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U.S. Department of Labor


2019 Chief FOIA Officer Report

Acting Solicitor of Labor/DOL Chief FOIA Officer Report

(March 12, 2018 through March 11, 2019)



EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Within DOL, day-to-day FOIA operation is decentralized. As a result, each of the 23 agency components has been given flexibility to design a program that meets the agency’s needs and the applicable FOIA requirements. 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 each agency component receives 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, SOL’s Management and Administrative Legal Services Division (MALS) houses the Office of Information Services (OIS), Counsel for FOIA and Information Law, and the Counsel for FOIA Appeals. These programmatic and counsel areas are responsible for providing department-wide guidance regarding FOIA compliance, monitoring FOIA performance measures and reporting requirements (e.g., the statutorily mandated FOIA Annual Report and this report), defending FOIA litigation, and making administrative appeal determinations. Although FOIA operations at the Department 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 and supporting the statutory mandates assigned to the Chief FOIA Officer.

During Fiscal Year 2018, the U.S. Department of Labor received 14,696 FOIA requests and processed 14,679 requests. As demonstrated in 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 – 14%), Employment and Training Administration (ETA – 6%), Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA – 5%) and the Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA - 3%). The remaining 12 percent of the Department’s requests were received by the other 18 agency components.

FY 2018 - Total Number of Requests Received: 14,696

14,696 FOIA Requests were received in FY2018.  Of these, 8,792 belonged to OSHA, 2,016 to WHD, 873 to ETA, 756 to MSHA and 529 to EBSA.  The remaining 1,730 were to all other matters.

Section I: Steps Taken to Apply the Presumption of Openness

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

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

A. FOIA Leadership

  1. The FOIA requires each agency to designate a Chief FOIA Officer who is a senior official at least at the Assistant Secretary or equivalent level. Is your agency’s Chief FOIA Officer at or above this level?

Yes

  1. Please provide the name and title of your agency’s Chief FOIA Officer

Kate S. O’Scannlain, Solicitor of Labor

B. FOIA Training

  1. Did your FOIA professionals or the personnel at your agency who have FOIA responsibilities attend any substantive FOIA training or conference during the reporting period such as that provided by the Department of Justice?

Yes

  1. If yes, please provide a brief description of the type of training attended or conducted and the topics covered.

Tenth Annual FOIA Training Conference. On May 1, 2 and 3, 2018, the Office of the Solicitor hosted its Annual Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Training Conference in Washington, D.C. The presenters included FOIA professionals from both the operations and the legal side, including the Director for the Office of Information Services, the Counsel for FOIA and Information Law, and the Counsel for FOIA Appeals, Paperwork Reduction Act, and Federal Records Act. In addition, the guest speakers were Kate S. O’Scannlain, Solicitor of Labor and Chief FOIA Officer and Conrad Jacoby, Chief of the Litigation Support unit within the Office of the Solicitor. The lecture-style training was presented via webcast production and made available to approximately 400 Department of Labor FOIA contacts nationwide.

The three day event themed “FOIA 2018: Implementing FOIA with an Eye Toward Openness and Improved Processes” was designed to train Department of Labor access professionals on a variety of topics that included the following: FOIA Administrative Processing Overview; FOIA Exemptions Overview; FOIA Exemption 5; FOIA & Records Management Interface; Administrative Appeals & Litigation; FOIA Exemptions Overview; Fees & Fee Waivers; FOIA Exemption 4; E.O. 12,600 Process; Privacy Act Overview; Redaction Workshop; FOIA/Privacy Act Interface; FOIA Best Practices and Process Management; Exemption 7(D) and Investigative Files; Publishing to the Web; and, Practical Tips for Using the Department’s FOIA Tracking System, SIMS-FOIA.

Learning Link On-line FOIA Training Modules. The Department of Labor requires that all new and current employees with FOIA responsibilities utilize the LearningLink On-line Module for FOIA training on an annual basis. FOIA professionals may choose one or two FOIA e-learning training courses that include courses entitled “FOIA e-Learning Professionals 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. We track compliance with this annual requirement based on tracking logs in the Department’s LearningLink system and follow up with agency components when necessary

Quarterly FOIA Coordinators Meetings. The Office of the Solicitor’s Office of Information Services is responsible for the management and implementation of FOIA for the Department. As part of this mission, OIS holds quarterly Departmental FOIA meetings for all designated FOIA Coordinators and FOIA contacts throughout the nation. The purpose of these meetings is to offer guidance regarding a variety of ongoing FOIA administrative and legal issues. These meetings also serve as a forum to encourage Departmental FOIA personnel in their efforts to fully implement the provisions of the statute. The meetings also provide opportunities for FOIA Service Center staff to speak with candor regarding ongoing issues and share best practices with respect to FOIA processing and the management of FOIA activities. Advice is always offered regarding the application of the foreseeable harm standard and the “Rule of 3.” Each meeting addresses common issues such as the presumption of openness; the spirit of cooperation; the importance of reducing the overall FOIA backlog; the goal of closing the ten oldest FOIA requests held by each component; and the proactive posting of frequently requested materials.

Individual Training Conducted by DOL components. During the reporting period Departmental components conducted internal training sessions that were tailored to the specific needs of those agencies. All DOL agency components reported that they plan and regularly provide specialized training to individuals with FOIA related responsibilities and encourage staff to participate in outside training offerings such as those provided by the Department of Justice, the American Society for Access Professionals (ASAP) and the Graduate School, USA.

