707
WHD

9/25/07

1002
MSHA

8/13/07

1038
MSHA

1/23/07

1170
WHD

10/5/06

1248
WHD

5/31/06

1335
OASAM

10 Oldest Pending Initial FOIA Requests at DOL-at the end of the First Quarter 2013

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

6/22/09

813
OWCP

6/15/09

818
OWCP

6/15/09

818
OWCP

6/15/09

818
OWCP

6/1/09

828
EBSA

1/27/09

924
WHD

9/25/07

1251
MSHA

6/14/07

1327
EXEC SEC

12/20/06

1448
EXEC SEC

3/3/05

1902
WHD

Note: As a part of the audit of data in Departmental FOIA tracking system, noted above, DOL located a large number of old initial FOIA requests that were as old, or older, than the "10 Oldest" reported in last year's Chief FOIA Officer's Report. The 3rd Quarter FY 2012 audit discovered 548 requests that were older than the data reported in the DOL FOIA Annual Report for FY 2011 and the 2012 Chief FOIA Officer's Report. By the end of FY 2012, only 3 of these old requests remain in this table.

    1. In Fiscal Year 2012, did your agency close the ten oldest administrative appeals that were pending as of the end of Fiscal Year 2011?

No.

FY 2011 Ten Oldest Appeals

10th
Oldest
Appeal

9th

8th

7th

6th

5th

4th

3rd

2nd

Oldest
Appeal

Date of Receipt of
Ten Oldest Appeals

11/04/09

10/21/09

8/28/09

08/19/09

08/05/09

05/05/09

04/23/09

04/15/09

01/09/09

05/22/07

Number of Days
Pending

695

709

763

772

786

878

890

898

994

1,592

FY 2012 Ten Oldest Appeals

10th
Oldest
Appeal

9th

8th

7th

6th

5th

4th

3rd

2nd

Oldest
Appeal

Date of Receipt of
Ten Oldest Appeals

9/14/10

VETS

9/9/10

VETS

8/31/10

OSHA

8/20/10

ETA

8/10/10

OSHA

6/24/10

OLMS

6/8/10

OSHA

1/11/10

OLMS

5/5/09

OSHA

4/15/09

OSHA

Number of Days
Pending

747

752

761

772

782

829

845

993

1244

1264

Note: During FY2012, DOL closed eight out of the ten oldest requests that were pending at the end of FY2011.

  1. 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:
    1. Was the lack of a reduction in the request backlog a result of an increase in the number of incoming requests?

N/A

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

N/A

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

N/A

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

N/A

Administrative Appeal Backlog:

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

Yes. During FY 2011, the Department received 338 appeals. However, during FY 2012, the number received increased to 414. There was a significant increase of 76 incoming appeals during FY 2012.

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

Yes.

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

Yes.

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

DOL experienced a substantial increase from only 87 backlogged appeals pending at the end of FY2011, up to 139 backlogged pending as of the end of FY2012. This is attributed largely to a substantial increase among the number of incoming FOIA appeals received. Further, due to the nature and complexity of the incoming FOIA appeals, as well as some reduction in staff, the number of FOIA appeals processed decreased from 393 in FY2011 to 354 in FY2012. DOL is looking for ways to address issues regarding the processing of incoming FOIA appeals.

  1. OIP has issued guidance encouraging agencies to make interim releases whenever they are working on requests that involve a voluminous amount of material or require searches in multiple locations. By providing rolling releases to requesters agencies facilitate access to the requested information. If your agency had a backlog in Fiscal Year 2012, please provide an estimate of the number of cases in the backlog where a substantive, interim response was provided during the fiscal year, even though the request was not finally closed.

DOL has not located any cases among the backlog where a substantive, interim response was provided during the fiscal year.

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 2012?

No.

  1. 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 2012 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. The success story can come from any one of the five key areas.

In May 2012, the Brown University's Taubman Center for Public Policy and American Institutions requested DOL's No Fear Act Annual Reports to Congress from 2002 to 2012. This request was processed by the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Administration and Management (OASAM). OASAM worked with the organization to determine their specific needs, focus the scope of the request, and provide a timely response disclosing the records requested in full. As a result of OASAM's effective customer service, the Director of the Brown Center was extremely complimentary of the work of the OASAM FOIA staff and alerted the Assistant Secretary of OASAM, by email of the exemplary service that the organization received. Moreover, the Director contacted the U.S. Office of Special Counsel about her interactions with the OASAM staff and suggested that DOL be promoted as an example of how executive branch agencies should work with FOIA requesters to comply with FOIA requests.