Examples are outlined below:

Agency Training Sessions
Acronym Component Training Session Descriptions
ADJ BOARDS Adjudicatory Boards Adjudicatory Boards staff attended the DOL Tenth Annual FOIA Training Conference in May 2018.
BLS Bureau of Labor Statistics BLS FOIA experts and coordinators attended the DOL Tenth Annual FOIA Conference in May 2018.
EBSA Employee Benefits Security Administration EBSA staff attended the DOL Tenth Annual FOIA Conference Training in May 2018 and participated in DOJ’s FOIA Overview training, which included such topics as: web publishing; FOIA administrative processing and tips; FOIA exemptions; and, the 12600 process.
ETA Employment Training Administration ETA FOIA staff participated in the DOL Tenth Annual FOIA Conference that took place in May 2018. ETA’s FOIA Program Manager conducted various small group training sessions and regional forums for federal and contract staff on FOIA related issues.
ILAB International Labor Affairs Bureau The ILAB FOIA Coordinator attended several training sessions. Specifically, she attended the DOJ FOIA Training for Legal Professionals, DOJ FOIA Training for Attorneys and Legal Professionals, DOL/SOL quarterly training sessions, and the DOL Tenth Annual FOIA Training Conference in May 2018.
MSHA Mine Safety and Health Administration MSHA FOIA personnel participated in the DOL Tenth Annual FOIA conference in May 2018. On September 26, 2018, MSHA hosted an internal FOIA training session with speakers from Office of Information Policy at the Department of Justice. The MSHA FOIA Officer also routinely conducts agency specific training. MSHA also provided new FOIA Manager training as well as bi-weekly FOIA conference calls with staffs in the MSHA district offices.
OALJ Office of the Administrative Law Judges All persons with significant FOIA responsibilities received training. Five attended the DOL Tenth Annual FOIA Training Conference in May 2018. The remaining personnel, managers and supervisors took the FOIA e-Learning training on LaborNet or attended DOJ training. 
OASAM Office of the Assistant Secretary for Administration and Management OASAM FOIA Coordinators attended DOL’s Tenth Annual FOIA Conference in May 2018 and attended FOIA training conducted by the Department of Justice.
OASP Office of the Assistant Secretary for Policy OASP FOIA professionals participated in several FOIA training courses provided by the DOJ Office of Information Policy. Coordinators also participated in the Tenth Annual FOIA Training Conference that took place in May 2018 at the Department of Labor. Each FOIA staff member also took the FOIA e-Learning training on LaborNet.
OCIA Office of Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs FOIA staff attended DOL’s Tenth Annual FOIA Training Conference in May 2018.
ODEP Office of Disability Employment Programs ODEP FOIA staff attended the Tenth Annual FOIA Training Conference in May 2018 and DOJ’s FOIA Litigation Seminar.
OFCCP Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs OFCCP FOIA professionals participated in annual DOL and DOJ FOIA training.
OIG Office of the Inspector General The OIG FOIA Officer attended the three day DOL sponsored annual training conference in May 2018. In addition, the FOIA Manager also attended the three day training conference hosted by the American Society of Access Professionals (ASAP).
OLMS Office of Labor- Management Standards OLMS staff attended the DOL Tenth Annual FOIA Training Conference in May 2018 and a FOIA Litigation Seminar held by DOJ that discussed recent court decisions, litigation considerations and an overview of declarations and Vaughn indices.
OPA Office of Public Affairs The OPA FOIA Coordinator attended the DOL Tenth Annual FOIA Conference held in May 2018.
OSEC Office of the Secretary Each FOIA staff member took the FOIA e-Learning training on LaborNet.
OSHA Occupational Safety and Health Administration OSHA employees attended the DOL Tenth Annual FOIA Conference held in May 2018. In addition, OSHA provides agency specific training via webinar, covering such topics as the FOIA administrative process, fees, and FOIA exemptions. OSHA supplements its specialized training with quarterly training updates via conference calls. OSHA regional offices also conduct in-person trainings with staff from OSHA’s National Office and/or regional SOL staff.
OWCP Office of Workers Compensation Programs Each of OWCP’s FOIA staff attended the Tenth Annual DOL FOIA Training Conference in May 2018.
SOL Office of the Solicitor The Office of the Solicitor hosted the Tenth Annual FOIA Training Conference that took place in May 2018. FOIA staff also participated in training sessions offered by the DOJ Office of Information Policy, the American Society for Access Professionals and trained via the Department’s Learning Link On-line Training Module.
VETS Veterans Employment Training Services VETS staff attended the Tenth Annual FOIA Training provided by DOL in May of 2018. FOIA contacts in VETS also attended training offered by the Department of Justice and the Graduate School USDA. VETS also conducted individual training sessions regarding the use of the Department’s FOIA tracking system, SIMS FOIA, and FOIA administrative procedures.
WB Women’s Bureau The Women’s Bureau FOIA Coordinator participated in the DOL FY 2018 Tenth Annual FOIA Conference that took place in May 2018.
WHD Wage and Hour Division WHD FOIA staff attended the Tenth Annual FOIA Training Conference in May 2018. WHD also conducted its own internal FOIA Conference in September 2018 for WHD staff. WHD FOIA staff attended the DOJ FOIA Litigation training in November 2018, the DOJ Introduction to FOIA training held on December 5, 2018 and the DOJ FOIA training for Attorneys and Access Professionals held in February 2019. WHD held monthly FOIA meetings and conducted internal trainings during the reporting period. WHD continues to encourage new staff member to complete the DOL FOIA e-Learning training on LaborNet.
  1. Provide an estimate of the percentage of your FOIA professionals and staff with FOIA responsibilities who attended substantive FOIA training during this reporting period.

Based on our records, 90% of designated FOIA staff, across the Department, participated in the Department’s FOIA Conference, completed the FOIA training via Learning Link, and viewed the FOIA related training materials posted on the DOL intranet and/or participated in substantive training offered outside of DOL.

  1. OIP has 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.

N/A

C. Outreach

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

Yes.

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.

The Department’s Chief FOIA Officer, the Director of the Office of Information Services, and/or the DOL FOIA Public Liaison attended the Chief FOIA Officer’s Council Meetings that took place on July 19th and October 4, 2018.  The DOL FOIA Public Liaison continues to provide outreach services to requesters, including public advocacy and open government entities concerning the processing of pending FOIA requests. Most components consistently engage in outreach or dialogue with requesters via email or telephone.

The DOL FOIA agency components identified the following examples of additional outreach activities that they conducted:

List of Additional Outreach Activities
Component FOIA Outreach
BLS BLS provide its FOIA requesters with additional information regarding the records it maintains. These proactive discussions resulted in a decrease in the number of incoming FOIA requests for standard data requests as that information can be obtained without the need for filing a FOIA request.
ETA ETA has taken the following steps to improve its outreach to FOIA requesters:
  • ETA FOIA professionals engaged in outreach and dialogue with the requester community through its FOIA status email box.
  • Job Corps Regional Coordinators and Center Records Managers refer FOIA requesters to helpful information on the Job Corps web page to facilitate submissions of FOIA request to specific centers.
  • ETA/OTAA FOIA (Office of Trade Adjustment Assistance) personnel maintain open communication and dialogue with requesters that are looking for specific data related to their programs/investigations.
ILAB ILAB used outreach as a way to narrow the scope of complex requests, negotiate on processing time frames and to ensure that requesters understand ILAB�s mission. ILAB communicates with requesters via phone, email and through publications in FOIA Library.
MSHA MSHA provided outreach by contacting requesters in an effort to narrow the scope of requests; provide clarification; discuss fees and provide interim updates on FOIA requests.
OASAM OASAM FOIA Coordinators provided guidance to requesters regarding the disposition of records that are no longer maintained by the agency, such as personnel related folders that were transferred to other Federal agencies or to the National Archives and Records Administration.
OIG Individual outreach is routinely conducted by the agency FOIA Manager to the requester community in order to communicate regarding complex or voluminous requests.
OWCP OWCP staff within the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act (EEOICPA) Branch of Outreach and Technical Outreach (BOTA) discuss general FOIA related issues during the EEOICPA Outreach Town Hall events for EEOICPA claimants and authorized representatives.
SOL The Director of the Office of Information Services served as a guest speaker at various conferences and workshops hosted by the American Society of Access Professionals.

The DOL FOIA Public Liaison continues to provide outreach services to requesters and groups that include public advocacy and open government entities concerning individual FOIA requests and Departmental FOIA policy.

OIS and other staff within SOL staff work collaboratively on specific request for records created and maintained by SOL, regularly engage with requesters to identify already publicly available information, clarify and refine requests scopes, and to provided information on request processing and status updates.
VETS VETS provided outreach services via telephone, email and written communications to the general public regarding processing and FOIA request outcomes.
WB WB engaged requesters and potential requesters through follow-up guidance or information provided via phone and email. WB also ensured links to FOIA guidelines and processes were made publicly available on the WB FOIA webpage.
WHD WHD leadership and Communications Team reached out to the community and stakeholders regularly to provide status updates on pending requests and general information concerning WHD�s FOIA program.

D. Other Initiatives

  1. Describe any efforts your agency has undertaken to inform non-FOIA professionals of their obligations under the FOIA. In 2016, the Department FOIA-related performance standards for employees that have any role in administering the FOIA, including non-FOIA professionals. Please also indicate whether your agency has considered including FOIA-related performance standards in employee work plans for employees who have any role in administering the FOIA.

The Office of Information Services issued several messages to managers, supervisors and others who are involved, even tangentially, in the FOIA process regarding their obligations under FOIA.

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

Below is information concerning those agency components that include FOIA-related performance standards in employee work plans for employees who have any role in administering the FOIA.

Agency components that include FOIA-related performance standards in employee work plans
Component Other Initiatives
ADJ BOARDS FOIA related performance standards are included within the Performance Plans of the Boards’ FOIA Coordinator.
BLS FOIA related performance standards have been included in employee work plans for BLS agency FOIA coordinators and experts.
EBSA EBSA FOIA Coordinators currently have FOIA related performance standards.
ETA All ETA FOIA professionals have FOIA related elements included within their FOIA standards and evaluations.
ILAB ILAB has two staff members who work on FOIA responsibilities. One serves as the main FOIA coordinator. Her performance plan includes a specific performance element and standards that are dedicated to FOIA duties.
MSHA The MSHA FOIA Officer and the immediate staff within the National office have FOIA related performance measures that are linked to strategic outcomes.
OALJ OALJ includes FOIA in performance standards for those whose work includes significant FOIA responsibilities.
OASAM OASAM has ensured the inclusion of FOIA related elements within performance standards and performance evaluations for those employees with FOIA responsibilities.
OLMS OLMS had FOIA related performance standards implemented for 100 percent of staff with FOIA responsibilities.
OPA The OPA FOIA Coordinator has performance standards that take into account the percentage of time spent dealing with FOIA matters.
OSHA OSHA nominated several of its FOIA personnel to receive he OSHA Assistant Secretary’s Coin Award. Four coins were awarded to regional and National Office personnel to recognize their excellence in coordinating and processing FOIA requests.
SOL FOIA-related elements are included within performance standards for all staff within SOL’s Management and Administrative Legal Services Division with FOIA related responsibilities, including those in the Office of Information Services, FOIA and Information Law and FOIA Appeals Counsel areas.
WB WB incorporated FOIA related performance standards in the WB FOIA Coordinator’s annual Performance Management Plan.
WHD WHD utilizes FOIA related performance standards for employees who perform these functions.

  1. If there are any other initiatives undertaken by your agency to ensure that the presumption of openness is being applied, please describe them here.

The Department uses every opportunity available to remind FOIA professionals of the importance of applying the presumption of openness while processing FOIA requests and reviewing records for disclosure. The subject is discussed during quarterly meetings, as well as during the annual FOIA training conference.

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.

  1. For Fiscal Year 2018, 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 2018 Annual FOIA Report.
FY 2018 - Requests for Expedited Processing
  Average Number of Days to Adjudicate
DOL TOTAL 50.9
  1. If your agency's average number of days to adjudicate requests for expedited processing was above ten calendar days, please describe the steps your agency will take to ensure that requests for expedited processing are adjudicated within ten calendar days or less.

During the upcoming quarterly FOIA Coordinators meetings, staff within the Office of Information Services staff will remind FOIA professionals of the importance of making timely decisions with respect to requests seeking expedited processing. Additionally, in 2019 OIS staff will emphasize in trainings the processes and requirements for timely adjudication of these requests. OIS will also remind agencies of the importance of these requests during ongoing and upcoming administrative agency reviews.

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

FOIA Administrative Reviews. The purpose Office of Information Services (OIS) conductsadministrative reviews to identify best practices with regard to DOL’s FOIA administrative process and to offer agency components the opportunity to discuss any issues related to their agency’s handling of FOIA requests, including the implementation of statutory and regulatory provisions, as well as new and ongoing policy initiatives. During this reporting period, the Office of Information Services has conducted nine administrative agency reviews to assess the efficiency of DOL agency components in implementing the provisions of FOIA. Seven additional administrative agency reviews will be conducted during the months of March and April. Questions asked during these reviews are based on the subject areas in DOJ’s Self-Assessment Toolkit.

In conducting these reviews, OIS staff meets with FOIA Coordinators and other agency staff to obtain information regarding the component's FOIA practices. In advance of the meeting, the agency components are provided with a list of topics that may be discussed during the review. The responses to OIS’s questions allow OIS to access whether DOL components are properly implementing the statute, DOL’s FOIA regulations and existing policy guidance. Information gathered from the reviews is discussed with the parties involved in the reviews. Additionally, best practices solutions are shared in a generalized fashion during standing quarterly FOIA coordinator meetings.

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

  1. The FOIA Improvement Act of 2016 requires additional notification to requesters about the services provided by the agency’s FOIA Public Liaison. Please provide an estimate of the number of times requesters sought assistance from your agency’s FOIA Public Liaison during FY 2018 (please provide a total number or an estimate of the number).
2018 FOIA Liaison Inquiries
Inquiry Type Inquiry Count
Number of inquiries (status/customer service/other) 692
Requests for Mediation 7
Total Number of Inquiries 699
  1. Please describe the best practices used to ensure that your FOIA system operates efficiently and effectively and any challenges your agency faces in this area. 

The Office of the Solicitor, with the support of the Office of the Deputy Secretary and the Office of the Chief Information Officer, continues to monitor and evaluate the Department’s FOIA tracking system, the Secretary’s Information Management System for FOIA (SIMS-FOIA) to ensure that it operates as efficiently and effectively as possible. The Department continues to assess the system’s ability to allow for necessary modifications to address IT matters and to ensure that the system is able to tabulate all of the data points necessary to meet any new or existing reporting requirements mandated by the statute and/or the Department of Justice. DOL continues to work on refinements to the system. On a parallel track, OIS regularly communicates with FOIA staff to address user errors and to promote the completion of all mandatory data fields to ensure we have access to accurate information regarding the disposition of each request logged in the system. While the existing tracking system allows the Department to meet its mandated quarterly and annual FOIA reporting requirements, we recognize that our existing tracking methodology has certain limitations. Accordingly the Departmental is evaluating options to leverage existing technology solutions with the possibility of enhancing our existing system or replacing it entirely.

Outside of the tracking system, and as more FOIA requesters submit requests that require extensive searches of email and other forms of electronically stored information, the Department is looking for ways to effectively leverage e-discovery tools, such as those that can help with processing data for review, de-duplicating, and other aspects to promote efficiencies in FOIA searches and responses.

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.

  1. Provide examples of material that your agency has proactively disclosed during the past reporting year, including links to the posted material.

Links to each DOL agency component’s FOIA Library can be found on our website at
https://www.dol.gov/dol/foia/readroom.htm

The following chart demonstrates the types of proactive disclosures that have been posted to the DOL website:

Examples of proactive disclosures posted to the DOL Website
Agency Component Proactive Disclosures
EBSA

EBSA’s 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 practical material such as Presidential Memorandums, rulemaking material, and disaster relief information.

EBSA’s FOIA page is at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ebsa/about-ebsa/our-activities/public-disclosure/foia.

Proactive disclosures such as key rulemaking and their public comments are timely posted on EBSA’s Website.

ETA
MSHA
OALJ
OASAM OASAM frequently provides links to websites in its FOIA responses. These may include directories, data reports, civil rights information and links to other federal agency sites that may be helpful to requesters.
ODEP During the reporting period, ODEP created a webpage to provide the public with a detailed overview of its most important policy initiative – a joint $80 million effort with ETA and the Social Security Administration to test the impact of early intervention projects on Stay at Work/Return to Work outcomes. The RETAIN — Retaining Employment and Talent After Injury/Illness Network – webpage contains detailed links to six different topics including News and Events, FAQs and About RETAIN. This comprehensive and transparent approach to providing the public with pertinent information on the demonstration program has resulted in no FOIA requests having been filed with the agency during the application thru the award portion regarding this important grant opportunity.
OFCCP During the reporting period, OFCCP published 38 case files and three Corporate Scheduling Announcement Lists in its FOIA Library at: https://www.dol.gov/ofccp/foia/foialibrary
OIG The OIG made the following updates to its FOIA Library to include newsletters investigative findings, audit projects and work plans:
OLMS
  • The OLMS FOIA Library has been updated to include an interface (http://www.dol.gov/olms/regs/compliance/OLMS_FOIA.htm) that allows the public to search, review, print, and order OLMS records. 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, and OLMS Historical Enforcement Data, OLMS Annual Reports).
  • Additionally, through its Public Disclosure Room (https://www.dol.gov/olms/regs/compliance/rrlo/lmrda.htm), OLMS makes available publicly all reports submitted pursuant to the LMRDA.
OSEC The agency has published calendars and travel itineraries for several agency leaders to dol.gov for the ease of providing a quick response to requestors. The information is updated on a monthly basis.
OWCP OWCP proactively disclosed and posted at least 6 categories of EEOICPA records and at least 26 items or records on the DEEOIC Public Reading room webpage, which include:
  • Energy Employees Occupational Illness Programs Compensation Act (EEOICPA) Actuarial Reports (Fiscal Year 2008-Most Recent Final Report)
  • DOL Response to EEOICPA Ombudsman’s Report (Calendar Year 2014-Most Recent Final Report/Response)
  • Contract Medical Consultant (CMC) & Second Opinion Medical Specialists Audits
  • DEEOIC Accountability Review Reports
  • EEOICPA Program Monthly Claims Data Statistic Reports
  • EEOICPA claims data count of Living Employees with Accepted Conditions
  • DBA Industry Report Card
The web-links for the OWCP web based publications are:

Additionally, the DCMWC Program proactively discloses claim data related to the number and type of claims processed quarterly to DCMWC stakeholders on a CD.
SOL During the reporting period, the Office of the Solicitor (SOL) posted 35 briefs and other legal documents to the SOL Brief Bank. The Division of Black Lung and Longshore Legal Services posted 15 U.S. Court of Appeals briefs and one motion, the Division of Occupational Health and Safety posted 2 briefs and the Plan Benefits Security posted 7 briefs. The Office of the Solicitor Brief Bank is available online at https://www.dol.gov/sol/media/briefs_new/
VETS VETS 4212 data has been published online at https://www.dol.gov/vets/foia/
WHD WHD published updated sections of its Field Operating Handbook; information  regarding Non-Enforcement Policy Service Advisors exemption under FLSA Section 13(b)(10)(A); a report, “Determining Whether Interns at For-Profit Employers Are Employees Under the FLSA;” information regarding an Amendment to FLSA Section 3(m) Included in Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018; a report, “Determining Whether Nurse or Caregiver Registries are Employers of the Caregiver,” FLSA guidance and opinion documents; and, Wage and Hour compliance data.

The documents can be found online at:
  1. Please describe how your agency identifies records that have been requested and released three or more times (and are therefore required to be proactively disclosed pursuant to 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(2)(D)).

FOIA Service Center staff are encouraged to utilize SIMS-FOIA (the Department’s FOIA tracking system) to run “All FOIA Requests” reports and regularly review the incoming requests in an effort to flag frequently requested information. The publication instances are manually tabulated by each component for the newly established annual FOIA reporting requirements.

  1. Beyond posting new material, is your agency taking steps to make the posted information more useful to the public, especially to the community of individuals who regularly access your agency’s website?

Yes.

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

As demonstrated within the chart above, during the reporting period, agency components continued to proactively post updated information in their public facing websites.

  1. Please describe the best practices used to improve proactive disclosures and any challenges your agency faces in this area.

At a minimum, agency components are briefed quarterly regarding the importance of making proactive disclosures of information. To the extent possible, each agency component works to proactively publish information not only in their FOIA Libraries but in other segments of the Department’s public facing webpages. The biggest challenge reported by agency components has been addressing Rehabilitation Act (Section 508) compliance matters.

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.

  1. Is your agency leveraging technology to facilitate efficiency in conducting searches, including searches for emails? If so, please describe the type of technology used. If not, please explain why and please describe the typical search process used instead.

Yes. In limited instances, the Department is leveraging its e-discovery tools to facilitate searches of emails and other electronic documents.

  1. 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?

Yes.

  1. Did your agency successfully post all four quarterly reports for Fiscal Year 2018?

Yes.

  1. If your agency did not successfully post all quarterly reports, with information appearing on FOIA.gov, please explain why and provide your agency’s plan for ensuring that such reporting is successful in Fiscal Year 2019.

N/A

  1. The FOIA Improvement Act of 2016 requires all agencies to post the raw statistical data used to compile their Annual FOIA Reports. Please provide the link to this posting for your agency’s Fiscal Year 2017 Annual FOIA Report and, if available, for your agency’s Fiscal Year 2018 Annual FOIA Report.

https://www.dol.gov/sol/foia/reports.htm

  1. Please describe the best practices used in greater utilizing technology and any challenges your agency faces in this area.
Best practices to leverage technology to facilitate overall FOIA efficiency
DOL Agency Component 2018 Best Practices to Leverage Technology
EBSA EBSA FOIA personnel work with the Department’s technology office to perform Cloud e-discovery searches. EBSA staff has compiled a list of commonly used FOIA templates and made them available on the shared drive for all national and regional offices.
ILAB ILAB works with OASAM OCIO to utilize E-Discovery tools for conducting searches for responsive FOIA records.
MSHA MSHA FOIA Coordinators use a shared drive for standardized letters and review. Excel spreadsheets are used to organize and track FOIA requests.

FOIA staff work with MSHA’s IT department and OASAM OCIO to conduct email searches. The agency uses redaction software in Adobe Acrobat Pro which enables more expeditious processing.

MSHA Coordinators also use the Mine Data Retrieval System (MDRS) and the MSHA Standardized Information (MSIS) to search and retrieve information.

Some challenges for MSHA include searching for responsive records because the documents are in paper format.
OALJ Beginning Oct. 1, 2017, OALJ significantly expanded access to ALJ orders and docket information relating to DOL OALJ hearings. See https://www.oalj.dol.gov/OALJ_CASE_STATUS.HTM
OCIA OCIA utilizes OASAM OCIO for large searches or searching emails, shared and personal drives using suggested keyword text.
OFCCP OFCCP uses Adobe Acrobat Pro to redact its documents. Currently, OFCCP maintains all of its case files in a paper format. When OFCCP receives FOIA requests for case files, the files are retrieved and converted to an electronic format. In March of 2019, the agency will launch its new Compliance Management System, which will help in the electronic management of the agency’s case files – and improve the FOIA processing efficiency
OIG OIG has implemented a formal process for email searches via forensic staff using FTK and Axiom tool kits, as well as BOX for cloud based file exchange system.
OPA OPA utilizes OASAM OCIO E-Discovery tool to conduct searches among electronic records.
OSHA OSHA utilizes the OASAM OCIO E-Discovery tools to facilitate searches of large volumes of material and utilizes Adobe Acrobat Pro for electronic redaction and storage of responsive records. 

When appropriate, OSHA has taken advantage of the limited availability of Concordance, maintained by the Office of the Solicitor, to assist with processing FOIA requests that are in litigation related documents.
OWCP OWCP uses Share-Drive web links to upload responsive records and SharePoint in the FOIA review and response.
SOL The Office of the Solicitor uses the OASAM- Office of the Chief Information Officer’s e-Discovery process for searching and retrieving records that are responsive to complex, coordinated and/or consolidated FOIA requests. When appropriate, SOL also uses Relativity and Concordance software to organize, de-duplicate and process electronic records.

SOL FOIA staff also uses Adobe Acrobat Pro for redaction of responsive FOIA records.
VETS VETS uses the OASAM-OCIO E-Discovery process for searching and retrieving FOIA data.
WB The Women’s Bureau utilizes MS Word, MS Outlook and SIMS Correspondence to facilitate efficiency in conducting electronic searches.
WHD WHD uses SharePoint to organize its administrative FOIA files. This enables FOIA professionals across the nation to access all files. This also allows greater tracking and monitoring of request and progress toward completion. Future use of SharePoint is pre-populating frequently used documents with requester information.

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

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 2018 Annual FOIA Report and, when applicable, your agency’s 2017 Annual FOIA Report.

A. Simple Track

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

  1. Does your agency utilize a separate track for simple requests? If your agency uses a multi-track system beyond simple, complex, and expedited to process requests, please describe the tracks you use and how they promote efficiency.

Yes. The U.S. Department of Labor utilizes a three track system for processing FOIA requests. (Simple/Complex/Expedited

  1. 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 2018?

No.

  1. Please provide the percentage of requests processed by your agency in Fiscal Year 2018 that were placed in your simple track.
Simple Requests - FY 2017
  Number of Simple Requests Processed Average Number of Days Total Number of Requests Processed Percentage of Total Requests
DOL OVERALL 4,963 24 14,679 34%
  1. If your agency does not track simple requests separately, was the average number of days to process all non-expedited requests twenty working days or fewer?

N/A

B. Backlogs

Section XII.A of your agency’s Annual FOIA Report, entitled "Backlogs of FOIA Requests and Administrative Appeals" shows the numbers of any backlogged requests or appeals from the fiscal year. You should refer to these numbers from your Annual FOIA Reports for both Fiscal Year 2017 and Fiscal Year 2018 when completing this section of your Chief FOIA Officer Report

Backlogged Requests:

  1. If your agency had a backlog of requests at the close of Fiscal Year 2018, did that backlog decrease as compared with the backlog reported at the end of Fiscal Year 2017?

No.

Backlog year over year comparison
Fiscal Year Number of Backlogged FOIA Requests
2017 594
2018 816
  1. If not, did your agency process more requests during Fiscal Year 2018 than it did during Fiscal Year 2017?

No.

  1. If your agency’s request backlog increased during Fiscal Year 2018, 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 requests.
    • A loss of staff.
    • An increase in the complexity of the requests received. If possible, please provide examples or briefly describe the types of complex requests contributing to your backlog increase.
    • Any other reasons please briefly describe or provide examples when possible.

The Department’s FOIA backlog has increased during FY 2018. There are several factors that contributed to the increase in the FOIA backlog. The majority of the requests received during FY 2018 were processed in the Department’s complex queue and required more time to process because of the volume and sensitivity of the responsive documents. Likewise, our response times were longer for the increased number of incoming FOIA requests where the Chief FOIA Officer made a determination that there should be a level of coordination among components. These instances included situations where the subject matter of the FOIA request implicated records held by multiple DOL agency components and sensitive matters and equities required a uniform approach to searching, reviewing and responding to the requester. Further, DOL FOIA Coordinators have cited that there is a real need to hire additional FTEs to accommodate the extra steps required to process incoming FOIAs. In addition, there have been times where there has been a loss of FOIA personnel which has slowed the pace of processing both backlogged and active requests.

To address the Department’s backlog of FOIA requests, on December 21, 2018, Deputy Secretary Pizzella, in conjunction with the Department’s Chief FOIA Officer, issued a memorandum to all DOL Agency Heads, addressing the Department’s FOIA backlog. He underscored that message in a meeting held on Wednesday, January 9, 2019, in which the Deputy Secretary stressed the importance of working to fully process FOIA requests and to make strides toward eliminating the volume of backlogged FOIA requests, particularly those that have been pending with the Department prior to January 1, 2018.

Specifically each DOL agency component was asked to:

  • Identify the number and subject of all open FOIA requests that predate January 1, 2018;
  • Send “still interested” letters or email to, or communicate by phone with, requesters with whom the agency component has had no communication with since January 1, 2018, to verify the requesters continued interest in their FOIA request; and
  • Report back to the Deputy Secretary and the Office of the Solicitor by February 28, 2019, on how many contacts the agency component issued and by which method, how many of those requesters chose to discontinue their FOIA request or did not respond, and how many of those requesters designated continued interest in the requested documents.

Implementation of the Deputy Secretary’s mandate is ongoing.

  1. If you had a request backlog please report the percentage of requests that make up the backlog out of the total number of requests received by your agency in Fiscal Year 2018. If your agency has no request backlog, please answer with “N/A.”
FY 2018 Backlog Percentage Chart
  Total Number of Requests Received Total Number of Backlog at End of FY 2018 Percentage of Total Requests
DOL OVERALL 14,696 816 5.6%

Backlogged Appeals:

  1. If your agency had a backlog of appeals at the close of Fiscal Year 2018, did that backlog decrease as compared with the backlog reported at the end of Fiscal Year 2017?

YES

  1. If not, did your agency process more appeals during Fiscal Year 2018 than it did during Fiscal Year 2017?

N/A.

  1. If your agency’s request backlog increased during Fiscal Year 2018, 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 requests.
    • A loss of staff.
    • An increase in the complexity of the requests received. If possible, please provide examples or briefly describe the types of complex requests contributing to your backlog increase.
    • Any other reasons – please briefly describe or provide examples when possible.
    ]

N/A.

  1. If you had an appeal backlog please report the percentage of appeals that make up the backlog out of the total number of appeals received by your agency in Fiscal Year 2018. If your agency did not receive any appeals in Fiscal Year 2018 and/or has no appeal backlog, please answer with "N/A.
Year Over Year Appeal Backlog
Fiscal Year Number of Backlogged Appeals at End of FY Number of Appeals Received Percentage of Appeals Received
2017 346 228 133%
2018 320 239 75%

C. Backlog Reduction Plans

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

N/A

  1. If your agency had a backlog of more than 1,000 requests in Fiscal Year 2018, what is your agency’s plan to reduce this backlog during Fiscal Year 2019?

N/A

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

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

OLDEST REQUESTS

  1. In Fiscal Year 2018, did your agency close the ten oldest requests that were reported pending in your Fiscal Year 2017 Annual FOIA Report?

No.

Ten oldest requests that were reported pending in your Fiscal Year 2016 Annual FOIA Report
  FY 2017 - Ten Oldest FOIA Initial Requests FY 2018 - Ten Oldest FOIA Initial Requests
Request Date Days Date Days
10th Oldest 02-10-2014 887 02-26-2015 887
9th Oldest 02-07-2014 889 11-18-2014 996
8th Oldest 01-28-2014 901 07-30-2014 998
7th Oldest 01-28-2014 901 06-24-2014 1,001
6th Oldest 09-11-2013 1,017 02-10-2014 1,017
5th Oldest 07-30-2013 1,045 02-07-2014 1,045
4th Oldest 07-22-2013 1,053 01-28-2014 1,053
3rd Oldest 06-11-2013 1,061 01-28-2014 1,061
2nd Oldest 03-13-2013 1,211 07-22-2013 1,303
Oldest Request 09-20-2011 1,500 03-13-2013 1,500
  1. If no, please provide the number of these requests your agency was able to close by the end of the fiscal year, as listed in Section VII.E of your Fiscal Year 2016 Annual FOIA Report. If you had fewer than ten total oldest requests to close, please indicate that.

DOL was able to close five of the ten oldest requests, as indicated in yellow shading within the chart above.

  1. Of the requests your agency was able to close from your ten oldest, please indicate how many of these were closed because the request was withdrawn by the requester. If any were closed because the request was withdrawn, did you provide any interim responses prior to the withdrawal?

None of the ten oldest requests were closed because they were withdrawn by the requester.

  1. Beyond work on the ten oldest requests, please describe any steps your agency took to reduce the overall age of your pending requests.

There are many complexities that affect the Department's ability to close requests, appeals and consultations that are backlogged, particularly those that are among the oldest cases still pending with agency. Despite these complexities, the Department and the agency components continue to make significant efforts to close these requests and appeals.

As the Department's FOIA operations are decentralized, most agency components have developed unique plans aimed at closing their oldest requests, appeals or consultations. These plans go beyond the mandate of the Deputy Secretary to close FOIA’s that predate January 1, 2018. Most DOL agency components plan to ensure ongoing oversight, communication and support for the program areas handling backlogged requests to assist in the review of responsive documents. Other components have committed to making management aware of the issues impacting their ability to close older cases and establishing deadlines to ensure that such request are being placed as a top priority.

DOL notes that there are some pending requests/appeals that are still “open” due to litigation, and the components will continue to monitor the progress of the matter and stand ready to implement the resolution based on the determination of the court. Once these matters are resolved, the underlying FOIA request can be fully processed and closed in our tracking system.

Each quarter, the Office of Information Services briefs FOIA Service Center Personnel regarding the importance of closing the ten oldest initial requests, FOIA appeals and FOIA consultations. The same guidance is communicated during the annual FOIA conference as well as while engaging in other forms of communications with FOIA professionals throughout the year.

TEN OLDEST APPEALS

  1. In Fiscal Year 2018, did your agency close the ten oldest appeals that were reported pending in your Fiscal Year 2017 Annual FOIA Report? No. However, as indicated within the response to question number 21, nine of the ten oldest appeals that were reported at the end of FY 2018, have now been processed and closed.
Ten Oldest Pending Appeals
  FY 2017 - Ten Oldest Appeals FY 2018 - Ten Oldest Appeals
Request Date Days Date Days
10th Oldest 09-09-2013 1019 09-29-2014 1,004
9th Oldest 09-09-2013 1,019 07-07-2014 1,063
8th Oldest 08-09-2012 1,290 08-09-2012 1,540
7th Oldest 06-15-2012 1,328 06-15-2012 1,578
6th Oldest 12-06-2011 1,461 12-06-2011 1,771
5th Oldest 12-06-2011 1,461 12-06-2011 1,771
4th Oldest 12-06-2011 1,461 12-06-2011 1,771
3rd Oldest 12-06-2011 1,461 12-06-2011 1,771
2nd Oldest 12-06-2011 1,461 12-06-2011 1,771
Oldest Request 11-21-2011 1,471 12-06-2011 1,771
  1. If no, please provide the number of these appeals your agency was able to close by the end of the fiscal year, as listed in Section VII.C.(5) of your Fiscal Year 2017 Annual FOIA Report. If you had fewer than ten total oldest appeals to close, please indicate that.

As indicated in yellow highlighting within the chart above, the Department closed two out of 10 of the oldest pending FOIA appeals.

  1. Beyond work on the ten oldest appeals, please describe any steps your agency took to reduce the overall age of your pending appeals.

The appeals backlog decreased by 32 appeals in FY 18, and has decreased by 110 appeals over the past two years. As of December 14, 2018, nine of the top 10 oldest appeals reported in the FY18 Annual Report are closed, and 13 of the top 20 oldest have been closed. Eight of the oldest 10 appeals reported in the FY 18 Annual Report were being kept open because of pending litigation. That litigation has concluded and all eight of those appeals have been closed. The remaining appeals have all been assigned for processing and are being treated as a priority for the FOIA Appeals Counsel area. The Counsel for FOIA Appeals regularly monitors the progress of the top 20 oldest appeals, and reports the progress to MALS leadership on a regular basis. The Counsel for FOIA Appeals works with staff to ensure that they understand these cases are a priority.

TEN OLDEST CONSULTATIONS

  1. In Fiscal Year 2018, did your agency close the ten oldest consultations that were reported pending in your Fiscal Year 2017 Annual FOIA Report? No. At the end of FY 2017, the Department had only two pending FOIA consultations. Report. If you had less than ten total oldest consultations to close, please indicate that.
Ten Oldest Consultation Requests
  FY 2017 - Ten Oldest FOIA Initial Requests FY 2018 - Ten Oldest FOIA Initial Requests
Request Date Days Date Days
10th Oldest        
9th Oldest        
8th Oldest        
7th Oldest        
6th Oldest        
5th Oldest        
4th Oldest     09-11-2018 4
3rd Oldest     09-08-2018 34
2nd Oldest 09-25-2017 3 08-06-2018 38
Oldest Request 04-05-2016 374 04-05-2016 374
  1. If no, please provide the number of these consultations your agency was able to close by the end of the fiscal year, as listed in Section XII.C. of your Fiscal Year 2016 Annual FOIA Report. If you had less than ten total oldest consultations to close, please indicate that.

As indicated in yellow highlighting above, during FY 2018, the Department was able to close one of the two pending consultations from FY 2017.

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

  1. Briefly explain any obstacles your agency faced in closing its ten oldest requests, appeals, and consultations from Fiscal Year 2018.

The primary obstacle for not closing the ten oldest initial requests, appeals and consultations has been available FOIA resources throughout DOL and the inability to hire sufficient staff to both address the incoming FOIA requests, FOIA appeals and other requests from the stakeholder community and the backlog. In addition, DOL has had a significant increase in FOIA litigation over the past two years, 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 the litigation.

  1. If your agency was unable to close any of its ten oldest requests because you were waiting to hear back from other agencies on consultations you sent, please provide the date the request was initially received by your agency, the date when your agency sent the consultation, and the date when you last contacted the agency where the consultation was pending.

N/A

  1. If your agency did not close its ten oldest pending requests, appeals, or consultations, please provide a plan describing how your agency intends to close those “ten oldest” requests, appeals, and consultations during Fiscal Year 2018.

Overall, the Department has a positive record in processing the ten oldest requests. As of the first quarter of FY 2019, DOL has only one consultation and one appeal pending from the ten oldest requests listing. However, there are still five of the oldest initial FOIA requests remaining from last fiscal year. As a result, the Office of Information Services has plans to conduct administrative agency reviews within the specific agency components in which the requests reside, in order to gain additional insight regarding the obstacles that are preventing the requests from being processed.

F. Success Stories

Out of all the activities undertaken by your agency since March 2018 to increase transparency and improve FOIA administration, please briefly describe here at least one success story that you would like to highlight as emblematic of your agency’s efforts. The success story can come from any one of the five key areas. As noted above, OIP will highlight these agency success stories during Sunshine Week. To facilitate this process, all agencies should use bullets to describe their success story and limit their text to a half page. The success story is designed to be a quick summary of key achievements. A complete description of all your efforts will be contained in the body of your Chief FOIA Officer Report.

Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP)

  • OFCCP worked with the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Administration and Management’s Performance Management Center (PMC) staff to complete a Continuous Improvement Pilot focused on its FOIA program.
  • The Continuous Process Improvement pilot is a customer-focused methodology based on Lean Six Sigma principles that assessed program effectiveness to improve performance and customer service by reducing inefficiencies and waste.
  • Through a series of Lean Six Sigma phases (design, measure, analyze, improve and control), OFCCP and PMC analysts identified efficiencies in the FOIA process, including using template letters, chronology logs, and tracking sheets.
  • As a part of the pilot, OFCCP learned that FOIA processing times vary greatly depending on the type of FOIA request. However, the project resulted in increased staff accountability and processing consistency.
  • The improvements implemented through the Continuous Improvement Pilot have played a role in OFCCP increasing the percent of FOIA requests processed within 20 working days of receipt from 41% in FY 2015, to 68% in FY 2018.
  • OFCCP continues to implement the recommendations to improve response time, increase transparency, and be responsive to its requestors.